A Year in Review
Wow, what a year!
2016 was a year of learning, growth, challenges and more learning for WÜF (and the pet-tech world overall). While several of our closest competitors have called it quits this year, WÜF continues to find ways to survive. Though the road is steep, the excitement we get almost every day from people who desperately want our product - keeps us inspired!
As new competitors enter the space, they bring increased interest and awareness of what’s possible, and with that, a greater audience to share our story with. Best of all, no other company to date has proposed a product that matches ours in ambition, capabilities or vision. While we would have liked to already be in market by now, we feel the timing is turning out to be just right for us to make a big splash in coming months.
We still have a few milestones to achieve, but we’re closer than ever - as we make our way over the last major hurdles in development. Signaling such, we ended the year with perhaps our most significant milestone to date - shipping our very first beta unit to our very first test user!! It still needs a bit more refinement, but was a big moment for us and an accomplishment we’re proud to have finally reached.
More on how we evolved below:
Our team grew significantly from the days of just Joe and Sean "Skelly" at a table in Skelly’s apartment clubhouse, with Lilly, Jonathan, and Azmat helping from afar. We now have 15 passionate, intelligent and resourceful folks working mostly for free to bring this dream to life. We’ve made the transition from a distributed team into a mostly local team with eight of us in the Boulder/Denver area, meeting throughout the week to drive our momentum forward.
There are a few pieces still to be put in place (see angel.co/wuf for open roles), but this team has enabled us to make progress in many areas like marketing, software, user interface, user experience, firmware, mechanical design, graphic design, operations and more. With a focus on culture just as much as skillset, we are creating a fun, open and boundary-pushing company that values life lessons just as much as task completion. Because, what good is building the world’s smartest dog collar if we can’t enjoy it while we do it?!?
We’ve turned a vision of our app into a working prototype, with the full development backbone and global navigation design in place. Jonathan, Ryan and Max on the Software team have implemented the most cutting-edge methodologies to build the backend integration that sets us up for faster and more efficient development going forward.
Chris, our Head of Mobile Design, has taken the vision from our CEO’s head and turned it into the foundation of an app that will one day compete for top design awards, and finally brought some organization to how we build out and iterate on our designs. Marissa, our Head of Training, has finally given credence to our training concepts, validating that what we want to do actually does align with how dogs learn and communicate. The first training videos and flow in the app show glimpses of what this product can be and do.
We made 4 “board spins” this year, each leading to a more powerful and efficient design. Our VP of Hardware, Joe’s eye for detail and thorough understanding of materials, angles and mechanical functionality has led to a beautifully designed product that looks super sharp, is durable and water-resistant, and makes any dog the immediate star at the park.
These changes to hardware have led to further complexity and opportunity for the firmware team to experiment at the cutting edge of today’s wearable technology. David has taken on much of the work, connecting the dots between hardware and software, most recently learning about on-chip security for Amazon Web Services from the ground up and leading its inclusion into our product.
Ankit and Azmat, our Hardware Engineers, have continued to push our thinking around how we incorporate new technologies and concepts, as they prepare us for manufacturing, compliance testing as well as long-term product evolution. When needed, we brought in outside help for the hyper specific challenges like those presented by our GPS and GSM antenna reception. We are fortunate that people dig what we’re up to and offer to work at the “friends and family” rate to help us out.
We did a complete website refresh, moving to Shopify for its greater emphasis on e-commerce capabilities. Under our VP of Marketing, Shelley’s strategic guidance, Christine and Wyatt, our Graphic Designers, have brought a new face to WUF’s online presence. With beautiful imagery, sharp copy and a better flow, WUF’s online sophistication has improved significantly, better telling our story as pioneers in this pet tech movement.
Web Traffic & Customer Happiness
This year saw a big increase in web traffic and subsequently the number of messages received from potential customers. Lilly got us onto the Freshdesk platform for customer service and has handled close to a thousand messages since August alone, with almost 80% being responded to within just 48 hours.
These combined efforts across our marketing and support channels have led to strong pre-order sales for 2016.
We’ve lined up a deal with a major Telco provider to offer the most original data package for our customers, which our VP of Operations, Kim, has taken the lead on, bringing her understanding of legal and business worlds to make sure we’re making the best deal possible.
Now that we have a working prototype, a functioning app, growing content, and a vision we can truly show off, our long-term financing position should imminently reach a required level of stability for us to take all of the above to fruition and enter this growing pet-tech market in 2017.
A big thanks to all of our team members, advisors, investors, mentors and other stakeholders who have been rooting for us and supporting us on this journey. We haven’t quite taken the short road, but we’ve accomplished and learned a lot because of it.
Here’s to 2017, the year in which WUF’s potential energy turns kinetic and takes on a life of it’s own!
Sean “Skelly” Kelly, CEO
Welcoming our Newest team members
Christine: Graphic Designer
Designer + Illustrator + Adventurer
Christine lives at the junction of imagination and stubborn originality. An adventurer at heart, she thrives on blazing new trails - whether it be in the design world or the backcountry wilds. Her persistent focus on distinction and pushing the boundaries has equipped her with a passion for aiding entrepreneurs and start-ups in establishing their brand identity in a competitive market space. When she's not designing, Christine and her faithful pup Ragnar can be found where the wild things are.
Designer +Videographer + Photographer
Hailing from a small farm outside of Nashville TN, Wyatt has always been more interested in art, music, technology, and his dogs than the agrarian lifestyle. He enjoys complex challenges and executing solutions in distinct and novel ways. He's more competitive with himself than his peers, and loves taking on projects that are sure to be near-insurmountable. Constantly annoyed with off-brand restaurant typography, but an avid craft beer enthusiast, he finds inspiration in boutique packaging and strange urban architecture. Some of his joys in life include Italian Brutal Technical Death Metal, Hitler documentaries, high fantasy novels, and long walks in the mountains with his fur-baby, Ragnar.
Pre-order: If you haven’t already, you can Pre-order our 2nd batch now for anticipated late Spring delivery.
Seeking Candidates for: Internship, Marketing, Hardware/Firmware. Check us out on Angelist https://angel.co/wuf.