This is the first post about my new startup: Pack. I’m excited. Pack is something I’ve been trying not to do for years. I talked myself out of it. I talked myself in to it. (And then, of course, out again; I was all-in on growing Squidoo at the time). I ran tests so lean they make MVPs look bloated. I went for long existential walks on the beach in Santa Cruz with my dog Luna. Then back in September I decided: This is too good to wait and life’s too short. Let’s do this. So now I’m making my first post about it.
Okay, so, Pack. An idea, no matter how long held, is nothing until you gather a team, build, ship, learn and grow. We’re at the beginning of this adventure. While it’s too early to share the meat and potatoes of Pack with you, I can tell you that it is underway, that we have some amazing people supporting us as investors, advisors and friends, and that if you love a dog (yes, a dog) you’re going to love this. I also want to share a little about the things I’ve noticed, introduce the Pack team (these guys are incredible) and let you know what our future looks like.
I’ve been noticing some things.
I’ve spent the last few years noticing some things about dogs and the people who love them. I’ve observed them from the inner circle as a dog owner myself, and also as a startup person looking for patterns in their behavior, drivers behind their (our) interactions.
I’ve seen a massive number of people organize around and post about their dogs on Instagram, Meetup, Facebook, Twitter, Ning forums. I’ve seen them drive 2 hours to stand in a park with 70 other pugs and pug owners. I’ve seen them dress their dogs in $60 sweaters, go on vacations that are dog friendly, cross the street to talk to a stranger who has a dog like theirs, buy handcrafted dog gifts on Etsy and dog food on Wag.com. I’ve watched people’s affinity for their dogs bring them to spend more money on their dogs than on their babies, and I’ve read articles theorizing that dogs are the new babies. I even sat at a VIP speakers dinner, the night before a big tech conference, where the big icebreaker was when we discovered every one of us had our dog’s photo on the lock screen of our iPhones.
And those aren’t even the fringe cases.
But mainly, I’ve noticed three things: 1. That dogs are family. 2. That owning a dog is a fundamentally social thing, online and off. 3. That dog owners are also habitual online spenders.
When I look at groups of people and see an intersection of love + social + buying, and then again an intersection with my own experience — I get excited.
I believe that having a dog has become a lifestyle, a hobby, an identity. I also believe there is an opportunity to organize some of our emergent behaviors to delight dog owners in a big way. That’s what Pack is here for.
A short list of things I like:
- Big markets of people who have already organized around a topic and identified themselves online and off.
- An emotional, social audience. Social is such a sticky word these days. It’s overused and misapplied often. To me, social means that people create relationships and find mutual benefit or joy in those connections.
- The way dogs remind us that life is simpler than we make it.
- Relentlessly focused niches. Multiplied for massive scale.
- Big pints of Guinness. (Wait, wrong list).
- Working with kind, smart people who like to learn things and like to make things, for the making’s sake and for the joy of the journey.
Which brings me to What Cheer, with joy
About 7 years ago I got together with a few great guys and we started Squidoo. I am immensely proud of what we built together (these days it gets more visits than the NYT, Yelp, Vimeo and Target.com, but who’s counting!). It was hard to leave them to start Pack.
I always said that when I started something new, I’d be in a healthy hurry but would take my time to find just the right people.
In early November, betting on a hunch, I hopped on a plane to Omaha, Nebraska. I hung out on the beach with Warren Buffett* and spent a few days with the guys at What Cheer. John Henry Müller, John Hobbs and Alex P. Gates are all of these things and more: a) They are a unique batch of really truly kind human beings b) They have designed, developed and shipped more fancy websites than you and I can shake a stick at c) They are the right kind of weird and funny d) They get the dog thing e) They are exceptional in their roles f) They have real empathy and insight about creating gorgeous experiences.
Their alphabet soup of awesomeness continues, but I’ll stop here or they’ll blush.
As luck would have it, they were already thinking of transitioning from years of successful client work to focus on “one big thing.” They wanted to make something from scratch and help it grow.
They are now on Pack’s founding team. You should see what they have to say about it, too.
Right time. Right place. Right people. I am so fortunate.
So what now?
We are dog owners building something we wish existed. We’re working like crazy. We’re tackling a space that some people snicker at (dogs!), but that has seen some really powerful trends in the last few years — and hasn’t seen the likes of Pack yet. We’re pretty sure we’ve come up with a product that will delight this audience on a regular basis. Pack is the ultimate niche play on a massive scale. There are 78.2 million dogs loved by 46.3 million families in the US alone. Our vision (you know, for starters) is to have them all fall in love with Pack. From here it’s all up and to the right. Thanks for being here at the start!
P.S. You can reserve a spot for your dog on Pack today, and we’ll let you know when the site is ready in a few months.
- Oh, and if you realized that Omaha doesn’t have a beach, you’d be right. If you subsequently realized that I probably don’t pal around with The Oracle himself, much less sitting cross legged at a campfire, you’d also be right. But the photo is fun, isn’t it?