8 Qs for a Silicon Prairie Founder: Lizz Whitacre of Pawlytics

Lizz Whitacre is co-founder of Pawlytics, a cloud-based operations software provider for animal shelters and rescues working to develop electronic health records for pets and build the world’s largest pet database. SPN recently spotlighted the company and its socially driven mission to use data to save as many animals as possible. It’s a mission that…

Lizz Whitacre has worked in the animal sheltering industry since she was 13.
Lizz Whitacre has worked in the animal sheltering industry since she was 13.

Lizz Whitacre is co-founder of Pawlytics, a cloud-based operations software provider for animal shelters and rescues working to develop electronic health records for pets and build the world’s largest pet database. SPN recently spotlighted the company and its socially driven mission to use data to save as many animals as possible. It’s a mission that has gained fans far from the company’s Lincoln offices.

Among Pawlytics’ clients (and fans) are animal caretakers like Kelsey Castro, treasurer of Starlight Outreach and Rescue, a foster-based rescue serving the Houston area.

“Pawlytics has given us a way to manage everything about an animal in one place so we no longer have to scroll through spreadsheets to find a microchip number or dig through vet receipts to find out what antibiotic an animal was previously prescribed,” Castro said.

Moreover, Pawlytics has allowed Starlight to provide adopters a complete, downloadable history of their pet from intake to adoption, Castro said. This history arms adopters with the necessary knowledge to create the best possible new environment for their pet.

Ultimately, Whitacre has said, Pawlytics will help break down barriers between anyone who has a stake in an animal’s health, including shelters, rescues, groomers, veterinarians, fosters, companions and even market researchers. (The company is currently in the middle of a pre-seed investment round raising $500,000 to help scale their software to serve larger clients. Interested parties can invest in Pawlytics through WeFunder, which allows donations as small as $100.)

SPN recently met Whitacre virtually to find out a little more about her journey as an entrepreneur.

How did you get started?

I first got started in entrepreneurship back in 2012, my senior year of high school. I helped run the small shelter I had adopted my first dog from and managed their fundraising, marketing, fostering program and large dog program. I loved the feeling of raising money through selling bags of homemade dog treats, tennis balls and T-shirts. I quickly realized that by bringing in money for the shelter, we could save so many more animals and improve the lives of the adoptable pets who had been long residents of the shelter. Since then, all my business, non-profit, organizational efforts or jobs have been related to saving pets and figuring out how to create a sustainable business in doing so.

Is your job what you thought you would be doing when you were a child?

Well…to some degree! When I was a child, my end game in life was to ‘save all the animals,’ but I thought the journey would look more traditional. I had intended to go to vet or law school, work for 50 years, then retire and open an animal shelter. While in college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I found my love for entrepreneurship and decided to start as early as possible in creating a dream career for myself.

What are you building right now? Why is it important to you?

Right now, I am building and growing a company called Pawlytics. Our goal is to build the world’s largest pet database and create electronic health records for pets to improve the lives of animals everywhere. Our entry into the market is through building amazing shelter software to collect data on microchipped pets, as well as accomplish my goal of saving companion animals. It is important to me, because it has always been my life’s mission to ensure no more pets die in shelters and I feel that through Pawlytics, I can impact millions upon millions of pets.

What is your favorite thing that you have ever built? Why was it your favorite?

My favorite thing I have ever built never really came to fruition! My first ‘real’ business idea that I pitched was an animal shelter with a location in every state that would transfer pets that were struggling to get adopted to a different location. This shelter was going to use internal data derived from each location to figure out where to send each pet for the highest chance of adoption. That concept has been the basis for my love of data and every company I have tried to start since then!

If you could improve one thing about your job or the place that you live, what would the change be?

If I could improve one thing about the place I live, it would be to have more women involved in tech and the start up ecosystem as mentors and investors. I love our community but it has been hard to find people to relate to or mentors that I can point to and say, “I want to be like HER when ‘I grow up.'” I hope to make change from the inside and try to mentor younger founders or girls interested in business or leadership and hope to one day invest in women-led companies.

Was there anything looking back that you would do differently?

Always more customer discovery! I sometimes wonder where I would be now if I had failed faster at my previous companies.

What could the SPN community do to help you succeed?

Open up your resources to founders in this community. Often, the Midwest has been considered a resource desert, recently leading outside capital to come in and take stake in our Midwest companies, and therefore also reaping the benefits. However, collectively, this community has loads of resources to help create and keep high-growth companies and industries. Helping founders with capital, connections, mentorship and advocacy, I believe, will help grow and keep “Silicon Valley”-type companies here.

If you could ask these questions to anyone, who would it be?

I would ask these questions to Melanie Perkins, the CEO of Canva.

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