When considering hazardous occupations, a veterinary surgeon seems the least likely to feature on that list.
However, vets are among the professions with the highest suicide rates in some parts of the world, mainly due to worsening mental health conditions and high workload.
US-based online veterinary service provider Mascotte Health, which was founded this year, is making life easier for pet doctors as well as their clients through its platforms.
“In my last 15 years living in five different cities with my loyal 12-year-old chocolate Labrador, I witnessed the shortcomings of the current veterinary care system,” says Bora Hamamcioglu, the founder and chief executive of Mascotte Health.
“The model felt reactive, disconnected, and left both veterinary professionals and pet owners frustrated,” Mr Hamamcioglu says.
His start-up offers veterinary clinics tech-enabled support infrastructure solutions that allow them to streamline crucial tasks such as assessing cases, booking appointments, and offering care to pet owners.
“We came up with the idea for Mascotte Health because we saw a problem in the way veterinarians run their clinics. They often struggle with old-fashioned methods that make it hard to grow their business,” Mr Hamamcioglu says.
“Our goal is to let vets be vets, so they can concentrate on taking care of animals instead of dealing with all the business stuff.”
Mascotte Health, which generates revenue by charging vet clinics a subscription fee, declined to reveal its projections for the next few years.
The company is close to launching a new consumer-facing platform that will provide pet owners with “round-the-clock” connected care.
“In the coming months, we plan to begin testing the app with a select group in a closed beta phase,” the start-up founder says.
The app is set to debut in the US, with plans to roll out in the UAE in 2024.
The new platform will not feature an AI chatbot as pet owners value the “personal connection” and prefer interacting with real humans, Mr Hamamcioglu says.
In July, Mascotte Health raised $1.2 million in a pre-seed funding round, led by Dubai-based Nuwa Capital, with participation from angel investors from Uber, Turo and Airbnb.
Mascotte Health, which is focusing on optimising its existing operations, does not have any immediate plans for another funding round, but is open to opportunities that align with the company’s expansion goals, Mr Hamamcioglu says.
In an earlier statement, Nuwa Capital said Mascotte Health had differentiated itself with a “customer-centric” approach and a focus on “solid” unit economics.
The company offers “undeniable value for all stakeholders, including veterinary professionals and pet parents”, Khaled Talhouni, managing partner at Nuwa Capital, said.
The global veterinary services market size is estimated to reach about $208.34 billion by 2032, from $118 billion last year, registering a growth of 5.9 per cent every year, according to Precedence Research.
The UAE pet care market is the largest in the GCC, valued at $361 million in 2020 and projected to post strong growth at a compound annual rate of 9 per cent to 11 per cent, according to Aliph Capital.
Last year, Aliph Capital, a GCC-focused private equity fund manager, completed its maiden investment deal with the acquisition of the UAE's largest pet business, The Pet Shop.
Other Mena countries are catching up as well.
Last year, Egypt-based Vetwork, a petcare-at-home platform, raised a bridge round that included several investors from Saudi Arabia. The size of the deal was not disclosed.
Mascotte Health only has nine employees but plans to “bring in more talent” as the company expands, Mr Hamamcioglu says.
The start-up did not suffer the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has sent ripples through global markets and supply chains in the past few years.
“It did serve as a catalyst for the telehealth industry and increased pet adoption rates. These trends have played a role in shaping our focus and strategy,” Mr Hamamcioglu says.
Pet adoption rates surged during the pandemic.
In the US, the world's largest pet market, more than 23 million households – nearly one in five – adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The rising demand for pet care and supplies has triggered a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the market.
In June, Swedish private equity firm EQT agreed to buy London-based veterinary drug maker Dechra Pharmaceuticals for £4.46 billion ($5.58 billion) in the biggest takeover deal in Britain at the time.
Last month, German medical diagnostics company Synlab agreed to sell its veterinary business to US confectionery giant Mars.
In the US, total spend on pets grew to $136.8 billion last year, from $53.3 billion in 2012, according to KPMG.
It is expected to reach $143.6 billion in 2023, the accounting firm said in a report earlier this year.
“Pet owners of all kinds are investing more in their cats, dogs, birds, and reptiles – opting for nutritional feed options over old-school kibble, making more frequent visits to the vet, and expressing more eagerness for new services such as pet health insurance,” the report said.
Macro factors like increased household pet ownership and higher consumer discretionary spending, coupled with changes in consumer behaviour, have driven bottom-up growth across the entire pet industry, KPMG said.
Q&A with Bora Hamamcioglu, founder and chief executive of Mascotte Health
What does the name of the company mean?
The name “Mascotte” has a personal and heartfelt origin. It's a tribute to my own beloved dog, Mocha, who's been a faithful companion on many adventures. Friends and family often referred to Mocha as my “mascot” because he has accompanied me everywhere.
Which successful start-up do you wish you had started?
Chewy is a company that I admire a lot. It is a household name in the pet industry, known for its online retail platform that offers a wide range of pet products, from food and toys to medications and accessories. What sets the company apart is its customer-centric approach, fast shipping and a subscription model that makes pet ownership more convenient.
What is your next big dream to make happen?
My aspiration is to create a platform that can truly make a difference in the industry. Some alarming statistics reveal that veterinary professionals are 2.7 times more likely to experience thoughts of suicide than the average person. My dream is to build an impactful platform that can contribute to lowering these distressing rates and provide much-needed support to them.
What new skills have you learnt from launching your company?
I've discovered that every day brings new lessons. Two key skills I've honed are patience and flexibility. Entrepreneurship often feels like navigating shifting winds, with challenges arising from different directions each day. Learning to adapt and make the most of every situation has been invaluable in this journey.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I envision having left a lasting impact on the veterinary care sector, reshaping it into a more supportive and less distressed industry. My primary goal is to contribute to pets living healthier, longer lives by fostering a culture of proactive care among owners.
What is your advice to someone trying to get into the veterinary services sector?
My advice, applicable to any aspiring entrepreneur, is to uncover a profound sense of purpose behind their journey. This purpose should serve as the driving force propelling them to give their utmost effort every day. Building conviction in the value of their offering is essential to navigate the challenges and uncertainties that come with entrepreneurship.
Who’s your role model?
My role model, without a doubt, is my father. His unwavering resilience and tireless work ethic have been a constant source of inspiration for me. He instilled in me the invaluable lesson of never accepting “no” as the final answer and to persistently push forward.