The Uber comparison is inevitable: San Francisco-based on-demand veterinary service VetPronto is rolling into Portland by the end of February, relying on the convenience factor and a sturdy set of wheels to have your pet receiving vaccinations and acupuncture from the comfort of your couch.
“We’re a house call veterinary service,” says co-founder Joe Waltman. As Waltman explains, VetPronto offers “everything that is done in the examination room at the vet clinic; so shots, minor procedures, diagnostics.” It’s when your pet need x-rays or minor surgeries—operations that often require sedation—that you’ll need to visit a brick-and-mortar clinic.
VetPronto, which currently services at least 10 major cities across the country, is starting small in Portland: one well-qualified vet will make the rounds until local demand necessitates more. Nationally, the service now boasts a roaming staff of 60 vets, with an aggregate 10,000 house calls on its docket. The founders are a powerhouse trifecta: an accomplished veterinarian and two of the masterminds behind RestEngine, an email marketing company that was quickly sold to Twitter (for an undisclosed sum) after a two and a half year run.
It seems Waltman believes history is on VetPronto’s side. “House calls are actually the way care was done in the good old days,” he says. “Hospitals didn’t really exist back when we were all on farms and had animals working for us.” Waltman maintains that the stress-free environment of treating pets at home not only offers a convenient alternative to the vet clinic waiting room, but also offers the foundation for better medicine. “Sometimes the stress caused by going to the vet can do more harm than what the visit was for in the first place,” he says.
Waltman is under no delusions that VetPronto’s innovative industry approach will be instantly embraced among the pet owners of Portland. (As he says, “It’s not a 'build it and people will come' kind of thing.”) But he hopes you’ll hear VetPronto’s name now and remember it six months down the road, when you’ve got a sick cat at home and a deep urge to sit back, brew some tea, and let the doctor come to you.