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Calgary’s Next Economy: Geobark wants to unleash the power of the city’s pet deprived

The thought of taking pets to the kennel when you go away might make your pocketbook shudder.

But who do you leave the pooch with, whether you’re gone for the afternoon, the day or the week?

Calgary entrepreneur Liam Innis thinks that GeoBark might be the answer. It’s a locally-based concept that connects pet owners with the pet-deprived, said Innis.

Pet-deprived, you ask?

“These are people who, maybe they had a family dog growing up, but now they’ve moved out of the house, they’re a university student in a new town, or their living situation isn’t such that they can own a pet themselves,” Innis said.

“Yet, they’re missing that connection they had with their animal back home.”

Innis said you’re connecting people who want to spend time with dogs or cats, don’t have to be paid to do it, with owners that need someone to hang out with their pet.

“It’s an obvious marriage to me,” he said.

Innis fits into the dog-deprived category himself. He had two dogs growing up and isn’t an owner now. It’s a connection he’s missed.

He sought a career where he could choose his own destiny and landed in web development. Innis wanted a project and figured he could marry the two: Dogs and development.

Bringing owners and the deprived together

The online portal helps begin the match process.

You register as a pet owner or a pet borrower and take a look at what’s in your area. It’s sorted by location (postal code). You can size up potential matches in breed, services in need and the bios.

“You don’t want to just sling your dog off to some random person off the Internet, right?” Innis said.

So, they encourage meet-and-greets.

“With dogs, you go to a dog park, everybody gets to know each other. You build some rapport and some trust,” Innis said.

“Once you’ve built that foundation of trust, you can explore the possibility of the borrower taking care of the pet without the owner there.”

He said building that community of trusted owners and borrowers is key. Even if people want to exchange dog walking on cold winter weekends. Innis also said that there’s a whole group of people who got pets during COVID and they were summoned back to work.

There’s a need to be filled. There are pet-loving people to connect them with.

That’s where a newly improved review system will come in handy.

Building a pet-oriented business

Innis has been working on the Geobark concept since 2018. The bulk of that was in the technical part of putting it all together.

Now, he’s learning more about the business side.

Through Platform Calgary’s Junction program, he’s learning about some of those “unknown unknowns” that come with being an entrepreneur.

“Now that I have a taste of (being and entrepreneur), I have to change my whole mindset,” he said.

What he’s learned is that having a good idea is only the first step. For him to take it forward, he needs to prove that there’s a business model.

Right now, they’re in both Edmonton and Calgary with around 20 pets posted. They’re looking for more people to join the community.

At this point, they’re targeting walking and boarding for pets, but Innis sees the future potential in being a conduit to connect pet owners, the deprived – and information, resources and products for pet owners.

“It’s all about traction, seeing how people are using the platform and then using their feedback,” he said.

Then, maybe Geobark will spread the puppy love to cities across the country.