Every year, millions of animals languish in shelters waiting to find a forever home. Meanwhile, numerous studies have proven that having a pet can help increase children’s sense of responsibility and empathy which ultimately makes them better human beings. Thus, families who are seeking to bring an animal into their lives are opening the door to instill positive emotional experiences and hands-on learning for their children. Anyone who seeks to adopt an animal can also teach their children about charity by demonstrating the ultimate act of kindness—saving an animal that has been left in a shelter.
In the modern 21st century there is an app for everything—including pet adoptions. Noting the need to simplify the process of connecting people with pets, a startup called “AllPaws” developed an app by the same name which makes it easier for people seeking pets to search adoption listings—namely those from shelters—in locations near them. This is a fantastic example of how technology can improve a traditionally “in person” endeavor.
AllPaws prides itself on being the “modern approach to pet adoption” and boasts the ability to enable users to search over 200,000 eligible pets across the United States. AllPaws offers over thirty advanced search tools, robust pet profiles, direct messaging and emailed “match alerts” to ease the challenge of finding a suitable pet. Since its implementation in October 2013, the app has helped scores of dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and even a few alpacas (and other unusual creatures) find homes.
AllPaws is the brainchild of entrepreneur Darrell Lerner who has roots in the online dating industry. Darrell applied the same interface model from dating websites—essentially a way to match individuals based on similarities—to create AllPaws. Users are encouraged to begin their journey by searching a pet by type, breed and location and then expand the search to include facets such as preferred size and gender. Searches can be further customized to filter for pets of certain ages and temperaments—such as their energy level.
An estimated 5,000 animals are added to the database every day and users can even list pets that are available for adoption. Each pet profile can be shared via social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest to help get the word out. To that end, AllPaws has established a solid community of animal lovers and animal loving organizations to connect with and help as many animals as possible.
Recently, AllPaws founder Darrell Lerner was generous enough to speak with the Examiner about his experiences working with AllPaws and his hopes for the company’s future:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when were you inspired to start your company?
Darrell Lerner (D.L.): While we formally came up with the idea and began work on AllPaws in the summer of 2013, in many ways the inspiration came much earlier. I’ve always been a pet lover and for years while at SNAP Interactive (the company I previously co-founded with my brother Cliff) I would repeatedly joke with a friend and co-worker that my next project has to be something pet related! That co-worker was Kim Bouton and a couple of years later she joined me when I started out on a new venture that later turned into AllPaws. With my extensive experience in the online dating world, the lightbulb went off one day that I could essentially rebuild a dating site experience to create a much better way for people to search for pets to adopt.
M.M.: Why did you choose the name AllPaws?
D.L.: Naturally we wanted some way to convey that the site was pet-related so we came up with a list of about 50 different possible names using different combinations of terms including pets, match, paws etc. – and at that point it really became a question of domain name availability and ensuring there were no intellectual property rights issues in order to narrow down our search to a short list of finalists. From the short list, AllPaws was our favorite because it conveys that the site is full of pets while still sounding fun and playful.
M.M.: How, exactly, does your company work?
D.L.: As much as we love being able to connect people with their new best friends, AllPaws is very much a business as well. We have a start-up environment and a big testing and optimization culture as well as very strong and sophisticated underlying technology. We’re constantly iterating on the website and iPhone App – testing new features and optimizing existing ones. We have several employees – both on the business side and the technical side. We’re a young company but growing very quickly. At this point we generate revenue from advertising and direct sponsorships from large pet food brands – and are beginning to explore some additional monetization approaches as well.
M.M.: How many variations of adoptions are there? For instance, do you primarily offer to match people with dogs and cats or can people search for other kinds of animals too?
D.L.: We absolutely go beyond dogs and cats! While dogs and cats represent about 90% of the 200,000+ pets listed on AllPaws, you can find everything from rabbits and guinea pigs, to horses and snakes, to even a few goats and alpacas!
M.M.: Thus far, what has been the most rewarding part of working for AllPaws?
D.L.: As a pet lover, it’s obviously incredibly rewarding to know that we’re responsible for helping thousands and thousands of pets find a loving home. It always makes us smile to read success stories and receive photos from families who found their new pet via AllPaws! On a personal level, it’s always intensely gratifying to build a business from scratch, to create something from nothing. AllPaws receives more than half a million visits per month, has nearly 350,000 registered users, is now generating meaningful revenue from large pet brands, and has an iPhone app that’s literally growing every single week! To have achieved all that in barely over a year is incredibly rewarding and makes us even more excited for what’s to come.
M.M: Where do you hope AllPaws will be ten years from now?
D.L.: Great question! Ten years is an awfully long way out in this ever-changing and dynamic technology environment, but certainly mobile is the future. The engagement we’re seeing on the AllPaws iPhone app is absolutely incredible and dwarfs what we’ve seen on web. We want to focus much more on mobile moving forward and expand beyond pure adoption. There are so many opportunities that tap into the incredible bond that people feel with their pets and we have a roadmap filled with exciting ideas. Looking into the future I hope (and expect) that AllPaws will be the platform you use to find a pet, share your pet’s life with friends and other pet lovers, as well as connect with pet lovers and new pet parents.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
D.L.: We’re in the early stages of planning to bring AllPaws to Android as well as launch an additional app geared more toward general pet owners and pet lovers that we think people will absolutely be addicted to. We’re likely to go out to the market soon to raise additional capital to further support our growth and new product initiatives.
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To find out more about AllPaws visit the official website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.