From People to Puppies, Matt Meeker of BarkBox

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Matt Meeker, CEO of BarkBox and Founder of Meetup.com

An unapologetic dog lover, Matt Meeker is chief executive officer and co-founder of BarkBox, the New York City based subscription e-commerce and content company serving dog parents and their four-legged pals.

As CEO, Matt oversees the marketing and community aspects of the team. Prior to co-founding BarkBox, Matt was a founder of Meetup.com and is now an adviser to the company. Matt is an entrepreneur who has worked in six startup companies (four of which he started) over the past 15 years. His last position was as entrepreneur in residence at DogPatch Labs, a New York-based startup incubator run by Polaris Ventures.

Matt lives in New York City with his wife Tiffany and their Great Dane, Hugo. Matt has been a FoundersCard Member since 2012.

1. As the co-founder of Meetup.com, you helped create the world’s largest network of local groups. What was your inspiration for this?

Meetup had several sources of inspiration, however the most powerful was being New Yorkers after 9/11, and seeing the effect on our city in the weeks & months after. Strangers became neighbors who had genuine care and concern for each other. We learned our neighbors are great people and we should know them better, and so Meetup was a 9/11 baby, born 9 months and a day later.

2. What is the most unique Meetup group you are privvy to?

The Brooklyn Giant Breed Meetup is my personal favorite! It’s tough to find other Great Danes and giant dogs for my boy, Hugo, to play with, so this helps.

3. How did your experience at Meetup.com influence your decision to create BarkBox?

My experience at Meetup gave me a lot more confidence to know what to expect in the early days, and some of the mistakes to avoid this time around. First-time founders are similar to parents with their first baby — very careful about every detail, afraid that anything could break it. With the experiences of both success and failure, you learn what’s worth worrying about and not.

4. One of your fellow FC Members, Leah Busque, had the inspiration to start TaskRabbit when she needed food for her dog, but couldn’t run out. What was your ‘Aha!’ moment?

Similar to Leah (who is a great BarkBox customer!), it was one of those personal pain points. I had just brought home this amazing Great Dane puppy who I’m obsessed with and wanted to spoil like crazy, but New York City pet stores don’t cater to dogs like him, so I didn’t have an outlet for spoiling him. That led to the creation of BarkBox, and here we are!

5. Part of what BarkBox does is support rescues, shelters, and non-profit organizations that helps change the lives of dogs in need. Have you always had a passion to help animals?

I’ve always loved animals and dogs, but never as much as since Hugo came into my life. He’s a member of our family and it’s made me think a lot more about connecting dogs who need homes with what we call “swing adopters,” people who know they want a dog in their lives but haven’t taken the leap yet. That process today is broken, inefficient, and completely lacks innovative approaches to solving the problem. But in this case, the result is a couple million dogs being put down every year, which is a tragic outcome. As entrepreneurs, we fix all kinds of problems we see in the world, and if we can make an impact here and save dogs lives, we want to spend time on it.

6. Prior to your current success, what was the worst job you ever had?

Great question! Any job I had that was only a paycheck. If I’m not in love with what I’m doing, don’t feel like I’m making an impact, or not having any fun, that’s a terrible way to spend my days. Let’s just say I have both fast food and advertising experience in my background.

7. Aside from your company, what is your greatest success?

I hope being a great husband to my wife, Tiffany. And being a great dog parent to my boy, Hugo.

8. What is an app that all FoundersCard Members should be using?

If you have a dog you love, BarkCare, which is an app that’s a life-coach for your dog. Through the app you can reach a live vet 24/7 by phone, email, or video chat. And the vets will proactively think about your dog and reach out regularly with ideas and recommendations for a happier, healthier dog. And, I love RunKeeper!

9. Who is someone we should be following on Twitter right now?

My co-founder, Henrik Werdelin. He’s also the Founding Partner of Prehype, which is a super cool product development studio full of the most talented people you’ll ever meet. Henrik is a genius and his fingerprints are all over successful apps and tech companies we all use everyday. He just needs to tweet more!

10. BarkBox prides itself on helping dog parents who are obsessed with their dogs, any chance of extending the service to cat Parents in the future?

Nope, someone else should serve cats. No offense to the cat parents of the world (my mother, included), but we love our dogs and think they deserve some dedicated, special treatment. If your dog had a choice of being served by a general practitioner veterinarian, or a dog specialist, he would choose the specialist. So as advocates for the dogs, we’ll continue to focus on dogs only.

Give us your best plug/brag a little about as to what you’re working on now/next?

What’s next with us…we have three companies up and running now — BarkBox, BarkCare, and BarkPost. And we’re always playing around with new ideas and projects internally, looking to add to that lineup.

One of those projects is called the BarkClip. It’s a fun way for people who love dogs to become aware of us through non-pet channels, like an office supplies store. And it has several uses!

 

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