Dog Fitness Tracker Raises $25 Million: Blame Google - InformationWeek

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1/30/2015
03:50 PM
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Dog Fitness Tracker Raises $25 Million: Blame Google

As the tech market scrambles for the Next Big Thing, VCs are betting on nervous executives with deep pockets.

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Forbes reported recently that Whistle, a startup which makes activity trackers for dogs (think FitBit for Fido), raised $15 million in a series B round of venture investment. That $15 million comes on top of a $10 million A round, for a total of $25 million.

How, I thought, could sharp-eyed investors expect to get any kind of return on a product that is patently useless? Do these investors really think there are hundreds of thousands of people stupid enough to drop $100 on a dog fitness tracker?

And then I got it. The investors aren’t betting on the stupidity of large numbers of Americans. They’re betting on the fear and anxiety of a small number of CEOs and corporate board members.

(Image: Krista Sanders for Whistle)

(Image: Krista Sanders for Whistle)

Big tech companies watch as Apple rakes in obscene amounts of money every quarter from its phone and tablet sales. Given that these two markets are essentially locked up, companies that aren’t Apple are desperately scanning the horizon for the Next Big Thing — a new gadget that captures hearts and wallets by the billions.

What is the Next Big Thing? We don’t know. No one knows. It could be pet wearables. Or exploding kittens.

[ Whistle isn't the only company making a play for pet wearables. Read 7 Cool Wearables For Pets. ]

What we do know is that it’s out there—somewhere. We also know that when it appears, it’s going to seem like a perfectly obvious idea, and it’s going to make someone an obscene amount of money.

So companies are making bets, and one area where they’re betting big is the Internet of Things, or IoT. I blame Google for this.

When the search giant spent $3.2 billion on Nest, a thermostat and smoke detector company, it was a signal to the venture community. The signal said, “We don’t want to miss the next Golden Ticket, so we’ll throw gobs of money at things that have sensors and an app.”

Thus, VCs, can risk floating a few tens of millions to startups hawking ridiculous IoT products. The startups don’t need a sensible business plan. They don’t need to capture a large market share. They don’t need to create a viable business.

That’s because VCs aren’t worried about selling this stuff to consumers. That’s not who the VCs are targeting. They’re targeting anxious CEOs and sweaty board members at big tech companies who are panicked about getting disrupted or missing the next boat.

That’s a much easier sell. And the VCs don’t need a billion-dollar exit to make a tidy profit. A few hundred million from a tech company hedging its bets will do just nicely. Woof.

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Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop. View Full Bio
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shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2015 | 7:44:55 PM
Re: now a cat wearable would be different...
@Thomas – A gps cat tracker would definitely help to locate your pet. I think it should also have an alarm or a way of communicating a message to the cat. Soon you should be able to call him home with the press of a button. 
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2015 | 12:39:19 AM
Re: now a cat wearable would be different...
@Thomas Claburn It looks like that Tagg might work for dogs as well as for cats.  I've read from people that put it on their cats and I've seen pics too. You could give it a try.
nasimson
50%
50%
nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 10:45:56 PM
the best of the times and the worst of the times!
At the time when IoT can help to reduce African hunger, help remote health tracking for elderly at home, reduce traffic accidents, save energy ... we are seeing funding of pet fitness trackers. For IoT, the best of the times and the worst of the times!
Drew Conry-Murray
50%
50%
Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 10:15:30 PM
Re: IoT: Tyranny of the Talk Up
I love that phrase, the Tyranny of the Talk Up! But I don't want to get in a trademark dispute so I'll leave it to you to promote.
Drew Conry-Murray
50%
50%
Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 10:13:25 PM
I love my dog
Yes, people love their dogs. I love my dog too. But I have a very simple way of tracking his activity. Did I take him for a walk today? Yes. For half an hour? Great! I have successfully tracked his activity, and it didn't cost me anything.
PedroGonzales
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50%
PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 10:09:37 PM
Re: now a cat wearable would be different...
@ vnewman2. you are right. In this country, people really love their dogs and they are willing to spend a lot of money on them.  I wouldn't be surprised if it did become the biggest thing.  I really want to know how do they get a lot of money, man.  May be I should start my own startup that makes a silly technology and get lots of funding.  May be a fitbit for your pet hamster, hambit.
vnewman2
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50%
vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 7:29:10 PM
Re: now a cat wearable would be different...
So at first I was like, ummmm what? But you know what? People LOVE their dogs... Just sayin.
asksqn
IW Pick
100%
0%
asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 5:13:01 PM
IoT: Tyranny of the Talk Up
This piece is spot on.  Everywhere I turn in the corporate media, I am unable to escape from the magically delicious IoT meme that promises to be all things to all people.  CEOs are licking their chops and drooling in anxious anticipation so of course, anything that even remotely seems like a gravy train (regardless of how brain dead a concept it is such as doggie fitness tracker) will be susceptible to the Tyranny of the Talk Up. (and no, you cannot use this phrase without attribution to me, the creator.  I'm only half joking.) 
Thomas Claburn
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50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
1/30/2015 | 5:07:59 PM
now a cat wearable would be different...
I keep waiting for a GPS cat tracker that's small enough.
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