Heyrex

Remote health monitoring for animals.

It’s a tough job being a veterinarian. You can’t really communicate directly with your patients, and their owners are notoriously unreliable in the way they report their pet’s behaviour. Wouldn’t it be great if you could remotely collect data on your patients which showed how much time they spent running around, where they’ve been, when they’ve been resting, scratching, whether they’re eating too much or to little?

Well now you can, with Heyrex, the Wellington developed “Fitbit for pets” that’s exploding onto the world stage.

The Heyrex story begins with big-hearted scientist David Gibson who loved animals, and saw huge inefficiencies with the way animal health treatments were delivered. He believed that using technology it should be possible to detect changes in behaviour which were indicative of health problems a long time before symptoms appeared. With early behavioural detection, animals could avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort, and owners could avoid expensive remedial treatments after the problems had become acute.

By 2011 Gibson had developed a working prototype of Heyrex, based on dongle technology with a monitor station that looked like it came straight out of a 1950’s sci-fi film. But later that year, Gibson passed away from a heart attack.

Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence

Current CEO Nathan Lawrence was an early investor at that time, and was helping Gibson out with commercialisation strategy. The Board asked Lawrence to become CEO, and take the company forward. The new team took the concept, stripped it right back, rebuilt it based on 2.4Gb wireless technology with the back-end in the cloud, and started shopping the solution in the US and UK. The Company also did a customer segment pivot – aiming the new HeyrexVet monitoring service at vets rather than pet owners, as vets have existing relationships with pet owners, and the data and analytics are much more valuable to them.

Vets prescribe HeyrexVet monitoring as part of their treatment programmes, as it saves time and enables measuring effectiveness and adjusting treatments. There are several treatment programme modules which can be switched on in the cloud for specific treatment of animals. One such module is cage rest, which is critical to monitor for postoperative recovery. The vet places the wearable on the animal, and data starts flowing in showing how much time the animal is spending in the cage, in easy exercise, or running around. The vet gets an alert if the animal exceeds activity parameters.

Another module is weight management – a surprising 52% of dogs in the US are obese. When a vet puts an animal on a weight management program, the vet uses HeyrexVet to set a diet and exercise regime, using its database of over 4,000 pet foods and its ability to measure the amount of energy the animal is expending. HeyrexVet forecasts the rate at which the animal will gain or lose weight and measures against actual weigh-in data. If the animal isn’t getting enough exercise, Heyrex sends a message to the owner telling them it’s time to go out and exercise.

There are also modules to measure sleep disturbance, scratching relating to allergic reactions or dermatitis. A new heartworm recovery module will save lots of lives – if the nine month heartworm recovery programme is not strictly adhered to, the animal can die.

Research universities love this product – Heyrex currently supports projects in several US states, as well as Massey University closer to home. Most of these universities are using Heyrex to measure the efficacy of new treatment programmes. The University of New South Wales has used Heyrex to monitor tigers in zoos.

Heyrex currently have thousands of units out in the field, mainly in the US. For research clients, they charge $149.95 for the hardware, plus a monthly monitoring fee. For vets, they’re moving to a fixed monthly price based on a set number of units and services, which the vets can on-charge as they like. That’s Fitbit-for-pets-as-a-service. Over the last 12 months, their revenue growth has averaged 50% month-on-month.

The system is designed to provide a healthy return on investment for vets, with additional revenue streams available through product ordering. This helps vets defend their more traditional revenue sources that have been eroded by online pharmacies and bulk stores.

The Veterinary Services industry is significant. In the US alone, there are roughly 75m dogs and a similar number of cats, resulting in annual industry revenues of over USD 58B and growth at 6% per annum.

Mark Solly
Mark Solly
Kim Goldsworthy
Kim Goldsworthy

Currently, the team is small and tight. Along with Nathan, CTO Mark Solly manages the technology side of things while Sales Manager Kim Goldsworthy is leading the charge into North America. They also have four devs, a CFO and an accounts and admin person based in Kārori, but they’re looking to go hard on the USA this year.

They’ve just completed a raise of NZD 816K on Snowball Effect a few months ago, but they’re looking to score another 3m or so with significant input from strategics to fuel international expansion. It’s a hot industry – another player in the animal wearables space with revenues of less than 5m was recently acquired for 117m. The acquirer saw strategic value in the data.

Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt is famous for saying “We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” There’s a large untapped market of pets out there who can’t type search queries or use phones. But the pets themselves represent a significant revenue opportunity, and can reveal quite a lot about their owners as well. I imagine when Heyrex gets acquired, it will be all about the data.

Heyrex are looking for additional investment as well as sales staff and developers who are passionate about this industry. Do make contact with them if you’re interested, and help another great New Zealand startup to totally own its category.

Intrude A Lock

Fitbit for your luggage.

IALI travel internationally by air a fair bit, but always worry about my checked luggage. Has it been “inspected” by security agencies? Have baggage handlers roughhoused my precious belongings?

ial-deviceIntrude A Lock is a simple but ingenious device which you can put into your suitcase before you go, and then query using your smartphone after arrival to answer these questions. It collects the required data (light and intense movement), and then reports this data back to your phone along with the time and date of the actions. The proposed RRP is NZD 70.

Elisha Fleming
Elisha Fleming

Elisha Fleming is the 18 year old entrepreneur who came up with this idea a couple of years ago as a result of his own travel experiences, and talking to people who worried if their own bags had been tampered with. This year in January, he entered CreativeHQ’s Venture UP programme which, in partnership with the Young Enterprise Scheme, provides a six week accelerator to help entrepreneurial students commercialise their ideas between their final year of high school and their first year of university.

Elisha has just finished up at Garin College in Nelson with Merit in NCEA Level 3, and is on his way to doing a double-major in Finance and Entrepreneurship at Waikato University. His future didn’t always look so bright, however, as his family was told at an early age that due to medical issues, he’d never be able to succeed academically. Not willing to be held back, he carried on in school, but also started his own business trading goods on TradeMe, and managing his family’s property investment portfolio. Today, Elisha has a minor speech impediment, but he’s sharper and more savvy than many you’ll meet in business. “I’m always searching for a ‘yes’ rather than a ‘no’,” says Elisha, which has helped him learn incredible resilience.

TeamAt Venture UP, Elisha was joined by Hayden Washington Smith and Keith Toma, who were inspired by the product and mission. Hayden will continue on in the team as Director of Finance and Marketing, while he embarks on a law degree at Victoria University this year. Advisors include Glenn Andert and Matthias Andermatt.

The team completed the prototype during the programme, and are currently manufacturing a small pre-production run. They have managed to secure a trial with an overseas global brand in the transport industry who are interested in selling Intrude A Lock to their customers through their retail channel. They’ve also had significant interest from baggage manufacturers who want to incorporate the device into their products. Their main sales strategy focuses on channel development, using airlines, logistics companies, and manufacturers – they feel this is higher value and lower hassle than selling directly to consumers.

The trial should complete before the end March 2016, and Elisha is confident of success. If he pulls it off, that would mean he would be running an international manufacturing business from New Zealand at age 18. Longer term, they want to specialise to be the experts in protecting high value goods such as human tissue during transport.

Venture UP’s Programme Director Nick Churchouse had this to say about the team:

Elisha, Keith and Hayden were a stand out team at Venture UP – they boxed through more challenges than most. There are natural hurdles facing any hardware business, let alone a tech-connected product tussling with airline security, personal liability and ornery issues like damage and loss liability. Despite this the Intrude A Lock team built a strong proposition, got out of the room, engaged with aviation industry leaders and got a deal on the table in less than six weeks. If that’s not Venturing Up I don’t know what is.

Young Enterprise CEO Terry Shubkin adds,

Intrude A Lock is a great example of what can happen when you take the un-inhibited innovation that comes with youth, and couple that with a programme that provides structure, support and networks.  It’s a great product which has been well-validated, and I can’t wait to see where the company goes next.

The Venture UP programme finished last week, but Intrude A Lock are going strong, and ramping up. They’re looking for a hardware developer and some seed capital, but most importantly, they’re looking for preorders and connections to potential channel partners. If you’re interested or can help out, contact the team.