Imagine an animal collar that does it all: tells you where your pooch is located at any time, nudges you about daily feedings and even gives you a heads up if your cat’s about to go batshit on your sofa. Well, put your imagination at rest, because Scollar has arrived. It’s more than an intelligent collar; it’s an open source platform designed to make caring for our animals easier, whether they’re dogs, cats, cows, you name it.
Scollar recently won the Girls in Tech AMPLIFY pitch competition. We spoke with CEO and founder Lisa Tamayo.
What sparked the concept behind Scollar?
It was about two and a half years ago. I had two teenagers at home, a dog and two cats, and things were complete chaos. We had no idea if the pets were fed, we’d be texting our kids to ask; sometimes they’d respond, sometimes not. And we could never remember when flea treatment was due.
At the time, we were using two different collars on our pets. We thought to ourselves, wouldn’t it be nice to have one collar that does it all? And then (naively), we thought, okay, just how hard could this be?
Hardware is a whole new ball game. What’s been your experience with it?
Hardware is expensive to make and expensive to iterate. Software is easy and cheap, you can rewrite code fast. But hardware, you have to remold it, re-3D print it, and so on. It’s a process! You have to solder parts together, then there’s the firmware to deal with, there’s many multiple pieces. And if one thing goes wrong, you must start over.
Another challenge is finding people. We went through eight electrical engineers before finding our VP.
How you approached your funding strategy?
We had our own resources, we’ve been self-funded for two years. We did a friends and family round, a line of credit and a seed round. It was imperative that we stayed quiet, as there was a lot of attention being placed on wearables. We had to do things our own way, so we chose to not say a word before we launched at CES.
Your partner is your husband. Fill us in on that dynamic.
It’s hard. You’re with that person 24/7. We have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. We know each other well, we like each other. Plus, we have complimentary skills. He’s the engineering side and I’m the business side. We’ve started four companies together. There’s no one I trust more, or would rather do business with.
We know how to fight, and how to keep things going. We’re best friends.
How do you manage the stress of startup life?
I’ve been meditating for 20 years. It helps. I’m also very active and physical. I eat well—healthy, homegrown food. I take care of my temple. I hold friends and family close. There will be times where I find myself thinking of Scollar 24/7, just thinking about it nonstop. But then I’ll go bond with friends and stop being such a turd. Then there are times when life butts in, like the fires in Santa Rosa. Things like that happen in life and they force you to realize what’s important.
About the startup process: what’s been more difficult or easier than you imagined it would be?
For me, it’s always about the relationships. I’ve had other businesses in the past where I’ve learned to communicate and motivate people. Those things are the hardest part. But once you figure it out, it gets easy. So the people and relationships, for me, are what’s hardest and easiest.
What’s next for Scollar?
We have a lot going on. We are planning to launch in early 2018 with several e-tail and retail outlets. We’re also in discussion with potential platform partners to expand the functionality of the smart collar system.