Ben Jacobs, 26-year-old chief executive and co- founder of Whistle has a sack full of experience in the pet industry. More than enough for him to have developed some very innovative concepts that will see his company take a share of the massive $50 billion annual market for pet products in the United States alone.
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/By Yoel Bermant/
Ben Jacobs is undoubtedly one of the latest generation of information technology entrepreneurs, but coming from an entirely different direction. As well as being well versed in all that’s new and innovative in the fast-moving world in which we live, he also loves his dog.
And that may well be why Jacobs, along with his co-founder Steven Eidelman, decided to found Whistle, a company which they claim is the world’s first technology company solely dedicated to helping the family pet live longer and healthier lives.
Based in the heart of North America’s start-up oasis, San Francisco, Whistle recently announced the launch of their first product, a wireless fitness tracker for dogs, under the title of the Whistle Activity Monitor. And to prove how much the venture capital industry believes in Jacobs and Eidelman and the rest of their young and super-talented team at Whistle that they were ready received a $6 million capital injection to develop and promote sales of their exciting new product.
Jacobs came up with an interesting statistic that gives some very strong indications the potential of their Activity Monitor product. “To begin with”, pointed out Jacobs. “There are more dogs than children in the US, with most of these dog owners are well aware that owning a dog creates a very strong incentive for an active outdoor life.” “ However someone who has never owned a dog will remain blissfully unaware of how much of a positive impact pet ownership can have on their overall health and reduced risk of heart disease.” Jacobs summed up
The Whistle Activity Monitor device has been designed to attach to a dog’s collar and will record information on the family dog’s every move, which is then transmitted in the form of a data readout to the owner’s Smartphone.
According to Jacobs the purpose of owning a Whistle Activity Monitor, as well as providing the dog owner with up to the minute information on the secret life of dogs, more importantly also give an insight into the current state of health of the canine member of the family. Valuable insights that can give advance warning of the arrival of health problems, before they develop into a more serious state, with attendant costs and family disruption.
The thinking behind the Whistle Activity Monitor product came to Jacobs and Eidelman when they worked together at the San Francisco offices of Bain and Company, a global management consulting firm.
Their decision to develop a product such as the Whistle Activity Monitor came with the realisation that there was a large gap in understanding of the dog behavioral pattern for a dog owner. After some initial research Jacobs and Edelmann were surprised to discover that the veterinary industry was also in the dark regarding how a dog behaves when in its family environment. The next stage of the research was considerably more involved, with the pair spending a lot of their leisure time talking to medical professionals at some of the countries leading academic research institutions, veterinary organizations, as well as independent hospitals.
The general consensus of information that they gathered was that while the dog remains man’s best friend one of the unbridgeable problems is the lack of oral communication. In too many cases, representatives of the veterinary profession admitted, dogs would arrive at their surgeries in a bad state of health due to their owners being incapable of recognizing that a dog’s health was deteriorating. Most dogs, by nature, are uncomplaining and it can take a while for the symptoms of an illness to become so serious that their owner picks up on it and they are taken for treatment to the family vet.
This was the information that Jacobs and Edelmann claims gave them the incentive to create Whistle. They wanted to allow dog owners to be able to bridge the communication gap between owner and their family pet – which can either be a dog or a cat or indeed any form of domestic animal. Through working in close communication with the family veterinarian, the information garnered will go a long way to ensure that every family pet lives a long and, healthy life, whilst enhancing the quality of life of its owners.
When the talented development crew at Whistle set out to develop the activity monitor, it did so on the understanding that wanted to make it as easy as possible for even laymen to extract pertinent data off the device straight to their Smartphones, which they did that by providing a series of options for wireless connectivity, which in the case of of a canine emergency can be easily transferred to the family vet.
Ben Jacobs graduated with a B.A. and M.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale University beginning his professional career with Bain and Company, a global strategy company where he was involved with many of the company’s clients involved in the technology industry. Jacobs left Bain and Company to join DCM a West Coast-based venture capital company, before leaving to establish Whistle.