Written by Andrew Seale
In essence, Jeremy Bocknek’s startup Alpha Veterinary Technology Solutions (Alpha Vet Tech) stems from a simple concept: dogs really don’t like having their pulse checked.
“In human hospital, you can lay in a bed, have a fingertip pulsometer and sensors on you and a nurse at a station can monitor yours (and several) patients vitals,” he explains. But dogs are predators by nature, meaning they protect their organs, hence why your friendly neighbourhood vet pops that cool-looking cone on Fido’ s head post-surgery.
It’s a pain-point for vets.
“Presently I don't know anyone that can tell a dog ‘leave that sensor on’ and (the dog) will,” says Bocknek, who divides his time between Toronto and New South Wales, Australia. But Alpa Vet Tech’s Wireless Zoo platform (of which Bocknek’s wife is co-founder) allows veterinarians to monitor dog’s vital signs through non-invasive wireless sensors on the collar and tail.
“We’re giving human hospital quality care to veterinarians,” explains the entrepreneur. “So they can watch multiple animals on any screen and respond quicker.”
Wireless Zoo is a far more advanced platform than the one he brought to his bosses while working at a neuro-diagnostic company nearly a decade ago. At the time, he was told the vet market was too small. But Bocknek’s brother, who’s a vet in the GTA, provided an easy beta tester.
A typical entrepreneur, Bocknek just couldn’t let the idea rest.
With limited spots in Canadian MBA programs, he decided to go to the Queensland University of Technology in Australia and after winning a business plan competition there he started working on a prototype. It took longer than possible, with a team in India building out the wrong version of the prototype so eventually he brought the idea to an engineer in Toronto.
He’s here now and although he hasn’t relocated the company in its entirety, Bocknek has found an easy home amongst the Toronto ecosystem.
“People think Canadians are conservatives, compared to Americans yes, but compared to Australians, Canadians look more like the way the Americans are,” he says. “In the span of a few months we’ve raised an additional $100,000 and are on track to raise more – in Australia, it’s taken me three years to even get a meeting, my wife and I had to make our own network.”
There’s also around 12,000 vet practices in Canada versus closer to 2,100 in Australia.
“The pet population is almost comparable but the major differences are (pet) culture and temperature,” he says pointing out that in Canada dogs spend more time in doors making it easier for owners to pick up on fluctuations in their pets behaviour that could point to injury or illness.
But here’s the hook: Wireless Zoo isn’t just a platform for monitoring pets vital signs, once its usage grows, Bocknek envisions it as the largest animal health database in the world, one that can have sweeping repercussions for both the animal medicine and insurance industries.
“Say my brother is doing a knee surgery on a Pomeranian tomorrow, he can input these medications and this anaesthesia (and learn) what’s the average time for this type of surgery around the world or the average recovery post-surgery,” he says. “No one's doing this right now, they have no data at all.”