Anyone who has flirted with the idea of entering the sport-tech market, will remember Adidas group’s £200m acquisition of mobile fitness app Runtastic. The deal, which was completed in 2015, proved that in order for athletic brands to appeal to customers: offering some kind of results tracking tech was essential to stay relevant.
For its founder Florian Gschwandtner, the sale was not only his first taste of big business success but also granted him the expertise and ‘street credit’ required to pursue other entrepreneurial ideas. Noticing a gap in the market, the Austrian native has since created Tractive a GPS tracking app for pets owners, and the device has quickly become a UK favourite.
Pet Gazette sits down with Gschwandtner to find out more…
What is Tractive and when did it launch?
Tractive is all about giving pet parents peace of mind and keeping cats and dogs safe and healthy via GPS tracking. Michael (CEO) and I came up with the idea of Tractive, while he still lived and worked in the U.S. for Amazon. At that time, I had my own start-up Runtastic and he told me about his friend’s dog who ran away and they were looking for him for hours.
Due to our educational background and the experience from Runtastic, we started researching and noticed: the market of GPS tracking for pets was still unexplored. This was back in 2012, Michael came back to Austria, our home country and together with two former college friends, we founded Tractive.
Eight years later, we are world market leaders in GPS tracking for cats and dogs trusted by pet parents in over 150 countries worldwide. We’ve just recently launched our products in the US market and are currently working with Amazon on their new Amazon Prime series ‘The Pack’ together with Lindsey Vonn.
Has it been hard to break into the UK pet industry?
Brits spend £18m a year on dogs and cats. As with people, the technology market for pets is growing apace. In 2016, the global pet wearables market was estimated to be worth £1.4bn and is expected to reach £1.7bn by 2022. Thanks to a combination of good business and a high quality product, we were able to secure a market leader position right from the start.
Brits see a high value in GPS tracking for their pets, which is why we’ve been able to establish ourselves as the most trusted company rather quickly. Overall I would say it’s always hard to get traction in a new country, but with continuous product development and working on brand recognition, everything is possible.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
We are the most trusted GPS tracker for cats and dogs worldwide with over 10,000 reviews to prove it. Pet parents in over 150 countries put their trust in us, which makes us not only the biggest player in the market but a truly global one.
A lot of our competitors have one tracker and use this tracker for tracking items, luggage and pets and therefore they’re not focused on one business vertical. Our focus makes us special and in the long term the better product for pets.
Are you worried about market saturation?
No, I am actually not worried at all. There is so much potential in this industry. The category awareness is still very low, most dog and cat owners don’t even know that this kind of GPS tracking exists. Category building is absolutely crucial, especially in the European market.
We intend to explore the US market further and also have a first look into the Asian market. In the next couple of years, we want to look into the topic of health – with the developments of technology, we will be able to detect potential signs of illness by tracking the behavior of the pet.
In addition to that there are of course always many other ideas to improve the product in size, extend battery life and adding some more social features to connect people who love pets.
Throughout your time at Tractive what has been a business low and high for you?
The biggest challenge is to get started and find the right founding team. After you’ve started, don’t expect anything and in our case we got a lot of rejection. The good news is that it was never a setback and more of a motivation for myself – each no was a yes in my head.
Working in a company with so much potential is always a high for an investor and founder. We are hitting new goals everyday – even after so many years in the business, this is still exciting for me.
How has Covid-19 changed business operations at Tractive?
Luckily Covid-19 hasn’t affected our business and growth significantly. To the contrary, we actually saw a rising trend due to higher adoption rates of dogs and cats during the pandemic.
How do you think your experience at Runtastic has prepared you for this role?
I founded Runtastic in my college years – founding a start-up in this early stage and seeing it grow so quickly was very rewarding, but I had to face a lot of challenges and obstacles which prepared me for my future career and business life. This opportunity has opened so many doors for me and I am still very grateful for every experience I had.