Meet Bret Conkin of k9kooler
Our team story started several years ago, when our founder, Sam Conkin, was traveling on business in his truck with his trusted sidekick spaniel, Missy. Whenever he had to make a stop for a meeting or an errand, he was frustrated with how challenging it was to keep Missy comfortable and safe, given the many premises where no dogs were allowed. He then noticed that often many other dog owners would hit this same roadblock: what to do with pet dogs when you have to leave the car, but you can’t bring them where you have to go? As pet parents, we want to maximize the time we spend with our dogs as a family, which means bringing them along when we go driving. However, we worry about leaving them alone in the vehicle where they may quickly suffer from and even die from heat exhaustion in as few as 6 minutes. We felt there must be a better way.
The options to leave dogs in vehicles for a short period of time were very inadequate. Rolling down windows may compromise the dogs’ and the vehicle’s safety. Marketplace products for keeping dogs at a safe temperature in cars, like cooling mats, scarves, and beer coolers with fans were not effective enough for us. Taking dogs out of the car and tying them outside stores felt insecure. And following some groups’ well-intentioned advice to always leave dogs at home would mean losing out on the feelings of adventure, of togetherness that traveling with our dogs offers us—and what if our dogs have separation anxiety? Our research revealed that this issue also affects working dogs that simply must be transported in cars, like therapy dogs, police canine units, sports dogs, and more.
So, we set out to invent something more practical, more sustainable, more dog- and dog family-friendly—a product that can at once monitor and cool dogs in unattended cars. To date, we have assembled a world-class startup team of professionals representing diverse fields: product design, engineering, software development, marketing, and management. Experts from pet sectors and major market leaders like P&G, Petco, and Kraft Foods, have found it personally meaningful to join our team. As a growing company of change-makers tethered to one another by our love of dogs, we are all contributing our expertise to our positive social impact venture: our soon-to-be-launched product—the k9kooler.
Every startup faces many challenges, and our team has been navigating a set of our own. Our entire team’s mantra is to build a product that dogs and humans will love…and benefit immensely from. As dog-people, we do everything with the best interests of our four-legged friends in mind.
Key challenges include processes like engineering and manufacturing the product, raising capital for R&D, and developing marketing and sales strategies. To put our work into perspective, we spent several years testing prototype options; for instance, we developed a cooled kennel solution, which we later consigned to the cutting-room due to its clumsiness in size and weight. The team then pursued a solution that integrates with existing A/C systems in the car…and felt dissatisfied, as this approach would require turning on the engine, which would in turn create emissions that contribute to climate change. The solution design we finalized is one that brings us pride—sleek, stream-lined, sustainable.
We are currently facing one other challenge; that is, to educate local and global communities that a viable option does exist for leaving your dogs alone in your car. Some media and interest groups remind us that leaving dogs in cars is unethical, and, further, certain states have regulations against leaving dogs in unattended cars.
However, these narratives and ethical arguments are predicated on “harm” coming to the dog due to their being left in cars. The k9kooler exists to prevent that harm. Together with the validation provided by Tesla’s launch of Dog Mode in 2019, the k9kooler’s market entry will help to change the way the public views leaving dogs in vehicles.
K9 Enterprises Corp exists to harness technology to make life better for dogs and their families. We are launching the world’s first and only air conditioning and monitoring solution for dogs in unattended vehicles: the k9kooler as our first product. Our two-in-one, easy-to-use, portable k9kooler is to be mounted on the vehicle window, and is designed to monitor and automatically maintain a temperature-optimal environment for dogs. For example, it can be used when dog owners are running an errand in locations at which dogs are not allowed.
Our team of technology, business and engineering specialists came together to help dog parents around the world feel comfortable transporting their dogs, without having to worry about these faithful companions coming to harm when alone in the vehicle. Our soon-to-be-launched k9kooler is set to be powered by a lithium battery and equipped with multiple backup systems. It will provide dog owners a live video stream of their furbaby, instant notifications on the dogs’ behaviors and activities, updates on the surroundings’ conditions, and even the option to personalize the vehicle’s interior settings to optimize comfort based on our software’s suggestions for their dog’s specific breed, size, age, and activity level. Passersby will see signage that the vehicle is protected by a k9kooler, and be informed that the dogs are safely chilling and their families are nearby.
We take pride in how far we have come in a previously unexplored, uncharted territory in pet care, and the support that dog services in our communities have shown us. Our initiative positions us uniquely in ensuring the safety of dogs in cars, not just with respect to family adventures, but also in terms of facilitating the transportation of dogs with jobs. For example, we have gained validation from experts in the dog-training sector and the police department; we are confident that our product will be an asset to sports dogs that have to get to and from events and competitions, therapy dogs that have to be transported to different institutions, dog walkers, police canine units—the working dog market fit for k9kooler is limitless.
Currently, the closest competitor we face is Tesla Dog Mode; however, we offer a product that is portable, compatible across all vehicles, and has the dual functions of monitoring and cooling—this summer, we will be making the pre-order available for the k9kooler through our crowdfunding campaign.
Success to us personally means harnessing technology to enhance the special connection between dogs and their families and enabling them to maximize the time they can spend together as a family. We will help our customers know their dogs better through the algorithms we offer, like those providing insights on their behaviors and needs.
We will evaluate our success through customer feedback and satisfaction as they are our best advocates. Analytics and our data will help us assess the impact we are creating in the pet sector and the community at large. We will be supporting working dogs by donating k9koolers to services with therapy dogs and police canine units, and more. We will define our success by asking ourselves: How many dogs have we prevented from having to wait glumly at home for their families’ return? How many dogs have we saved from heat exhaustion and discomfort? How many families’ lives have we changed for the better? Have we built a team that will be very proud—always—of the new level of social impact for humans and canines that our efforts make possible?