Creature Comforts has raised £7M in seed capital to redesign the veterinary care experience in an industry struggling to keep up with demand.
The round was co-led by Torch Capital, Hanaco VC and Boost Capital Partners. Also participating were Active Partners, Tarek Abuzayyad of Initial Capital and Steve Rosengarten of Vet One.
The cash injection will be used to design, open and staff its first two clinics, with a St John’s Wood branch due to open in early 2024, followed by another in a prime London location.
It will also fund the build of a proprietary app by an in-house tech team, supporting 24/7 virtual care and customer queries, and letting vets work flexibly and from home, while giving pet owners fast and unlimited access to expertise outside of normal opening hours.
As well as a best-in-class clinic experience – architecturally designed to help keep animals calm – Creature Comforts will operate a monthly subscription model which includes unlimited consultations, annual vaccinations, member rates for neutering, dental treatments and routine medications, and community events.
Customers can also pay-as-they-go. Vet teams will benefit from a share of their clinic’s profits, above industry-standard pay, compensated overtime, manageable working hours and scheduled breaks.
The UK veterinary services market has a forecast CAGR of 9.5%, generating $10BN revenue by 20303.
The company’s co-founders are CEO Daniel Attia, the serial entrepreneur who raised $23M from the investment arm of Savills to build online estate agency Yopa, and COO Russell Welsh, a qualified veterinary surgeon with 23 years’ experience in the industry. He has held multiple executive and operational frontline roles within veterinary groups and was co-owner of Village Vet, a 33-site primary care and referral veterinary group exiting to private equity in 2017 and then to MARS veterinary health in 2018.
The co-founders have personal experience of the problems they’re looking to solve. After getting two large-breed dogs during lockdown, Attia found it difficult to secure vet appointments, and was forced to sign up with six different practices. And, as a vet, Welsh was all too aware of the toll of booming pet ownership on overworked, burned out veterinary teams. He had also seen how corporate takeovers of independent clinics – six companies now own almost half of all veterinary practices4 – could lead to cost stripping, and unhappy staff and customers.
The British Veterinary Association has highlighted the compounding issues facing the industry, which it says have been exacerbated by multiple impacts of the nosedive in EU registrants since Brexit on staffing, a pandemic-related surge in pet ownership, and long-standing recruitment and retention challenges in the profession5.
Russell Welsh, COO and co-founder of Creature Comforts, comments: “Our goal is healthier pets and happier vets. We want to fix the state of affairs for animals, customers and veterinary teams all at the same time because, right now, no one is winning. When you can access it, vet care in the UK is almost always exemplary, but the experience around it is broken.
“Every day, pet owners are struggling with a lack of continuity of service, glitchy tech, inconsistent pricing, and operational inefficiencies. And vets are struggling with unsustainable caseloads and chronic stress. There’s clearly room for a new veterinary care experience offering world-class customer service and working conditions for vets and their hardworking teams. Because we know that when employees are happy, their customers – both human and non-human – are happy too.”
Sam Jones, partner at Torch Capital, comments: “As pet owners’ healthcare expectations continue to climb and pets are increasingly treated as true members of the family, consumers are demanding a premium experience and deeper relationship with their vet. Creature Comforts’ integrated approach, combining telehealth consultations with aesthetically beautiful and digitally enabled in-person clinics, prioritises both the customer experience and the wellbeing of veterinary staff. Having seen the tremendous value this model has provided both consumers and vets in the US, we are incredibly excited by what the business is set to achieve across the UK.”
Alon Lifshitz, founding partner at Hanaco Ventures, comments: “Creature Comforts is addressing an underserved, large market, still in the early stages of the digital transformation cycle. With pet ownership increasing in the UK and the lacklustre pet care and services offered to date, Creature Comforts is reinventing the entire vet experience through unique technology, personalised quality products, and cutting-edge clinics. We’re proud to partner with the talented, experienced team, which is driving this transformation in the industry.”
Alvaro Alvarez del Rio, founder at Boost Capital Partners, comments: “Since the pandemic, millions of households have welcomed pets and they are demanding a new standard of care for their animals. Dan has put together a team with proven execution skills to offer a better service to UK pet parents. We are extremely excited to participate in this journey and help the team craft a superior user experience.”
Tom Profumo, partner at Active Partners, comments: “With the dramatic rise in pet ownership, Creature Comforts is bringing an entirely fresh approach to the veterinary care market, improving the experience for vets and pet owners alike. As early investors in brands like Soho House, we are excited to work with Daniel, Russell, and the team to build out a best-in-class offering to their members and their veterinary staff.”