makes fitness-tracking devices for dogs.
CITY ó Davide Rossi was working as an investment
banker in New York City when the idea occurred to him:
What if there were a fitness tracker for dogs?
the time, Rossi, 37, was a dog lover who was too busy to
actually have a dog ó his familyís beloved Yorkshire
terrier lives with his mom in Italy. But he knew a lot
of other New Yorkers who treated their canines like kids
and hated to leave them cooped up in an apartment.
go to work and you spend a lot of time wondering what
your dogs are up to," Rossi says.
quit his banking job and used his savings to start a
company called FitBark. It was a risky decision, but
Rossi, a graduate of MITís Sloan School of Management,
believed that the growing prevalence of human fitness
trackers such as Fitbit, Jawboneís UP and Nike
FuelBand was a good indicator that people would want a
way to track their petís fitness, too.
was right: Last summer, FitBark raised more than $80,000
on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter ó $45,000 more
than the projectís funding goal.
FitBark is ready for distribution, donors will get a
bone-shaped device. It attaches to a dogís collar and
uses an accelerometer to track sleep and play. Dog
owners can use the free FitBark mobile app to chart
their petís activity over several days and compare it
to that of similar breeds.
activity monitors ó which come in blue, gray, green,
pink and red ó can be ordered in advance for $69 at
$109, you can get an activity monitor and an optional
Wi-Fi base station capable of transmitting data from
multiple devices. Fitbark can upload a dogís data to
the cloud, where it can be accessed from anywhere by
helped FitBark build buzz and, in March the fledgling
company secured one of 10 spots in the Sprint
Accelerator. Hundreds of companies applied for the
three-month Kansas City business incubator for mobile
health-themed products and services. Itís run by
Boulder, Colo.-based Techstars.
accelerator gave FitBark and nine other startup
companies a place to work in the Crossroads Arts
District and access to mentors, investors and other
industry experts such as engineers and designers.
moved to Kansas City with a team of four employees,
including FitBark co-founder Sara Rossi. She previously
worked in Italy as a brand manager for Hawaiian Tropic
and Schick razors. She is Davide Rossiís sister.
small FitBark team, assigned to develop a hardware
device as well as the software to go along with it,
spent countless 18-hour days at the Sprint Accelerator
office, a cool and creative space with pingpong tables,
shuffleboard, a Red Bull fridge and conference rooms
named Mickey Mouse and Candy Coating.
main working space is open, with large tables instead of
cubicles to encourage collaboration among the 10 startup
they had a coding question or wanted another company to
give some feedback on an app they were building, they
were right there," says program manager Alisha
the program, Rossi crashed at a house in the Kansas City
Startup Village, a community of entrepreneurs in the
Hanover Heights neighborhood of Kansas City, Kan. When
he wasnít working on FitBark, he made a few friends
and started exploring Kansas City.
City is known for its high concentration of animal
health companies, which is why Rossi has made the
decision to open FitBark headquarters here. The company
is already recruiting software developers.
isnít the only startup company that came to Kansas
City for the Sprint Accelerator and ended up staying.
The entrepreneurs behind Salt Lake City-based Symptomly,
an asthma management platform, decided to open a second
a huge win" when startups stay here, says Adam
Arredondo, a leader in the Kansas City Startup Village.
of the big opportunities that Kansas City has right now
is to change the perception from flyover country to an
innovative, tech-savvy startup community that the top
talent wants to come to," Arredondo says.
"Stories like FitBark are very important for people
days, Rossi says his team is working around the clock to
ready FitBark devices, and distribution should start in
a matter of weeks.
itís released, FitBark will have to compete with at
least two other activity trackers for dogs: Whistle, a
$129 device produced by a company in San Francisco; and
Tagg, a $99.95 GPS tracker produced by a San Diego
company that charges a $9.95 monthly service fee.
working out bugs in the FitBark mobile app and readying
the device for distribution to more than 40 countries,
Rossi has been fielding requests from dog sled teams and
police canine units who want to use the device to keep
their animals in top shape.
has also heard from people who want to use the device on
their horses, cows, rabbits, falcons, penguins and, of
before he even starts to think about FitBark for cats
ó FitMeow? ó he has to focus on getting his growing
Kansas City-based company beyond the puppy stage.
life is pure craziness," he says, adding that once
things slow down, heíd like to get a canine companion
of his own.
need dogs in our life," he says.