My Virtual Veterinarian, founded by Wharton School graduate Felicity Johnson, is a veterinary portal for pet owners, and allows animals to receive medical care any time they need it - all through telemedicine.
My Virtual Veterinarian won the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School's latest entrepreneurship competition this year, which, like the winning idea, was done virtually amid the COVID-19 health crisis.
The app, which received a $30,000 prize plus $15,000 in legal, accounting and strategy services, connects pet parents with doctors for video and chat appointments, providing what has become an essential service during the pandemic.
Johnson founded the company in 2019 while studying for her MBA at Wharton. Years earlier, she'd experienced time-consuming medical visits when her cat, Tiffany, was diagnosed with cancer.
"I was living and working in New York City, and it was difficult bringing her to her appointments," said Johnson, a native of Australia whose family moved to Philly when she was a child. She graduated from Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square and Villanova University. "I was very fortunate to be working at Rent the Runway," an online fashion company that allowed flex time working from home.
"That's the challenge a lot of pet owners face: The vet appointments are in the middle of the work day."
The virus has accelerated the tele-doctor trend already popular with humans, she said.
On March 24, regulators gave her idea a surprise boost.
"The FDA suspended regulations that required vets to establish a client-patient relationship before practicing telemedicine," she said. "That is just unprecedented. Before the pandemic, vets really were not using telemedicine - they were extremely wary."
The market was ripe for innovation. The American Pet Products Association data show that two-thirds of 84.9 million U.S. households have at least one pet, offering steady demand for routine veterinary services.