Obe – One Year Update From the 2017 PCIP Grand Prize Winner

Obe Founder Hilary Jensen.

Obe creates smart products and services that make it easier to keep pets healthier and happier. Obe’s flagship product is ProBowl, which combines a dishwasher safe bowl and a smart base that connects to WiFi and a mobile app. Obe was the Grand Prize Winner of the first Pet Care Innovation Prize sponsored by Nestle Purina, winning a total of $20,000 in cash and prizes including an all-expenses paid Pet Care Business Boot Camp for founder Hilary Jensen, visibility with investors and industry leaders, and a booth at APPA’s Global Pet Expo in March of 2017.

The following is a recap discussion with Hilary on what’s happened with Obe since she traveled to St. Louis in November 2016 for the Pet Care Business Boot Camp.

What has happened with you and your company since the PCIP last year?
We were just shipping our Beta units to our Indiegogo supporters at the time of the PCIP last year. We’ve focused on listening to our customer feedback and making the corresponding software and hardware changes. We were showcased in Target Open house and invited to be a Target Vendor, we’ve made a collaborative deal with a large pet food company, we have launched Amazon automatic replenishment and we are doing a pilot with a large retail chain and we are in collaboration with a large pet food brand. Lots!

How have your vision and company changed since last year?
We knew we had the potential to leverage our observations about consumer behavior and consumption. Now we are sure of it. As well, we’ve been fortunate that we’ve made the right choices around partnerships, especially with Amazon.

What are your current opportunities, challenges and successes?
I have been told that we will never stop fundraising. I believe it.  We were honored to be part of the nationally ranked start up accelerator the Brandery 2017 cohort and have joined Capital Innovators in St Louis to continue our momentum in the Midwest.

What would you tell the next class of PCIP winners? Those thinking about applying?
The week I spent with my fellow finalists blew me away. I learned so much from our sponsor Purina – I had thought I knew a lot, but they really helped me better understand the pet market. Most of all though, the friendships and support I have gotten from my colleagues at the PCIP were an unexpected but invaluable bonus. I now have trusted resources who are facing similar issues to me – and I regularly rely on them for advice and support.

How has winning the PCIP helped you? Hilary, how did the Global Pet booth help you?
Winning PCIP helped give Obe credibility. It was also a boost of confidence! Having the support to go to Global Pet Expo was amazing. I learned so much more about the pet industry and landscape and gathered a lot of retail leads. And, I was struck by what a great group of people go into the pet industry.

Who would you like to give shoutouts to and why?
I have been fortunate to have the continued support of one of the judges from PCIP. He has been a tremendous strategic partner and knows how hard being an early stage entrepreneur can be. He helps me see the forest through the trees and continues to help me think about how to grow Obe in the years to come.

What are your goals going into next year?
Deliver a delightful product to all of our customers who have ordered- to make their lives easier and their pets’ lives better.

What’s the most interesting thing to you about being an entrepreneur in the pet care industry?
Resoundingly, people have their heart in the right place. Sure we are in business, but we all share the same passion for animal welfare.

Think you have an idea that the pet care industry needs, and that the Pet Care Innovation Prize can help you like it helped Hilary? Send us a note at [email protected] to be notified for upcoming opportunities to get recognition and support as a pet care entrepreneur.