Heyrex goes ahead in leaps and bounds

17:00, Apr 21 2014

You would be barking mad to underestimate this Wellington-born tech start-up. With a potential target market of more than 200 million dogs, Heyrex, which makes wireless monitoring devices for canines, is well on the way to being a leader in doggy data collection.

And it hopes to get its paws on some new investors soon, to take the next step into overseas markets. The device is a biosensor which attaches to the dog's collar and sends data back to the Heyrex interface where you can monitor their scampering, scratching and snoozing right down to the second.

Heyrex chief executive Nathan Lawrence said the data could be very telling.

"We had a monitor on a dog as a pup that was neutered and you saw the activity just plummet, poor wee bugger," he said.

Despite going to market in August last year, Lawrence believed it might take only a year or so more to turn a profit, though he would not comment on sales levels so far.

But Lawrence's conservative estimates are nothing to sneeze at:


"We're aiming to get past 100,000 dogs . . . using Heyrex globally within three years.

"If you consider that there are 70 million dogs in the United States, and 200 million in our target market of the US, Europe, and Japan, we think that's very achievable."

Heyrex is trying to raise money overseas to take the product global and is eyeing up five international deals that they expect to close within six to eight weeks. As well as seeking investment from groups mainly in the US, they also hope to open up sales distribution networks through the investors.

"Investment sought would secure a significant minority stake holding. [But the] number of distribution channels is not really defined," Lawrence said.

The product has obvious applications for dog owners missing their pooches from the office but Heyrex is rapidly realising an even bigger market in business to business sales and even for other species.

Think veterinary hospitals ordering en masse to monitor pet recovery, farms that employ working animals tracking productivity, and even pharmaceutical companies conducting trials.

In fact, Lawrence said the company recently gifted 30 devices to New Zealand Land Search and Rescue Search Dogs (LandSAR) to monitor the wellbeing of their hard-working hounds.

"LandSAR put their animals through a strict training and field regime. The device will pick up things that might be stressing the dog, such as lameness or fatigue," Lawrence explained.

The other beauty of Heyrex is that profit comes not only from the sale of the devices, which retail at NZ$199.95 for consumers, but also by operating the software as a service.

"The sale of the unit is one thing in terms of revenue but it's that ongoing monthly fee that is a business," Lawrence said.

Not only that, there is a huge potential for Heyrex to sell on the amassed data.

"We're not just selling hardware. We're essentially a big data business," Lawrence said.

"It could potentially be very profitable."

Heyrex was founded about six years ago by Wellington-based scientist David Gibson, who believed that while animals cannot talk, their actions can show how they are feeling.

Sadly Gibson passed away in late 2011 without seeing his brain-child go to market and Lawrence was asked to take over.

"The board said: here you go, Nathan, have a go. It was a steep learning curve," Lawrence said.

"We wrapped our arms around it and have spent the last few years developing it."

Heyrex has since grown to a team of six, based in Wellington and Auckland.

Being an online business, Heyrex was able to go global almost instantly, with strong sales in the US and Australia, and was even being sought out by customers in South Korea.

Lawrence said he was feeling "buoyant". "I feel that we've overcome the hurdles and we're through the stage that people say: this is too hard."



For consumers

$199.95 for the device

$5 per month subscription

For vets

$150 per device

$15 per month subscription per unit 

Fairfax Media