WAGSTA is a platform that is looking after man’s (and woman's) best friend.
The startup is a dog weight and wellness platform that can be thought of as a cross between Strava and Weight Watchers for dogs.
Dr Charlotte Williamson, a vet and solo female founder, founded WAGSTA in 2018 because of her concerns over growing pet obesity rates and the serious impact it is having on the health and welfare of dogs.
“Obesity is now classified as the leading chronic disease in dogs, with 56% of the USA dog population, 45% of the UK dog population and 42% of the Australian dog population overweight,” Charlotte says.
“Dog obesity causes shortened life spans due to arthritis, tumours, cardio-respiratory disease and increased surgical and anaesthetic risks. Weight gain also impacts a dog’s everyday quality of life leading to pain, reduced mobility, lethargy, skin and urinary infections and heat stress.
“This ultimately results in the demise of beloved family pets and leads to family heartache.”
To combat this issue, Charlotte created WAGSTA.
“I qualified as a veterinarian at the University of Queensland in 1999 and since then have witnessed growing dog obesity rates for over 20 years. Working as a veterinary surgeon in the UK and in Australia provided me with first-hand experience of the effects of dog weight gain and the struggles pet owners face when dieting their dogs due to limited pet nutrition advice and support services,” Charlotte says
“At WAGSTA, we provide veterinary-guided pet diet plans to help dog owners improve the health and happiness of their dogs. Our diet plans are supported by our free WAGSTA tracking app, which provides walk, weight and wellness tracking, social integrations and a pet health reminder system.
“Our goal is to provide advice and support directly to dog owners on a global scale. Currently, our app user base primarily consists of dog owners located in the USA, Britain and Europe.”
The technology the WAGSTA team is using provides tools, expert advice and coaching support in a scalable manner to have maximum impact on dog welfare.
“As well as treating obesity, we are focused on its prevention with our tracking app, which in addition to providing weight assessments and weight tracking, motivates owners to keep active with their dogs and stay on top of their dog’s health needs,” Charlotte says.
As a tech startup based in a regional location (Stratford, Cairns), the biggest challenge for the WAGSTA team has been sourcing talent.
“Being based in a regional location has meant our biggest challenge has been the limited availability of tech talent, which has impacted our speed of development,” Charlotte says.
“We are always keen to hear from web and app developers, especially those with experience or an interest in the fitness and health tracking space.”
To date WAGSTA has been primarily bootstrapped.
“WAGSTA has been funded mostly through my savings. However we were lucky enough to receive the Advance Queensland 2019 grant funding, which greatly supported our IP, market testing and the build out of our Android WAGSTA app,” she says.
“I have also recently been awarded with the Federal Boosting Female Founders grant. This grant will go a long way in helping out with the next stage of our development including adding app functionality, building of API (application programming interface to allow our web-based diet plans to communicate with our app tracking features) and the introduction of e-commerce functionality to facilitate commercial partnership potential.”
The WAGSTA team has a big year ahead.
“We are currently gearing up for the 2021 launch of our iOS WAGSTA app and the January release of a 12-week online diet plan, so that we can help pet owners with their New Year’s resolutions as they tackle the ‘pandemic pounds’ gained by their pooches during lockdown. A recent Banfield Vet Hospital report revealed 33% of American pet owners believe that their dog has gained weight during COVID-19,” Charlotte says.
“Having completed studies in human public health and tropical medicine, looking forward, I’m keen to venture into the One-Health space, using the WAGSTA platform to bring health benefits to both dog and owner.
“The importance of the owner-pet bond is at the core of everything we do and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the many benefits of pet ownership. We have exciting plans for this space, but all in good time.”