“Timing is key, and so is talent”: Interview with Barkyn founder André

Barkyn, founded in 2017, was born out of frustration with the cold nature of the online pet market. Barkyn is a personalised service for dogs including customised food created according to your pet’s preferences, and an assigned vet that users can contact 24/7. The startup was classified at Web Summit 2019 as a ‘Breakout Startup’ and made it onto our list of Porto-based startups to look out for.

We grabbed a few minutes with founder and CEO André Jordão to ask more about personalized products, recognisable startup branding, building a strong team and the Portuguese startup scene.

Tell us the story of Barkyn – how did you come up with the pet-friendly idea and what is your mission?

I’m a dog owner, I have 2 Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs. I could never find the best for them in one place, and I came to realize that the online pet market was cold, transactional, and lacked personalization and a human feeling.

This was how Barkyn was born, out of my own personal problem. In 2017 I got together with Ricardo Macedo, my business partner, and Barkyn came to life.

At Barkyn we create personalized dog food, with recipes adapted to each dog’s personal needs and life stage (breed, weight, age, health conditions…), developed and adjusted by our team of online vets. The Barkyn experience is always very personalized and human: behind the customer service is a WOW philosophy and there’s personalization in packaging and recipe, and a dedicated vet assigned to that dog.

Barkyn was born out of the love for dogs, the belief that dogs are family and deserve only the very best. The best food. The best health advice. So, what’s Barkyn? We deliver happiness to your door every month through the combination of food and health.

How have you grown since launching in 2017?

We’ve been growing a lot. Barkyn was composed of a staff of ten professionals at the beginning of 2019 and now there’s 35 of us. We’ve launched our website for the Spanish, Portuguese and Italian markets and we’ll be expanding to a new country very soon.

We’ve been chosen for the Google Startups programme and Google Growth Lab, and this year we’ve opened Lisbon’s Web Summit on November 2019, being classified as a Breakout Startup.

What differentiates Barkyn from your competitors?

Barkyn is an experience: it’s where you find everything your dog needs to be happy. We’re moved by our love for dogs – we know everything about them.

The classic dog food market is traditionally generic (one food fits all dogs). Barkyn offers personalized dog food, adapted to each dog, made with fresh ingredients, delivered to your door. By cutting back on middlemen we’re able to deliver better food at a lower price. 

First, the dog owner fills in a questionnaire at barkyn.es. A recipe is formulated according to those answers: an adapted food blend is generated taking into consideration the dog’s breed, life stage, weight, allergies and other health conditions. The personalized food, prepared for the month, is assembled in the Barkyn Box, where the client can also find a couple of Barkyn snacks (as a gift from us).

Aside from the personalized food, Barkyn clients have access to an online dedicated vet 24/7 through a messaging system. After their first order, a professional is assigned to each dog and communication is established either via email or mobile, based on the client’s preferences. You can ask anything without leaving the house or feeling embarrassed. 

Let’s talk growth – Have you raised any funding, and do you intend to in the future?

At the moment we have closed €1.7 million in one seed funding round. We have already made 26,000 dogs happy in the different countries we operate in: Spain, Portugal and Italy. We ship 40 tons of food monthly and we are experiencing a 300% annual growth rate.

How has the pet food industry in general been changing in recent years and how do you have an impact on it?

Consumers’ priorities, needs and preferences have been evolving at giant leaps in the past decade. The pet market is no longer a niche. People are interested in feeding and giving their dogs the best they can, because dogs are family. Owners are more demanding with what they feed their dogs with and we are making the most of this new market shift.

Do you have any advice for startups on logo and branding?

We love dogs. We’re moved by them. And our logo is a reflection of that: the B, for Barkyn, and a heart come together perfectly (if you look closely, the heart even resembles a cute dog paw).

I’d say that the image side is very important, crucial really – it’s an extension of the brand and what it represents and how you want people to feel when interacting with it. We’ve designed not only our logo but brand experience around our DNA and core values.

You were founded in Porto. What is your opinion on the environment for creating a company there?  

Porto is great in that sense. There’s a huge tech ecosystem here, great startups are establishing themselves and emerging, and the talent is amazing.

What has been one of your biggest failures, and what did you learn from the experience?

I guess that timing is key and so is talent. When you’re growing, the people you hire are fundamental. Each person makes a huge difference, so hiring smart, talented people who have freedom and drive to push it forward is fundamental.

We have also learned that the client has to be our focus and always make what they want our main priority.

What does the future hold for Barkyn?

International expansion around Europe and improving our product constantly in order to create the best experience ever.