iCPooch Before Shark Tank
There’s an old adage in show business that extends to business quite well. As every actor knows, you should never work with children or animals. But I’m not sure if it applied to Brooke Martin, from Spokane, Washington, when she appeared on Shark Tank. Brooke was herself only 14 at the time but she was well prepared to pitch her iCPooch business, that specialized in interactive care for dog owners, to the business moguls.
Brooke was twelve when she devised a way for the family dog, Kayla, to cope with the anxiety it felt when it was left alone. Enlisting the help of her father to build the prototype, Brooke had designed a Wi-Fi enabled treat dispenser, connected to a tablet docking unit, that would enable any pet owner to communicate with their furry friend from a distance.
She started a Kickstarter campaign in 2013, but unfortunately, it wasn’t able to grab the attention of the crowd funding community, and it failed to achieve its $70,000 goal. Not one to give up easily, she attempted a second campaign on the site in 2014, and it was a success. She had learned to set more realistic goals and her amended target of $20,000 was easily surpassed. Eventually the campaign achieved funding of almost $30,000.
In October 2014, iCPooch won the Geekwire ‘Inventions We Love’ challenge. She was subsequently featured on the technology news, and self-proclaimed geek culture collectives, radio show. She made an appearance on the sites regular and highly regarded podcast too. Brooke’s confident pitch at the Geekwire Summit won over the audience and gained her, and her innovative Idea, plenty of attention from the business community.
The producers of Shark Tank had noticed iCPooch just before Brooke’s success with Geekwire, and they were excited at the idea of her appearing on the show. She had struggled hard to turn her prototype into a marketable product, but managed to achieve that goal just weeks before her segment was filmed.
iCPooch on Shark Tank
Brooke appeared on the Tank alongside the CEO of iCPooch, James Pelland, and a furry friend, Yoyo. She was hoping to secure a $150,000 investment in exchange for a 20% stake in the business.
Yoyo relaxed on the shark tank rug while Brooke and James began the pitch. James announced that they had a product that was a perfect fusion of the tech industry with the pet industry. Brooke explained about the stress and anxiety that her own family pet had experienced when he was left alone, and she revealed that during her research into the subject, she had learned that up to ten million dogs in the United States alone suffered from similar anxiety issues.
She introduced the Sharks to iCPooch, it was a device that would allow owners to video chat with their pets and deliver a treat from anywhere. Brooke explained that although Yoyo was happy to join the pitch, she missed her owner Glen, and with that, a face appeared on the iCPooch and called out ‘Hi Yoyo’. Yoyo played her part very well, getting up to greet her owner via the device. Brooke explained that Glen could dispense a treat to his companion with the press of a button, and he did. Yoyo ate the treat, exactly as she was supposed to, she was a well trained dog.
Brooke and James finished off the pitch by asking the sharks if they were ready to revolutionize the way that we communicate with our best friends, Yoyo waited by the iCPooch, wondering where Glen had disappeared to, or maybe she was waiting for another treat.
Robert Herjavec spoke of the many occasions when he had encountered problems with humans, who seemed unable to cope with video conferencing technology, he wanted to know what convinced Brooke that dogs would use it consistently. Brooke had a great answer, she had spent time at the professional dog trainers association of America, and there she had learned that the professionals were beginning to use Skype to train dogs, with great success.
Robert, the technology expert amongst the sharks, asked what the retail price of the product was. James told him it was $149. Mark Cuban asked what the manufacturing cost was, $60 was James’s answer. Robert had a trickier question for the duo now, what had the sales been so far?
James admitted that the company had only been shipping products for ‘about two months’, although Brooke has said in interviews since the show that it had been more like a month at the time.
The iCPooch CEO confirmed that so far the company had sold 115 units. ‘115,000?’ queried Robert and James reluctantly admitted that no, it was just 115.
There was quite a long silence as the sharks digested the less than impressive sales figures.
Kevin O’Leary mentioned that the product itself reminded him of a fire hydrant. He alluded to the well known practices of canines when it came to those devices, and suggested that many dogs would treat the iCPooch in the same territory marking manner. The other sharks agreed that it was a good observation.
James was keen to point out that no dogs had ever displayed such a lack of respect for the iCPooch in their extensive testing and he was sure it would not be a problem. When asked by Mark Cuban if he was drawing a salary to work in the business, James confirmed that he wasn’t.
Mark Cuban had one big reservation, the iCPooch required the user to have two tablets, he felt that the requirement for a second device would render the product too expensive to be suitable for a mass market business, and for that reason, he was out.
James spoke about how the business was looking to reduce production costs in the future, Lori Greiner remarked that the current profit margin, of 30%, was low compared to a usual mark up of at least 50%. She told Brooke that she liked the product, although she felt that it comforted the owner more than the animal itself. Unfortunately Lori shared Mark’s lack of confidence about the size of the potential market, mainly due to the high retail cost of the product, and she joined him in dropping out of the negotiations.
Mr Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, wasn’t feeling too wonderful about iCPooch and he told the entrepreneurs that he felt a bit of alone time for a dog wasn’t a bad thing. There’s no doubt that Brooke would have disagreed wholeheartedly with his opinion, but she knew better than to argue a lost cause. When Kevin concluded his speech with the words ‘I hate this very much as an idea, very much, I’m out’ she thanked him for his time and kept her cool.
Robert Herjavec is a friend to animals everywhere. Everytime a furry creature has gone within the confines of the tank, Robert has shown his gentler side, and Yoyo was no exception. But the business mogul had got where he was today by overcoming his personal feelings and following his business instincts, and that was bad news for iCPooch. He applauded Brooke’s achievements at her young age, but expressed his doubts about the size of the potential market. He asserted that he would usually rely on sales figures to give him an indication of the future demand of a product, but in this case, the business was far too young to him to be able to make a decision. Regretfully, he was out too.
Daymond John was the last hope of a deal for Brooke and James, but from the look on his face it was clear that a final blow was in store for them. He explained that he didn’t see the use of such a product and he felt it would cause even more anxiety for a pet. He didn’t think it would achieve good sales and with that Daymond dropped out too, completing a round of rejections of the iCPooch pair.
Lori had a commiserating word for Brooke before she left the tank, she thought that one fantastic idea at such a young age heralded great things for the budding entrepreneurs future. Robert suggested that Brooke could be the new Queen of QVC in four years and they all laughed, but Lori, the current holder of that title, didn’t laugh as much as the others.
iCPooch Now In 2023 – After Shark Tank
Brooke didn’t let the fact that she didn’t get a deal prevent her from continuing her business. Sales also increased thanks to the “Shark Tank Effect”. By 2016, they had sold several thousand units.
Not only were they available through their site, but they also started selling on Amazon. Reviews, however, were mediocre (it had a 2.5-star rating out of 80 global reviews). While many people liked the idea of an interactive treat dispenser, there were many issues with the product. For one thing, many felt that the treats made for the ICPooch fit very poorly into the device. Not only that, but the quality of the video and audio was lacking. The device itself was also made of “very cheap plastic”, which didn’t leave a good impression.
In the end, the ICPooch shut down sometime in 2016. The fact that they were still relying on a third-party manufacturer to scale the production process at the time probably didn’t help either. Despite that, the product continued to be available on Amazon until 2017, which led many people to leave angry reviews as the app required for the treat dispenser no longer worked.
In April 2015, she also launched a new product called ICLoved Ones. An assistive technology device, it allowed family members to communicate with elderly relatives from a distance. Not only that, but it also had the ability to dispense medications at specific times, which helped prevent seniors from forgetting to take their pills.
What is Brooke Martin up to now? As of writing this post, she is now 22 years old and has graduated from Stanford University with a master’s degree in engineering and management science. The last that we checked, she has relocated to Northern California and has landed a position at Menlo Park, a venture capital company co-founded by Mike Maples and Ann Miura-Ko. According to a recent interview, she works with younger founders and supports them with mentorship and resources in her current role.
As it is, she earned her undergraduate degree during the pandemic and it was because of the pandemic and other factors, that she decided to go for a master’s in the same department. At one point, she also did a three-month internship in Italy where she worked as a teaching assistant.
However, she hasn’t given up on entrepreneurship in the future. For one thing, she keeps a book where she writes down ideas. She also stated that she plans on starting another company sometime in the future.