Business COVID-19 Startups

Start-Up Spotlight: Kabo Fresh Dog Food Launches Kabo Health, a Virtual Platform to Connect Pet Owners with Veterinarians

Kabo Health

As the COVID-19 pandemic causes veterinary clinics around the country to scale back service, Founder and CEO of Kabo Fresh Dog Food, Vino Jeyapalan, opens Kabo Health. The online service allows pet owners to consult licensed Veterinarians with any fur related questions or concerns. 

The crippled state of the healthcare system has permeated news channels for weeks. While the world races to catch up and flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus, it would seem that the needs of a particular group has been forgotten. For millions of Canadians transferring work stations into their homes brought about a number of concerns, including the care of their furry companions.

Veterinary clinics and hospitals around the country have either closed, reduced services or offered the bulk of their resources to assist in the care of those suffering with COVID-19. As a result, pet parents have been left at a loss when concerns arise. This desperate need to provide owners with support is what inspired the team at Kabo Fresh Dog Food to create Kabo Health.   

“We immediately built out a Telehealth platform to allow pet parents to connect to vets from an accredited practice from the safety of their homes,” says Vino Jeyapalan, Founder and CEO of Kabo Fresh Dog Food, “but also allowing veterinary practices that were losing business to allow quarantined and working from home staff to utilize the platform to reach patients.” 

Kabo Health

Jeyapalan, with the help of his team has now launched Canada’s first veterinary Telehealth platform. In reviewing information gathered from their online forums, it was evident that the changes in veterinary operations were not providing the comprehensive care needed. 

“When we saw a 492% increase in Google searches for Vet Telehealth services in Canada during the last week of March we realized the existing options were difficult for new Telehealth users to adopt, especially pet parents,” says Jeyapalan.

Kabo Health now offers what Jeyapalan describes as a seamless experience where pet parents can share key information with their veterinarian. This in turn creates the opportunity for new forms of medical support for pets and animals.

“We believe the acceleration of service and effectiveness of pet care is the pinnacle of Kabo Health’s successful adoption in Canada,” says Jeyapalan.

For the latest addition to our Start-Up Spotlight series, Bay Street Bull spoke with Vino Jeyapalan about Kabo Health and the importance of listening to your consumers when pivoting in business.

Q & A

Veterinary visits can be quite expensive. However the virtual visits are completely free of charge, is this something that Kabo Health intends on continuing beyond COVID-19?

We started Kabo Health as a solution to that financial burden pet parents were facing. With more than 1 million jobs being lost in March alone we knew we had to find a way to make the service free during these uncertain times. Post COVID-19, we hope to use the learnings from this launch to understand how we can utilize technology to offer this service in the long term in an affordable manner.

Telemedicine has reduced the cost of health care exponentially. Does virtualizing vet clinics create an opportunity to reduce vet bills for owners in the same way? What is the market opportunity?

It’s evident that online channels, such as telemedicine create flexibility. We have been working with vets that are quarantined in their own homes and with a click of a button are able to connect with patients. The software and technology is becoming cheaper to utilize allowing telemedicine costs to go down and ultimately be passed down to the pet parent.

Over 60% of requests on Kabo Health were conducted over audio and typically under 30 minutes. This data tells us Telehealth platforms allow practices the ability to extend their relationship with patients securely to address more concerns effectively. In turn driving more revenue for the practice while allowing the patient to save on an in-person visit for a non-urgent care request.

Kabo Health

What do you want Kabo Health to change about the market? 

Kabo Health has taught us the varying needs a pet parent has for their healthcare provider. We found over 70% of appointments were resolved from their first appointment indicating a need for this technology to help veterinary practices adapt to the changing needs of their consumer. However, across many provinces veterinarians typically require a physical location to create an accredited practice. We hope to see a change that allows regulatory boards to allow for virtual stand alone practices that are specifically suited to address questions via telemedicine. We believe Kabo Health can empower veterinarians to focus on providing the best medical care while we help them connect with patients in a secure manner.

Undoubtedly you asked yourself a series of questions before starting Kabo Fresh Dog Food and now Kabo Health. What questions do you think all leaders or entrepreneurs should ask themselves before building a company? 

First and foremost you need to answer the question: why do you want to work on this problem? Building a business is a long term endeavour and having a deep understanding of your customer and their pain points becomes your north star. 

For myself, after losing my first dog to stomach cancer, I not only had a curiosity to find out what determines the lifespan of pets, but a passion to innovate around that problem. That is when I went on a mission to call every canine nutrition expert possible to formulate a healthy fresh dog food diet that would be customized to each dog’s dietary needs. 

Kabo Health offers professional help to dogs and cats, are there plans to expand this range?

No immediate plans to extend care to other pets. With over 70% of Canadian households having a cat or dog and we believe Kabo Health is positioned to help a lot of pet parents and hopefully more in the future!

You have previously worked at Facebook in your career. How have those professional experiences impacted the way you manage Kabo Fresh Dog Food and now Kabo Health? 

My experience at Facebook allowed me to build a deep understanding in building digitally native brands that utilize technology to disrupt everything from marketing to distribution. Most importantly it helped me understand how consumers are looking for more from brands. They expect transparency and an open line of communication. For us whether it is producing and delivering human-grade dog food or the most effective pet care service, I’ve utilized that learning to build out our mission day by day.

Kabo Health

Failure is an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur, when was a time that you failed and how have you instilled lessons from that experience into your business now?

I have embraced failure as early as I can remember because I find it truly is the best learning opportunity! I remember in one of my first internships I was given the responsibility of figuring out how to freight apparel from South Korea and incorrectly filling out customs forms almost led to a $50,000 fine. Luckily I was able to avoid that penalty, but mistakes like this taught me about aspects of international supply chain management. As a result, that has allowed me to have a better understanding today on how we get freshly cooked dog food to Canadians across the country as efficiently as possible.

What experience has given you the most courage to stand up for your ideas and worth? 

Watching my parents immigrate to Canada and build a life for our family has definitely been the driving force behind my courage. They fled their home due to a civil war and no challenge was too tough for them. Witnessing their determination to learn English, create opportunities for their children and actualizing their dream of owning a home helped set things in perspective for me. 

What in your opinion do entrepreneurs need to ensure the success of their company? 

I truly believe a company’s success is driven through team effort. When we first began our journey with dog food, I focused on building the best team that could innovate on this problem. As we continue to address more in the world of pet wellness, I am consistently focused on finding amazing people to join us in tackling our new set of challenges.

What is next for Kabo Health? 

We hear from veterinarians that our platform has been great for finding new clients to build relationships with online and in turn driving more business for them in a time where that is being jeopardized. We will continue to utilize technology to match more pet parents with accredited practices through more convenient communication channels.