Mella Pet Care's Accurate Axillary Thermometer

Transforming how vets & parents engage with pet health with disruptive vital signs monitoring, starting with a axillary (armpit) thermometer

Photo of Ben Seidman
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:

  • Yes, I’m eligible
  • Yes, I’m 18 years old or older

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:

  • Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
  • The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020

Initiative's representative name

Anya Babbitt Alternates: Yale Zhang, Ben Seidman

Initiative's representative date of birth

2211983

Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Switzerland

Headquarters location: city

Lausanne

Where are you making a difference?

Our primary focus is Europe and North America, the two most advanced pet care markets. However, we are planning initiatives and projects in every continent at the moment.

Website or social media url(s)

Website: www.mella.ai Twitter: https://twitter.com/mellapetcare Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mella-Petcare-108950130478115/?modal=admin_todo_tour Instagram: @mellapetcare Note: Strategically, we have decided to keep our social media handles quiet and in stealth mode to remain under the radar during R&D mode until we ramp up for launch.

Date Started

March / 2019

Focus Areas

  • Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
  • Promote inclusivity
  • Enhance physical activity and wellness
  • Re-imagining the role of pets in society
  • Revolutionizing veterinary care for pets

What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?

  • €250k - €500k

Organisation Type

  • for profit: an organisations whose main goal is to make income through business gains

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

A series of stories and moments define our journey. As a founding team, we have built a startup from the ground up, grown it across continents, and exited to a Fortune 50. After achieving this, we searched for something that drove our passions. Given our CTO's background in human healthcare and our share love for pets, we further explored the space. Our COO adopted a dog and brought him to his first vet visit. Taking temperature was so uncomfortable that the tech had to "take him to the back." There had to be a better way. Last but not least, Mella is the namesake of our CEO's rescue shih tzu. With our know-how and deep research in low-cost human medical products, all of these realities collided like stars to point us this direction.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The overarching problem is the inability of pet parents to meaningfully engage with their pets health. Our specific starting point is rectal temperature, which is difficult and dangerous for vets, parents and pets. Secondarily, it is anxiety-inducing for everyone involved, pushing parents away from the vet clinic and from further understanding their pet's health. We are the first to pursue through big data accurate axillary temperature taking.

3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We built a non-rectal and non-invasive smart thermometer allowing for axillary (foreleg/hindleg) temperature measurement in <10 seconds that pairs with a mobile and smartwatch app. In addition, this pairs with patient management systems (PMS) so the vet does not have to think about or write down the temperature during examination. Instead, with this improved workflow, they can put more focus on the patient. Our goal is to be nothing less than the Apple of pet care, releasing connected devices that give a 360-degree view of pet health. The next products include a body fat analyzer, called Biggie, and other remote vital signs monitoring devices, all focused on the pet wellness ecosystem, allowing us to make better choices for our pets, improving preventative health. We are doing for animals what was done for humans decades ago and combining technology with pet-focused design to improve lives of what 92% of us consider family members, our pets. We are strengthening the human-pet bond by educating the owners and the vets about the condition of the animal.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Mella is the only pet thermometer that accurately, safely, and comfortably takes pet temperature under the armpit. Mella is not not only an innovative means of taking temperature, our goal is to be a gateway to a deeper level of of pet health. On a technical workflow level, Mella will also be the first hardware to integrate with the major Patient Management Systems in vet clinics to allow vets to go paperless while further focusing on patient care. With backgrounds in different industries, we are taking a fresh, collaborative approach to improve pet care with tech. As outsiders to pet care, our experiences in startups, product design, and human healthcare yields unique insights. We are taking a lean iterative approach guided by Vital Vets.

5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?

As a human, taking temperature is one of the first the first things that happens when you enter a doctors office. It is painless, simple, and non-invasive. At home, temperature is a compass that helps us to understand what's going on inside us. This doesn't exist for our furry family members, in the hospital, the place where they should feel safe and fear free, or at home. By enabling parents to take the most vital of vital signs in an easy way, we believe we are strengthening the human-animal bond and opening new doors for parents to take more control of their pets health. Whether your pet has a chronic illness that requires at-home monitoring, or you've rescued a cat and want to check if she is infected, or you're just curious about the temperature of your pet, Mella is here to make that process easier. And we're not stopping with temperature, our body fat analyzer will give parents a window into their pet's overall wellbeing. We believe this will only help us to understand our pets that much more, strengthening our bond, and allowing for more cherishable moments, helping prolong the relationship and avoid abandonment.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

We have tested our product with Vital Vets, who have helped improve the functionality and scope of this product. While we have not given access to the broader public, those that have experienced this technology can see how they can reduce the time associated with taking temperature as well as improve their workflow and turnaround speed. One early adopter, Tennille, had a cat who was running a high fever. She bought a thermometer from a store; took the temperature but it did not work. She purchased another, it still did not work. Turns out the temperature of the cat was off the scale of a human thermometer (41C). Luckily, she brought it to a veterinarian in time. Now, with the Mella thermometer, we can take accurate temperatures in a non-invasive way any time. We project up to 5000 veterinarians will adopt Mella for their practice to impact their communities this year.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We see the global pet care market as a viable, sustainable opportunity long term. We are starting with the 250,000+ veterinarians and vet technicians in the US. Success in the veterinary market will translate to the 80M US households with a dog or cat. Globally, there are 1.8M veterinarians and 50% of households have a dog or cat. To put this in perspective, with just 1% penetration into the US market, Mella would see a minimum $3M on the Mella Pro Edition and $32M on the Mella Home edition. Future products in the pipeline include a body condition analyzer, pulse oximeter and other diagnostic

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

Shared value and ecosystem empowerment is a cornerstone of our values and is a large part of our strategic approach to the market. We are collaborating with veterinarians, integrating with patient management systems, and enabling all types of third party operators like Fuzzy, Modern Animal, and others. With telehealth, Mella provides vets with crucial data points for triage and strengthens communication between doctor and client. Mella is also working with animal shelters to be able to screen for diseases. Mella will also be sharing its data to help data scientists and researching study the correlations between temperature data and others, such as activity and diet. Most of all, Mella Home will bring owners closer to their pets.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

We are currently raising a seed round of €500K to further commercialize the Mella Pro and prototype other products. We are optimistic in achieving sustained profitable growth with minimal future funding requirements for the long term. As a team that has taken in both dilutive and non-dilutive funding, we pride ourselves on the ability to creatively build sustainable plans to success and impact the lives of those who adopt our technology. We know that there is market demand as we were about to sign up over 200+ hospitals with pre-order interest at the Veterinary Meeting & Expo 2020 in Orlando, Florida in January, 2020.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

We have worked together for 5 years. Yale is the technologist. Ben is operations guru. Anya is deal closer. The team consists of 3 co-founders, 1 graphic artist, 9 R&D engineers and designers, and 5 advisors. Our exits have brought returns to our investors. We come from outside of the traditional pet care industry and bring fresh perspectives to overcome inertia. Our work has been featured in the WSJ, TechCrunch, etc. We are humbled to onboard the most talented and passionate team in the future.

11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?

We plan to further propel the entire industry to think up new ideas and create new innovations that allow us to understand and address the health needs of our pets. The average parent goes to the veterinarian for almost everything without the ability to care for the pet on his/her own. We want to change that narrative by making vital signs monitoring and preventative health solutions accessible. We believe that care and the act of caring is the inception of any relationship or bond and by engaging on a whole new level. We are making our furry children truly children and helping sustain the bonds that warm our hearts and open our eyes.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Purina page or contact
  • Article in the news
  • In-person event
  • Email
  • Word-of-mouth

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