“We have more than 70,000 veterinarians in Egypt, in the meantime there is no solution that unites these vets and the pet owners,” says Ahmed El-Badawy, walking us through his pet-care startup Vetcode that aspires to fill in this gap.
For two years, Jaguar, a Bengal cat, played around his guardian and filled both their lives with joy – until that one night where Jaguar fell sick and couldn’t get adequate treatment. ”I couldn’t call a vet to come home and I found no clinics open at that time,” Ahmed El-Badawy tells Startup Scene. “So, Jaguar died.”
Inspired by this story, El-Badawy decided it was time Egyptian pet guardians had a smart interactive platform to help them reach their needs at a tap of a screen. But before he becomes an entrepreneur and establishes Vetcode,El-Badawy was a bio-medical engineer specialised in software medical solutions. “I worked in multi-national companies and throughout my experience I discovered that there’s great devotion to the human sector and none to the animal sector.” When he dug deeper in research, he found that there are more than 240 common illnesses between pets and their guardians. He also found that Egypt enjoyed more than 70,000 veterinarians; which is considered a world record. “But in the meantime, there is no solution that unites these many vets with the pet guardians.” Egyptians also lack the culture urging people to take care and pay full attention to the physical as well as mental and emotional health of their pets. But these aren’t the only numbers that got El-Badawy intrigued to turn his tragic story into a startup.
Egypt represents 50 percent of the regional consumption on pets in the Middle East and Africa, according to PETS International. Last year, Egypt spent more than $450 million in the pets’ industry. El-Badawy reckons that Egypt’s consumption would reach $600 million in the next three years in pet care services.
With $80,000 spent on Vetcode from El-Badawy’s personal investments throughout a year and almost 10 months, the startup’s revenues in August 2018 have witnessed a 250 percent growth from July 2018. “This proves that there is a high demand in the market.”
According to numbers from the Egyptian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ESPCA), there are 8 million pets raised in Egyptian households; 5 million cats and 3 million dogs. On the other hand, Egyptian streets struggle to shelter almost 50 million stray dogs and more than 100 million stray cats. In fact, a range of 5,000 to15,000 dogs and cats get strayed off from Egyptian households on a daily basis. “This is a huge problem that will affect the environmental balance in Egypt,” reflects the bio-medical-engineer-turned-entrepreneur.
Backed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Vetcode has collaborated with the ESPCA to help the association to solve the problem of stray animals on Egyptian streets. “Thus, on our mobile app, we started to activate the idea of adoption which isn’t part of our culture; we buy and sell cats and dogs,” he explains; adding that familiarising this “Adopt Don’t Buy” concept would cross a great mile in solving the problem of stray dogs and cats. “We take merchants out of this process via the adoption templates,” he says. “We teach people how to make these templates and follow up with their pets later on.”
Launched on July 13th, Vetcode is the first startup and app of its kind in Egypt. Therefore, the main challenge El-Badawy faced was that there was no business model that already existed in the market to use as a guide to follow and build on. “So, we had to start from scratch,” he says. “I didn’t have the capacity to hire in-house developers, so I relied on freelance coders for the backend, Android, and IOS.”
Before unveiling their product, between March and July, El-Badawy and his team conducted a field marketing research, which it has influenced some of their decision-making and directed them to solutions. “Before heading to the market, we expected that a feature we were going to add to our app called “Lost and Found;” which is a platform for people who found a stray animal or vice versa; in the field research, we didn’t find enough participation in the market - even when we promoted it. So we decided to delay developing this feature. Whereas, we found great demand on the “Adoption” feature, even though it is a little foreign to our culture.” Reaching 7 million people, more than 75,000 of whom engaged with the adoption feature on social media.
“Most of the spending goes to developing the app; which we finished but are still fixing some bugs and some updates,” says El-Badawy. “Next comes the digital marketing, because we wanted to reach the widest range of audience in the shortest time possible. A small part of the spendings goes to internal operations such as call centres, trainers, and groomers.” As we type, the CEO is meeting with GCC venture capitals to secure funds for his first seed round, and is expected to announce the figures very soon.
Main Image: Ahmed El-Badawy, CEO of Vetcode.
Courtesy of #MO4Productions.
Photographers: Eslam Mohamed, Leena ElDeeb
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