itch: Jonny Gould

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Name: Jonny Gould
Location: Leeds
Date launched: 8 July 2019
Number of employees: 13
Age of founder: 44
Instagram: itchpet
Which university, if any, did you attend? University of Manchester

Fed up with the fight against flees? Feeling the need to get on top of your pet’s parasite problem? Then meet itch, the subscription service designed to stop your pets from scratching and keep your home free from pesky pests. Here we’ve got an exclusive Q&A with founder Jonny Gould, itching to share what makes his startup special with you.

Tell us what your business does:

In a nutshell, pet wellbeing is at the core of what we do. We offer personalised, effective flea treatments delivered directly to the customer.

We make it easy for pet owners to get the right treatments, in the right dose (tailored to your pet’s age, size and breed), at the right time by delivering treatments straight to your front door.

Plus, subscribers receive personalised reminders to make sure pets are treated on time.

itch was born to take the hassle out of owning a pet and frees people to enjoy them, worry-free.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

It’s Summer. My wife Sarah and I are sitting in the garden. Our seven-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Scooby, is running around with our new Cockerpoo puppy Coco.

It’s a lazy Sunday – we’re relaxing whilst they’re playing. Life is good… until Scooby drops to the ground, lifts up his leg and starts that frantic scratch.

My wife and I look at each other. She thinks I flea-ed the pets; I think she did. And somewhere in between, no one did. And just like that, our lazy summer Sunday becomes a race to quarantine the kids, separate the infested and non-infested pets and get our hands-on flea treatments, fast.

We love our dogs, we love our flea-free home, I’m in the pet care business – and we still forgot to treat our pets. So that’s why we created itch – to make it quick and easy for people like us to keep their pets happy and their homes flea-free.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Over a decade of pet sector experience has provided me with a really solid understanding of it. My business partners and I then analysed all of our market data to see if there was a gap in the market and recognised that pet owners (including myself) were crying out for this.

We also conducted extensive market research to prove that the concept would work and the results firmed up all of our analysis. So it was all systems go.

What were you doing before starting up?

For the past 10 years I’ve been co-running the UK’s favourite online pet supplies store, Monster Pet Supplies. This was the catalyst for itch as it allowed us to spot a gap in the market for convenient, affordable, vet-approved direct to consumer products.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

I’m really passionate about business and innovation. I’ve run multiple businesses for years and I still get excited about coming in to work every day, which is what it’s all about.

Launching itch has been a passion project for a few years now so to finally be able to show it off is fantastic.

How did you raise the money?

We approached investors in London with our idea and they believed in it so much that we managed to raise the money we needed within 6 weeks, which is a very fortunate position to be in.

I wanted to work with someone who understands the type of business we wanted to create, so I approached James Cox at YYX Capital. We’d been introduced a number of years ago and he really understands the direct-to-consumer market after co-founding the sleep tech firm Simba.

It was also really important for us to have Seedcamp on board because they add significant value and support and have already backed a number of Unicorns. They have been a key partner on the journey.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We are solving a real problem here and addressing real demand so we are looking to provide a great service at a very fair price.

This is why the product is free in the first month so people can try it out and see what it is we will be providing them with. We’ve put a lot of work into creating a great product, so are confident that our customers will be so happy and engaged that they will stay with us forever.

It sounds clichéd that the customer is everything, but we really do want them to be so happy and will work on any feedback we get to make things better.
I want our customers to want to use itch and gain real value from the product. The rest will take care of itself.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

There are not enough hours in the day! I want everything done immediately and we simply can’t recruit quickly enough. So the biggest challenge is time management.

Another challenge is relying on third parties: anything not directly in our control is at risk of others not delivering, which can be testing.

However, the culture at itch is relaxed. Everyone knows what they need to do and we let people get on with it. This creates a great environment to work in and reduces the challenges we face.

What was your first big breakthrough?

I sold hundreds of thousands of Teletubbies online all around the world in the early 2000s. This gave me the platform to start a web development company and various dot-com start-ups during the bubble.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Never give up. Everyone fails but the key is to learn from that and go again. Also, make sure before you start anything there is a margin and a decent addressable market size.

If you are developing a tech or data business keep as much of it (if not all) in house. You need to own the code, move quickly and be nimble. I have already learned the hard way about outsourcing work.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

My goal is to have every dog and cat in the world using itch. There are millions and millions of busy pet owners that will enjoy itch. Ridding the world of fleas is a big bonus too.

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