Zocdoc founder returns with Shadow, an app that finds lost dogs – ProWellTech
Each year, about 10 million pets go missing in the United States and millions of these end up in shelters where they are not always reunited with their owners, due to their lack of identification or a microchip. A new mobile app, Shadow, aims to address this by leveraging a combination of a volunteer network and AI technology to help dog owners, in particular.
The startup is working in partnership with animal shelters and rescue organizations in the United States to insert photos of the dogs they are currently hosting, so supplement this with photos pulled from social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.
It then uses AI technology to match the photograph of missing dogs with possible matches from nearby shelters or from the web.
If a match is not found, Shadow will then programmatically set a search radius based on where and when the dog went missing and suggest other actions the dog owner can take as next steps.
This includes direct viewing of all photographs from shelters, in case the technology matching process has lost a possible match, as well as working with other Shadow users to help crowdsourcing activities such as hanging “Lost Dog” flyers in a neighborhood , for example, among other things.
The app also relies on a network of volunteers who also help by reviewing the photographs of the shelters and broadcasting the missing posters to the social media sites they use to increase the chances of the dog being found. Dog owners can even advertise a reward in the app to encourage people to help search.
Today, Shadow has increased its volunteer user base to over 30,000. And it is a partner of the ASPCA, the New York and LA Animal Care Centers, the Dallas Shelter System, and others.
Although Shadow is free, he makes money through a virtual flip mechanism when he manages to match and the dog is found. It also offers users the option to purchase an in-app Instagram ad for $ 10. Here, Shadow provides the visual assets and manages the ad buying process and placement process on behalf of the owners.
The startup, founded by former Zocdoc founder Cyrus Massoumi, has been in some sort of public stealth mode for a few years as it grew beyond its hometown of New York. It now offers dog search services in 76 counties in 20 US states.
We must note that Massoumi’s exit from Zocdoc was complicated. He sued his co-founders and CFO for orchestrating a plot to oust him from the company at a November 2015 board meeting, claiming fraud. The lawsuit detailed the internal conflict within Zocdoc at the time. A New York Supreme Court judge recently ruled that this lawsuit, which is pending, should be filed in Delaware, rather than New York. So a sentence has yet to be determined.
Prior to this, Zocdoc was accused by Business Insider of developing a stressful “brother culture” in which young male employees made inappropriate comments about the women who worked there. This was in advance of the major rise of the Me Too movement, which has since had an impact on how companies deal with these issues in the workplace.
Massoumi disputes that the claims were exactly as described in the article. The company had 300 salespeople at the time, and while she agrees that some people may have acted inappropriately, she also believes that the company’s response to those actions was handled correctly.
“The allegations have been thoroughly investigated at Zocdoc and have no merit,” he told ProWellTech, adding that Zocdoc was repeatedly recognized as “the best place to work” while he was CEO. (There have never been any allegations against Massoumi, but ultimately the problem stops with the CEO.)
Shadow today claims a different makeup. It has a team of twelve, and two thirds of its product and engineering team are women. Some Zocdoc investors have also returned to support Massoumi again.
The startup is funded by Founders Fund, Humbition (the fund of Slava Rubin, founder of Massoumi and Indiegogo), Lux Capital, firstminute Capital and other angels, including a former Zocdoc
Despite Zocdoc’s complicated story, the work Shadow is doing is solving a problem that interests many people. Millions of pet owners lose their pets to euthanasia when they end up in shelters that cannot keep pets indefinitely due to lack of space. Meanwhile, the current system of lost pet messages distributed on social media may mean that many of these posts are not seen, especially in the larger subways where there are numerous groups of “lost animals”.
When Shadow started her job in 2018, she was local to the New York area. Its first year brought together 600 dogs. The following year, he brought together 2,000 dogs. The third year brought together 5,000 dogs. Today it approaches 10,000 dogs reunited with owners.
More than half of these have been since the start of the pandemic, which has seen many new pet owners and increased time spent outdoors with those pets, when dogs can sometimes break free.
Massoumi says he was inspired to find Shadow after a friend lost his dog, the namesake Shadow. It took his friend over a month to find the dog after following false leads and coming into contact with people who tried to help him.
“I think to myself, this is something that happens 100 million times a year, globally … and for people who love pets, this is a lost family member,” explains Massoumi. “It seemed like a similar problem that I had already solved in healthcare, where there is fragmentation: people want to see the doctor and the doctor wants to see the patient, but there is simply no central way to make it work,” he says. .
More generally, he wants to see technology put to use to solve the problems that people really care about.
“I think there has to be more technology that re-injects humanity into what everyone is doing. I think it’s very important what we’re doing, “he says.
The Shadow app is free to download on iOS and Android.