I won’t name any names, but a handful of friends have Facebook profiles dedicated solely to their pets. I certainly don’t mind a socially active dog providing updates on bath time, but I have plenty of friends who make frequent use of Facebook’s “Hide” option in response. Now pet lovers have a virtual dog park of their very own. Patti Maciesz and her partner Elliott Golden are tech entrepreneurs who launched Puppystream.me as a photo sharing community dedicated to dog lovers.
The site mixes features from Facebook and Instagram, allowing members to create a profile and post pictures that others “Like” or share. Over time, dogs like adorable toy poodle Dustin D. Bresler amass loyal followers (237 and counting!) and dog gawkers can spend hours scanning cute pics grouped by breed, city or pet name. As a dog-loving community, uploads are not limited to dog owners. Dog “aunts,” groomers and pet sitters are welcome to post images anytime.
“It’s not about looking at others’ photos but creating a place to share,” said Maciesz. “The way we use the Internet, we want validation; we want love. Whether it’s checking new ‘Likes’ on Facebook or seeing the retweets, we want that attention — and dogs are part of that.”
My Lulu doesn’t have a Puppystream account (yet), but plenty of dogs seem more than ready for their close-ups. With dogs occupying about 46 million U.S. households, and 67 percent of all Internet users frequenting social networking sites, Maciesz says this is the perfect time to merge those interests. With funding from angel investors, she and Golden quit their full-time jobs last summer to focus solely on Puppystream. I wanted to know more about the concept, and Maciesz took some time to answer my questions.
How did this idea come together?
I was working at another startup and met [Golden], who had this idea for Puppystream. He showed it to me and I was just amazed. I saw a huge opportunity. It serves as a bucket for all the photos for your dog. They are in one place where the whole audience actually cares about it. Rather than a Twitter profile, where not everyone is receptive, you have a Puppystream account where everyone on the site is a dog lover.
What made you decide to take that leap of faith and pursue this full-time?
I felt like, as a woman, it was important to step into an entrepreneurial role. Maybe other women inspired me. I said, "I'm going to take this risk and quit my safe marketing job and build something out of nothing." A lot of times women here in New York are working on fashion or beauty or a wedding startup. Women have other interests. I’m happy to represent something that‘s a little more mass market and not gender-specific.
How did your family respond when you told them about Puppystream?
Even people who work on the Internet said, "Really? A site for dogs?" You can imagine what my grandmother in Poland said about me building a site for dog lovers to connect. But to me it’s a real need. As we spend more time online, that place has to reflect our needs and desires.
What has been the biggest surprise since launching Puppystream?
We thought people would be going to the site to look at other people's dogs. People go to the site to look at their own dogs. We asked, "Why do they go to all this trouble signing up to a social site to look at their own photos?" Then we realized, maybe we were a little off to think they wanted to look at strangers’ dogs. Maybe we needed a place to gussy up their dog’s photos and share with others. It has to be unique, it has to be special and it has to be about your own dog. I was surprised by that. But that’s the beauty of metrics and being able to see what people do on the site.
How many photos have dog lovers posted?
For every 100 users, we get about 2,500 photos. We have an inventory of tens and thousands of photos for a relatively small user base, which has enormous potential. With a lot of startups, the main challenge is not enough content. We have a small group adding tons and tons of photos.
Instagram came under fire for changing its policy regarding photos posted on the site. Does Puppystream own photos posted on the site?
We make it clear in our terms that we don’t own the photos. They are 100 percent owned by the people and we would never sell them or reuse them without their express permission.
Can you describe the typical Puppystream member?
They are from all over the country, but we definitely have a lot of urban dog owners, people who take their dogs to the dog park or use dog walkers and groomers, mostly women. Like social media demographics, we tend to see 35- to 50-year-old women. We are on the bleeding edge, and our demo skews younger than most dog demos.
How long are you giving this venture?
We made a five-year commitment. We are in this full time and we dedicated our lives to it. That means 16-hour days, and we may not have weekends, but it’s fine. We are working on something that’s awesome and we are really excited about. I spend time talking to wonderful people so it’s not working at all. That makes it easy to say, "Sure, I can do this." We don’t want to work on someone else’s baby anymore. There’s nothing like risk and the fun of working on your own thing. It’s exhilarating and worth it, and I hope I can have the honor and privilege of working on it as long as possible.
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