Tell us about your background?
I’m not necessarily academic, but I went to the University of Leeds and studied digital media back in 1998. I graduated and went straight into business setting up my own marketing agency which grew really fast. I turned over around one and a half million in first 18 months delivering campaigns for the likes of Nikon, Bentley and Sky.
Vet AI began in 2017, what prompted its start?
The thinking started before I realised it. I was at the vet with my dog Ruby and I witnessed a very confrontational pet owner arguing about the cost of her pet’s care. It made me stop and think. I then got to work with a guy named Ash Patel, who was was one of the founders at Babylon House. The more I researched, it occurred to me that the animal health industry was in a dark place. Three million dogs and cats in the UK aren’t registered at a vet, and for half a million it’s because they can’t afford to. The vets and the vet nurses are disproportionately unhappy too. Suicide rates amongst them are four times the rate of the general UK population, and we wanted to do something to fix it.
How did the concept progress from an initial idea into a business?
Good luck and hard work. I met the right people and created a team that is second to none. I know that sounds cliché, but we have Sarah Warren our co-founder who is a President of the British Veterinary Dermatology Study Group and our other co-founder Robert who owned the biggest veterinary group practice in the South West.
How does it work exactly?
We’re trying to bridge the gap between Google and veterinary practices, so the app side of the business ultimately helps pet owners make decisions when there are issues. An owner will enter their pet’s symptoms and the app will give them four possible outcomes delivered by a team of vets and veterinary nurses from around the country. One of the outcomes will tell you that you need to see a vet in practice, another will say we can do this online via a video call, the third outcome is that you don’t need to see a vet, here is a product you can buy to solve the problem, and the final outcome will say there’s nothing you need to do, but here is some free advice.
On top of your app you’re launching a new unique product. What can you tell us about it?
I can tell you that what were building is globally unique and will change the way that pet owners interact with pet health care. It will also improve the effectiveness of vets and veterinary nurses making diagnoses.
Why is now a good time to explore the potential of AI in the veterinary industry?
AI is the buzz word of start ups, but most of the time what people are delivering isn’t actually AI. We have built all of our models from scratch, they’re not off the shelf. The strategies and data we’ll collect will help us to predict and prevent conditions happening in the future. We’ve done it that way because we’re dealing with very sensitive information.
What other aspects of business, aside from Vet AI have you been involved with?
Previously I was involved in SleepCogni, a brilliant product which aims to help the issues around sleep deprivation and insomnia. It’s another Yorkshire-based start up and a really, really exciting business.
What does your average day look like?
A lot of my role is about working with people. I’m on the phone most of the day working on our number of partnerships and building relationships. We’re also very focused on our core business at the moment and stabilising our technology.
How have you found Leeds as a place to be in business?
Leeds is home. So there’s an emotional component here as it’s been a massive part of my life, I genuinely love Leeds. But there’s proposition here for us too, the universities are incredible and the talent pool is amazing. It’s a very impressive place to be and the tech scene here is very exciting too.
How do you like to spend your down time?
To be honest, I don’t get a lot of down time which is challenging, as I have two children and a wife who support this as much as I do. My perfect idea of down time would be to turn my phone off on Sunday and go for a walk with the children, or go to a museum.
Your favourite places to visit in Leeds?
Golden Acre Park is where we often go for walks, and Sukhothai Headingley is probably our most frequented takeaway.