Sidelick

We make pet parenting easy by connecting pet owners to trusted pet sitters and dog walkers around them.

Photo of Karim Bacha
0 1

Written by

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

Karim Bacha

Initiative's representative date of birth

25071985

Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Lebanon

Headquarters location: city

Beirut

Where are you making a difference?

Lebanon

Website or social media url(s)

https://sidelick.com

Date Started

092018

Focus Areas

  • Enhance physical activity and wellness
  • Facilitate pet ownership

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?

  • €50k - €100k

Organisation Type

  • hybrid: a combination of different types of organisations, such as a social enterprise (an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being)
  • youth-led initiative: organisations, whether informal or formal, created and led primary by young people

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.

Sidelick’s co-founder, Karim, used to face an issue due to his frequent travels: Who would look after his dog in his absence? Traditional solutions such as kennels and boarding facilities were impersonal and not satisfactory, especially for an apartment dog such as his. The ill-equipped caged facilities constituted a traumatizing experience. One day, as he was walking his dog, he shared his concern with a neighbor who said she would be happy to keep the dog for a couple of nights. In an ideal world, Karim wished like-minded pet parents would look after his dog while he was away. That “Aha!” moment pushed him to create Sidelick, a network of pet lovers providing the best personalized care for pets in the absence of their owners.

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

Despite ever-growing figures, “pet ownership in its current form is likely unsustainable in a growing, urbanized population” (Rault, 2015). Urban environments are evolving in ways that shape faster lifestyles, inducing smaller living spaces and less time for owners to care for their pets, hence affecting their overall quality of life. This is especially true in the Middle East where pet infrastructure is weak and pet owner support is limited.

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

Committing to raising a pet is about making daily actions which determine how healthy the outcome of the human/pet relationship turns out. It is a long-term choice that comes with many responsibilities, such as providing a suitable environment for the pet’s wellbeing and consistently meeting his needs. The latter can be time-consuming and over 12 years (average pet’s lifespan), it is not uncommon for pet owners to fail to deliver. Sidelick aims at providing quality support for pet owners: it is an online platform that connects pet parents to trusted dog walkers and pet sitters around them. All the marketplace’s services (dog walking, pet boarding, drop-in visits) are performed by screened, vetted and trained members of the community and are all covered by pet insurance. Sidelick builds trust between its community members by creating reputation and reliance in the marketplace through detailed profiles and user reviews. The platform is accessible through both a mobile application and a website; it addresses the need of all pet owners to rely on a solid, trusted local community of pet enthusiasts in a cage-free, positively social environment – away from outdated traditional channels.

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

Many pet owners identify as part of a larger pet enthusiasts community yet opportunities to engage with it and reach out for help on demand are narrow. On one hand, we know that the community exists but remains fairly inaccessible. On the other, the technology that would allow to connect all its members is readily available but not put at use. The project we are actively pursuing is innovative in the sense that it bridges the two, using technology to connect individual pet lovers in local communities. Sidelick revolutionizes these shortages by completely transforming the intangible feeling of belonging shared by pet owners into concrete solutions around them, providing certified and insured local assistance in a click of a button.

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)?

Sidelick aims at building a better pet and pet-parent friendly infrastructure in the middle-east by revolutionizing pet care through both awareness and development of social competencies. Based in a region where violence towards animals is common and where proper pet care awareness is limited, we actively promote and educate in order to optimize healthy outcomes of human/pet relationships. By acknowledging that urban lifestyles often translates in sub-par care for pets (especially dogs), we aim at assisting pet parents by assigning pet sitters who understand that energy spending is key to meet the pet’s needs. A physically tired and mentally stimulated pet is a happy pet. Our service represents the healthy alternative to traditional boarding as it is completely cage-free and transparent. One example of our contribution to a major societal issue, pet abandonment, is our pet parent support (dog walking, pet boarding) which comes as an answer to logistic issues which statistically constitute the primary motive behind it. Our sitters’ immersion in pet parents’ lives allows us to educate about issues such as trauma, isolation and remedy to conditions such as separation anxiety, etc.

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 believe we’re on our way to be a startup that prioritizes social responsibility towards pets while making perfect business sense. In 15 months of activity, we’ve recruited 150+ pet sitters and dog walkers in Lebanon who performed more than 10,000 hours of pet sitting for about 600 individual pets. These figures are very encouraging in the small Lebanese market. We regularly measure our growth and impact by looking at indicators such as sales and conversions; we take pride in our high retention rate with more than 70% of our bookings coming from repeat customers. We actively offer awareness seminars to local pet communities which helps our business grow, which in turn enables us to onboard top team members and raise seed capital. Our greatest reward are the reviews that pet parents’ leave on our platform to thank us for supporting them in their journey with their pets in their absence.

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

Our marketplace’s primary focus is on inbound referrals, organic traffic, SEO optimization and word of mouth. We also have local partnerships that lead to scalable growth channels through awareness. Our growth is driven by high customer satisfaction and customer retention thanks to loyalty strategy (pet insurance, security, freebies, avatars & rewards). Once our local target is reached in Lebanon, we plan to expand to new geographies because Sidelick holds the potential of multiplying revenue with minimal incremental cost thanks to its repeatable business model and vast distribution potential.

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

While contributing to tackle societal issues related to pets, Sidelick also positively affects lives of all of its stakeholders. The latter are three-fold: the pet parents, their pets and our pet sitters, which all interact in our marketplace. Our typical customer persona is a busy urban dweller who doesn’t have time to consistently care for his pet. Our sitters assist pet parents in providing pet care while getting paid for it. Most our sitters are freelancers who work from home and are true pet lovers. Finally, the pets are the biggest beneficiaries of the shared value we create because through us, they find genuine care meeting their needs which in turn diminishes the risks of ‘bad behavior’ which often leads to abandonment, anxiety etc.

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?

During its first year, Sidelick raised seed fund ($45K) in order to validate the idea and build the technology (website, mobile app) necessary for its implementation. Today, Sidelick’s revenues come from the marketplace aspect of the platform, hence relying on the sharing economy principles: a commission is collected from two users upon every successful service exchange. As the number of active users grows, the platform will eventually branch out into an online hub specializing in pet care and retail, a vertical that is currently being explored in order to add to the project’s viability on the long run.

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?

Today, Sidelick employs 3 full time employees (CEO, Operations Officer & Marketing Officer) and a part time Strategy & Performance Advisor (board member). Our team will expand along with our geographical expansion, with a priority given to hiring a CTO and country representatives. Since its debut, Sidelick has recruited 150+ pet sitters which get punctual missions and can thus be considered part timers. All team members have a deep understanding of the needs and requirements of pet owners.

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

Winning this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets would be a great to align Sidelick with a partner with whom we share fundamental values. It would enable us to receive exposure outside of Lebanon and expand geographically by gaining access to a vast network of pet industry professionals, pet owners, comunity influencers, NGOs, veterinarians and suppliers. Because the entrepreneurship ecosystem is not always receptive to pet-related startups, it is important for us to participate in an event specifically tailored around that theme, and which presents us with a unique opportunity to engage with knowledgeable stakeholders. We would take pride in leveraging this prize as a token of trust, as Purina is a respected name in the pet industry.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Word-of-mouth

13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.

We’d love to share with you dozens of real-life happy ending stories to which we’ve contributed. Here are a few examples: Hannah’s high energy German shepherd used to destroy furniture in her absence. Kevin travels on a weekly basis and struggled to find someone to look after his dog. Maya got a puppy against her parent’s opinion and needed help with potty training before they (seriously) kick her out. Karl’s Labrador had separation anxiety and kept barking, causing nuisance to the neighbors. Laura’s premature kittens needed syringe feeding every 2 hours (even at night) and she needed assistance. Joe wished to take his dog to the vet but doesn’t have a car. The Klink family called pest control to spray their house and had to keep their dog away for 48 hours. Leila and Fadi almost postponed their wedding in fear of leaving their cats alone. All of these are real situations that our platform helped solve thanks to our amazing pet sitters, for which pet parents were tremendously grateful.

14. Mutual Benefit: Explain how your project mutually benefits the pets involved – how is the pet not only used as tool?

Pet welfare is at the heart of our project through the anchoring of the human-pet bond. A modern model of symbiotic relationship between pets and humans is key to the thriving of our community; both parties are thus of equal importance to us. By promoting personalized care in home environments, pets positively interact with certified pet lovers that are “foreign” to their household, which is very beneficial to them. With Sidelick, pets get socialized, exercised and mentally stimulated, even in urban settings and in absence of their pet parents. Pet owners who see our sitters in action (for example our dog walkers) are encouraged to book our services for their own pet, which translates into more pampered pets. Our service adapts to the pet parent’s recommendations and requested routine, but also heavily focuses on a pet’s personality. Because our sitters have a pair of fresh eyes, they can also bring up any behavior, condition, etc. that could have slipped the pet parent’s attention.

15. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?

Our success relies on our ability to acquire new markets and get more people to transition from kennels to pet sitting. On the international level, the two largest players are Rover.com and Wag which are huge in the US pet service market. In the Middle East, two startups saw light after Sidelick, but they’re far from offering the same added value. The service quality and customer journey we offer is unmatched, even on the international level. All our sitters are vetted by our onboarding team (background check, live interview, training + quiz). They all have individual online profiles which convey a maximum of details to the customers to guide them towards a good fit ahead of time. During a mission, sitters are required to send a visual update (picture/video) at least once every 3 hours. In case of accident, all our services are covered by an exclusive partnership with a specialized pet insurance. Overall, our platform is user-friendly and our payment options are flexible.

16. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project.

Sidelick’s business model is strengthened by its community based approach through access to a vast network of regional stakeholders. Local partnerships lead to scalable growth channels by improving awareness about the service and increasing its credibility. We’ve already initiated this effort by forming strategic partnerships with key stakeholders in the pet industry (pet insurance, pet accessories suppliers, NGOs, veterinary clinics and payment gateway companies). Because we have a first mover advantage, we are perceived as partners not competitors, which helps fast tracking our customer base building, sitters onboarding and partnership establishment – hence creating higher barriers to entry to potential competitors.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Our project won several national and regional competitions: Uberpitch 2019, Femme Francophone entrepreneur (10,000 euros), Get in the ring (2000 USD). Sidelick also made it to the semi-finals of many other major competitions throughout the Middle East (MIT Panarab entrepreneur, Arabnet, etc.). However, we always like to think that our best rewards and most heartwarming achievements are the flattering comments that our customers leave to our sitters.

18. Your Self-Elevator Pitch (OPTIONAL): Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

19. Financial Sustainability (OPTIONAL): Please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project, include an attached document with your detailed business plan or other equivalent information. (This information will NOT be shared with your fellow contestant, it will only be visible to you and internal Prize reviewers).

We have established a 5 year road map (cf. attachment 'Financial Roadmap'). Because we are at an early stage of the road map, most of our initial capital currently into platform improvements, marketing and team/operations.

Attachments (1)

0 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment