Told by Alan Ellenberger
01.2010Â Â Â Â Idea for locating cats with a GPS cat collar
After the tragic loss of my girlfriend’s family cat I came up with the idea of developing a GPS cat collar in order to prevent more cats from disappearing in the future. I had heard and read a lot about the huge number of cats going missing every year. In fact, the number in Germany alone is estimated to be around 400,000 cats per year, and in Switzerland and Austria around 30,000 cats per year.
These are shocking statistics indeed. Our cats become part of the family and it is always a big loss if one of these beloved ones doesnâ€™t turn up anymore. And what makes it even worse is if we never find out what happened to them!
After a lot of research, I came to the conclusion that there were several products available on the market. However, they did not fully satisfy me, and some not at all. Many of them were much too heavy or the energy consumption was too high (battery life is too short). In addition, the price was simply too much and a monthly service fee needed to be paid as well.
I found an incredibly good engineer, who happened to be my godfather, and together we decided to develop and produce a GPS cat collar which meets my high expectations.
Thanks to a professional market analysis done earlier, we knew that a demand existed for such a product and that potential buyers were willing to pay enough in order to develop our GPS cat collar and bring it onto the market.
05.2010Â Â Â Founding the company PET TRACER
Developing the Proof of Concept I + II (Functional model)
I founded the company petTracer with the aim to reduce the enormous number of cats going missing every year. In my eyes, a GPS Cat Collar is the best solution to achieve this. I managed to convince my girlfriend’s father to become my mentor and close supporter in order to successfully build my company and produce our product. A little later my dear friend Claudio from university joined my team. I am very happy and grateful that he did!
With our capital of CHF 100,000 in hand we came up with a workable solution (proof of concept I + II). We were now able to prove to any investor or engineer that we were able to build a GPS cat collar that worked. Thanks to our research we now own two patents. We also came to the conclusion that we needed to engineer our own, specially customized microchip in order for it to be energy efficient enough.
02.2011Â Â Â Withdrawal of Investors
We had confirmation of three potential, private investors and out of co-incidence all of them cancelled their intention to invest. One of them unexpectedly became very ill. Within a month I received news from the second investor that his startup company was bankrupt and that at that moment he did not wish to invest into other startups. And even more bad news was on the way. Riots in Egypt! Our third investor had invested a lot of money into a project in Egypt. Due to the riots his investments were at risk and no one knew at this point how the situation would develop. He had no choice but to travel to Egypt and save what was left of it. Obviously he too wasn’t in the mood anymore to invest into us for the time being.
This left me in a very, very frustrating situation. I soon began to lose confidence in being able to finance my project at all. I decided to focus again on my studies and my current job.
12.2011Â Â Â Creation of a Business Plan
At the end of my third year of my part time studies at university (Bachelor of economics) we were informed that we had to write a thesis.
This was an excellent opportunity to write the perfect business plan for my company and to get things rolling again. At this point the Euro had fallen from 1.50 Swiss Francs to an all time low of about 1.00 Swiss Francs. With Germany and Austria as the main markets in mind, this was a small catastrophe for our financial planning and calculations. With the help of the Swiss National Bank the Euro could be fixed at a bottom line of around 1.20 Swiss Francs.
At that point, our market research of 50 cat owners was too small and too old to be used in our business plan. I motivated Claudio to team up with me to create the business plan and things started to move again. We also managed to win over two great professors who guided us through our thesis.
03.2012Â Â Â The beginning of selling company shares on our website: www.gpscatcollar.com
While writing my coursework a great idea came to mind. How about raising capital in an unconventional way, a way that was just a little different from â€śnormalâ€ť? So I started to work out a concept to do so and created this website.
The idea was that every company or person who bought at least one non-voting power share for CHF 100 would receive a space for their company logo or a chosen picture on our pixel wall. In this way all website visitors could see who had supported us from the very beginning. The size of the logo/picture represents the number of shares purchased. For one share 100 pixels were received, for 2 shares 200 pixelsâ€¦. and so on, you get the idea.
So our pixel wall is a digital memorial board of logos and pictures of our supporters. In addition each picture/logo can be linked with a web link.
05.2012 Â Â GPS Cat Collar on Facebook
On 08.05.2012 our Facebook site went online.
06.2012Â Â Â Graduating from university and obtaining our BS in business administration
Having successfully obtained our bachelor diploma in business administration, we had a lot more time to invest in our company and to secure the finances needed to do so.
I had already been working full time for the company (since January) and Claudio officially started his part time work for the company too.
07.2012Â Â Â First newspaper article
On 15.07.2012 the first newspaper article was published about us in the â€śAargauer Zeitungâ€ť, the official newspaper of the canton Aargau in Switzerland. This article was important to us in many ways. For one, we kept our promise to our fellow supporters to promote our pixel wall. On the other hand it helped us gain first-hand experience with the press. It also showed that there was a general, legitimate interest in the subject.
So far our hard work has paid off. The steady rise in website visitors and online marketing measures have resulted in being top of the list in Google when searching for â€śGPS Cat Collarâ€ť.
01.2013Â Â Â Sales, sales, sales!
In the coming months we learned a lot about the art of selling by actually selling our shares. We also participated in several different events and managed to gain valuable business contacts.
Soon prominent companies were represented on our pixel wall, among them Planzer AG (the biggest transportation company in Switzerland), Brack Electronics (one of the biggest online electronic retailers in Switzerland), Zenith Cinematography (the most innovative and professional wedding video company in the UK) and the Kickboxing School Wohlen (most successful Kickboxing School in the country).
07.2013Â Â Â Article in the biggest animal magazine of Switzerland
On 25.07.2013 a two page article was published about us in the biggest animal magazine of Switzerland. Fantastic!
10.2013Â Â Â Investor presentation and more newspaper articles
In October our carefully planned investor’s day took place. On this day we gave our presentation to five potential investors. It was an interesting and successful event and we gained a lot of experience from it. From this pool of investors one of them would become one of our most valuable investors.
The following articles were published throughout October:
- 15.10.2013, Wohler Anzeiger: BĂĽsi unter Kontrolle (local newspaper)
- 20.10.2013, Sonntagsblick: Weltneuheit! So geht das BĂĽsi nie mehr verloren (biggest national newspaper, Sunday edition)
- 22.10.2013, Le Matin: Un GPS pour Traquer les Chats / online Version (semi-national newspaper for the whole French part of Switzerland)
- 29.10.2013, Winterthurer Stadtanzeiger: Winterthurer_Stadtanzeiger_29.10.2013. (city newspaper of Winterthur)
12.2013Â Â Â Annual review
At the end of the year 2013 we counted 38,492 website visitors, out of which 81,696 page views resulted. We gained valuable knowledge throughout the year and we managed to hold the number one spot in Google with the keyword â€śGPS Cat Collarâ€ť. At this point we had sold shares worth CHF 70,000.-.
01.2014Â Â Â Completion of our first financing round
With the official decision to undertake a capital increase in autumn 2013 we put pressure on ourselves to complete this transaction within 3 months (according to Swiss law). So what we needed were binding agreements from potential investors if we were to successfully complete our capital increase. Of course our documents had to be updated as well for the presentations.
Just before the year ended, we received very good news from my godfather: a new standard microchip had been developed, which would be good enough for us to use for our collar. And it would be on the market very soon to buy! This changed everything! This meant that the time to bring it onto the market decreased considerably, lower development costs and less risk. We now only needed a fraction of the original capital. This was very good news indeed!
Literally a few days before the deadline we received confirmation from three private investors. This capital was enough to complete our prototypes and take the next step. Our team was very, very busy developing the GPS cat collar.
04.2014Â Â Â Â Testing of prototype I and digital map
After only three months we already had our first prototype on our desk. This was possible due to all the pre-work done from the whole team. This prototype was meant for testing each individual component and did not yet have the dimensions of a collar. It made me very happy to see how our project was moving along. Even a simple digital map was ready for us to be tested along with the prototype.