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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Aggie-made app helps pet owners

Pet+Quest
Photo by Shelby Knowles
Pet Quest

With more than 35,000 followers on the Chinese social media site Weibo, an Aggie-founded online app that answers pet-related questions in China has begun to gain steam. 
George Fang, PetQuest CEO and genetics doctoral candidate, said PetQuest collects detailed information about an owners pet such as vaccination records, age and size so it can give specialized answers. The app has answered 1,300 questions in the past two months. 
Fang, who used to work as a veterinarian in China, said online information on pet healthcare in China is often ambiguous. At the same time, questions he would receive lacked the specifics necessary for him to help. 
“Did your cat eat something strange yesterday? Did this cat get an object in his stomach? We don’t know,” Fang said. “So we have to have some kind of system where we think about that. Because every time we would go back and ask another question it takes longer, it’s not a real-time chatting.”
PetQuest, Fang said, was the solution. The app has a mix of American and Chinese veterinarian volunteers who answer questions, but he hopes to eventually transition to all Chinese veterinarians, who would work on a commission system.
The main benefit for veterinarians working for PetQuest is the opportunity to practice and create a name for themselves, said Xintao She, biochemistry graduate student.
“In addition to solving the needs for pet owners, we solve the need for those fresh Chinese veterinarians because this is where they can get experience,” She said. “And this is where they can build up their reputation. So 
 I think it’s good for both sides, and we’re in the middle.”
Richard Lester, clinical management professor and PetQuest mentor, said he was excited to get involved when it came to Startup Aggieland.
“They had main expertise that they knew what they were talking about,” Lester said. “They could implement, and they were passionate about what they were doing. So those kind of criteria made me say, ‘I want to help these students any way I can.’”
Fang said PetQuest started out as a hobby, but the team began to consider developing a business after meeting with Startup Aggieland.
She said he got involved with the team when it first started out as volunteer group. 
“George had this idea, about two years ago, and asked me if I was interested in doing the startup,” She said. “He saw this problem that he just mentioned and he asked me if I knew how to build a website up, I said, ‘I don’t know how to do that, but I can find people who can do it.’”
Fang said Startup Aggieland focused on creating a stable business model to test ideas and promote future success.
She said attempts at charging money for the service have gone well thus far, with around 45 percent of returning users willing to pay. 
“Right now our model is kind of a freemium,” She said. “You get your first question for free but we are going to charge the second and following questions, it’s around $3 per question.”
Shelly Brenckman, marketing coordinator with Startup Aggieland, said the biggest challenge with the program was pitching it to potential investors.
“The most recent, most important thing I’ve done with them in the time that they’ve been here was to help them get to Hong Kong to pitch the Hong Kong business network,” Brenckman said. “We had 48 hours to help them find some funding so that George could get over there, they had very short notice.”
Fang said financial problems arose when the team needed to pitch its  idea in person in Hong Kong, but the Aggie network gave PetQuest an advantage.
“Shelly helped us contact our former president of Texas A&M, Dr. Mobley, and he contacted another person who is the friend of the Jack Ma of Alibaba, that big company in China,” Fang said. “He is a long executive director of Alibaba before, and he is a huge guy and he likes our idea from the introduction of Dr. Mobley then he said, ‘I’d like to sponsor your trip’ and it gets funded in two days.”
Fang said he hopes to use PetQuest to break into the market and eventually create a system where he can send pet owners specialized toys and food based on the specific needs of the pet on a monthly subscription basis.

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