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In this enlightening installment, Susan Sly engages in a profound discussion with the extraordinary guest, Susan Groeneveld, the pioneering mind behind Sylvester.ai. Brace yourself for an insightful exploration of entrepreneurship as Susan Groeneveld recounts her motivational odyssey of establishing and guiding Sylvester.ai, an innovative enterprise blending technology and predictive healthcare to enhance animal well-being.

Topics covered in the interview

AI pioneering challenges with a successful entrepreneur

Pivoting from consumer to B2B model

Finding resilience and purpose in entrepreneurship

Gender bias in entrepreneurship and overcoming personal obstacles

Importance of networks and support in business and personal growth

AI for cats and pet owner education

Sylvester startup: using AI to connect entrepreneurs with investors

Idea generation and investment considerations

Exits, personal branding, and entrepreneurship

Susan Groeneveld’s Bio

Susan Groeneveld is a distinguished serial entrepreneur with specialization in agricultural science and technology based businesses. Her 25 year career has included leading commercialization for some of the largest global companies in animal health and agriculture, co-founding an award winning North American marketing agency- WS, a globally recognized not for profit in animal health and most recently Sylvester.ai. In 2023, her outstanding contributions were recognized as a top 5 finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year for Women in AI across North America. This recognition underscores Susan’s impact and leadership in the dynamic and rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence. Her passion for innovation, coupled with her dedication to addressing global challenges, positions her as a driving force in the ongoing transformation of agriculture and animal health sectors. 

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Show Notes

Agency8 code rare https://agency8.com/

Kieran O’Brien’s episode https://susansly.com/337-kieran-obriens-double-exit-playbook-at-24/

Read Full Transcript

Susan Sly 00:00
Hey everyone, Susan here. I hope you're having an amazing day and I want to thank you for being here. Today I am going to be sitting down with my friend and fellow top woman in AI, Susan Groeneveld. Susan is the founder and CEO of Silvester.ai. And they're doing revolutionary things and using machine learning to be able to identify if a cat is in pain or not, nope, stop for a moment. I know some of you are dog lovers. Some of you are cat lovers. Some of you don't have pets, some of you do. It doesn't matter. Today's show, we're going to dive into how she took her idea to a full blown company. What happened when she pivoted, she had a huge early win when Reuters featured her technology, and they had 54,000 downloads the first week. And then she pivoted from a b2c business to consumer model to a b2b model and we'll go through what that was like. And so this show is about being resilient. It is about helping you find a path and a purpose and staying in alignment with your vision, which is awesome. So Susan is an amazing serial entrepreneur. She's an award winning entrepreneur, she is a multi time founder, she has built a significant award winning marketing agency. And on top of it, she has really come to a place where she recognizes her power and her worth. So definitely an inspiration. I know you're gonna love today's show. And before we jump into the show, I just want to ask you a question. Speaking of marketing, how is your personal marketing and branding going? Because if the answer is I don't know, or I don't have it, I want you to go to agency8.com. And they will help you. They will help you whether you need a LinkedIn banner, you can go look at my personal LinkedIn, Susansly, I have a really awesome banner, they made it. They will help you with your LinkedIn profile, writing it for you, getting a video going. Or even if you need a website, go on over to agency8.com and book an appointment with them, they will help you, and full disclosure, it's a marketing agencyI founded and I no longer run. But I still use all of their services, and so do all of my companies. So with that, let's go ahead and get into today's episode of Raw and Real Entrepreneurship.

Susan Sly 02:23
This is Raw and Real Entrepreneurship, the show that brings the no nonsense truth of what is required to start, grow and scale your business. I am your host, Susan Sly.

Susan Sly 02:36
Well, how fun is this, Susan, and I get to hang out, we got to hang out in Toronto where we were both acknowledged as leading women in AI. And I was sitting there with Susan and her husband, who also, like my husband has a very, very Dutch last name pedigree. And we were having the best time and I'm like, Oh my gosh, we're having this great conversation. I'm like, we need to do a show on this. And so through serendipity, we have now made this work. And so Susan, first and foremost, thank you for being here on the show. And I know that, you know one of the things that we had discussed that night was being a pioneer in this whole field of AI and I want to just jump right in since it's Raw and Real Entrepreneurship. Before the show you and I were talking about the you know, as exciting as AI is exhilarating, being first, especially in a space or early in a space is not without its challenges. What are some of the biggest challenges that you've encountered being a leader in AI right now?

Susan Sly 03:50
Well,

Susan Groeneveld 03:50
Well, you know, there's this, there's this mandate as being a female founder or female anything where we're supposed to be nice. And so we come across as either nice or b****y, right or correct. And we're still fighting all of those premises, even though it's getting better. And so I think quite often, if you start with, I've been told, you know, I have a really soft tone or a no nonsense approach, but with a soft nature. It then leads into well, is this too good to be true? This just sounds like somebody that's really passionate. But you know, what are the facts around this? Or, you know, this is unbelievable. And so I've actually celebrated when I've seen research, Scientific American has published papers on nature.com on the technology that we're doing through third party not through us, because it's actually increased my credibility to move much faster. And because I'm in animal health, much like human health, a lot of that research is coming from funding from big multinationals. So there's a really a kind of a heavy foot or a heavy weight, when you start to do things in this space that isn't funded by those companies. And, you know, in the 1950s rate, a lot of really most successful businesses was based on the zero sum approach, meaning it's a winner take all, very much, you know, bound by the construct of networking, and that old boys club for lack of a better, you know, way to say it. And it's not just boys, it's women as well. But there's a structure. So when we're pioneering, we're breaking more than one kind of barrier, we're breaking all the barriers. And so helping people get excited about what's possible is really part of the journey. So it's been really challenging in terms of credibility, because it seems like it's never enough. And as a woman, what I find is, when I'm pitching, for example or talking about you know, is just plug and play through their accelerator in Silicon Valley, we're asked as females, what I find is how we're going to fail questions. Versus when men are talking, it's like, how are you going to make this successful? And that's- that's coming in with a bias, a cognitive bias for failing for women. That's why only 2% of women get funded.

Susan Sly 06:20
Exactly. And you, and that isn't, that isn't conjecture, that is fact. Women are asked time and again, fail questions. And it, and there's, there are also subtle questions like, How old are your kids? And it sounds like it's all being great. But what they want to know is, Can she really do this even though women founded companies make over 60% more profit their first two years than male founded companies. And so the, you know, I love that, that you're leading with that. And the whole point about being nice, Oprah said, you probably know this, I'd rather be respected than be liked. And so I, and I even find, even for some of the women VCs, they are operating by the same scorecard men do. And this is not an anti man sentiment, some of my mentors are men, I was raised by a single father, this is like, we should be held all to the exact same standards. It's just ridiculous and so I love love, love that you said that.

Susan Sly 07:26
Yeah,

Susan Groeneveld 07:27
Yeah, it's very, it's profound. And I, you know, what I've learned actually, is that lean into your networks hard. I think a lot of very high performing people, whether they're male or female, we tend to think we can do it alone. And I'm just here to tell you, we can't, we can't. We need people to support us, whether it's male or female, or whoever, and take that arm or that hand when it's given, take it and be the squeaky wheel, and keep driving. And, you know, when I started my first company, I was terrified of No's, you know, I'd avoid, I'd avoid any kind of situation, I try to be perfect when I'd come into a conversation or I'd have all my answers. And now, no, is the second best answer. And there's a saying, right? If you're between, if it's a hell no or a hell yes, that middle part is hell. So just let it happen. Because there's 100 yeses, and there's 1000 No's. And if you don't have the middle for that, then it's probably not a good pathway. But this isn't just a journey of starting companies or being successful. This is a personal journey, right? Of all of those things, you know, what I learned early in my life was a lot of what I was fighting was my own bringing, you know how I was raised. It wasn't my husband or it wasn't men. It was my own personal construct that I was railing against. What a beautiful thing when we come to this part of our life when we can go, done with that, I'm done with that. And just have fun on the journey. Like we're not here very long. So, you know, let's make it worthwhile.

Susan Sly 09:13
Absolutely. And to that point, too. We had Kieran O'Brien a few episodes back. He's founded three companies, he's a hustler. 24 years old, he's already had two successful exits. And even Kieran. I said, How many people did you and Casey pitch for your first company Mediakits? He said, 300. And so Casey Adams had this massive podcast, he had this huge, huge network and they were so you know, I think How old were they at that time, like 20 when they were doing it, and 300. And I just said, we were talking, Susan and I were talking about The Pause, my new startup before we started the show. And even this morning Susan at 5am I texted my EA and our Director of Communications I said start this seed list. And I said, I want you to take all of these friends in my network who are saying, hey, I want to introduce you to this person, this, this VC. I said May, that list needs to be, we need to get up to 100. And then we're going to drive it to 200. And then we're going to do 300. Because the bigger your list, you're so detached, and because not all money is equal, right, and you know that, Susan. So if you have to pitch 300 to get one that's gonna say, Yeah, I'll give you a quarter of $1,000,000, 500,00 or one and a half, or whatever number it is that you're raising, then so be it. And knowing that there is inequality. So I know when I go pitch, there's a 98% chance because just for my gender, not even though, and my background, professional speaker, second time founder, all these different things. I know there's a 98% chance, if I'm just pitching a man that I'm going to, he's going to say no to me, and shame on you, a lot of VCs come on the show, and I tell them to their face, it's fine, that they want to start to think about it. Like, am I already going into this conversation bias. So I want to talk about Sylvester because, you know, as I said, in our, in the intro before we started the show about why I'm excited about Sylvester and why Tisha, our producer is excited about Sylvester. How did you come up with this idea? Because you are a serial entrepreneur, you have been an entrepreneur for decades. And how did you come up with this? It's genius.

Susan Groeneveld 11:31
Yeah, so I didn't start as an AI. I, my goal was not to be an AI company. And let's let's just you know-

Susan Sly 11:39
which is, which is a vanguard opinion these days.

Susan Groeneveld 11:43
Right. So this was not an AI, this was actually started in boardrooms, sitting in boardrooms with drug companies that were, that manufacture products for veterinarians to sell to pet owners. And it started with an understanding that cats just really don't have a lot going on compared to dogs, because dogs present like kids. And so dogs we know to take our dogs in every year. And you know, we treat them like they're children, they present like our kids, they'll hold up their paw. But cats are 10,000 years less domesticated. And so when they are sick, they go and hide under the bed. And they have zero interest in showing you that they have any kind of problem because if they were in the wild, they'd get eaten. And so it is in their best interest to never show any signs of distress. And so, you know, when I was in these conversations, I thought why aren't we doing more for cats? And everybody agreed. Yes, we need to see more cats. Yes, we know that they're actually silently suffering. Let's do and, you know, the idea then was like, let's do education to pet owners. People just don't know. So you know, I worked with marketing, and we would try to do you know, information things or have feline specialists speaking. And yes, it's all very well intentioned, but pet owners and cat owners especially really know their cats because, and there's a reason why they love cats. And they're mysterious. And they, it's kind of a weird dynamic when they like you, they really like you. And it's like the best day ever. And then most of the time, they could care less if you're in the room. And so really interested highly bonded thing of the species. But these people know their cats. And so education really isn't on the agenda in terms of being educated because they feel that they know their cat better probably than their veterinarian. And so it wasn't about how to get them in a cat carrier. It was actually how to say that, you know, like an obese cat, while they're cute, and they're on the internet, they're actually a cat that's in distress. And so this technology came out of working on pain products, knowing that veterinarians are actually not trained on a visual scale for pain that the cat holds in its face. We took that technology early on and applied AI to it, so labeled datasets from feline specialists. And I had started a not for profit for cats, working with feline specialists. So I had easy access to people that could help me with the label data. And then funnily enough, and this is really my origin story for the company, we knew we wanted to do more, and we wanted to move quickly. And I didn't think it was about education. And I was worried about creating something that would turn into a novelty because cats have that ability, right, to get into tchotchke and bracelets and Stella McCartney posts and I didn't want any of that, even though that could be quite lucrative. So I was at a conference actually, I had gone to a women's event that was funded by a bank here in Canada. And I was on the 24th floor and it was at the end and I still wasn't sure about directionally, where to go. And I just knew I wanted to solve a problem. But I wasn't sure about this the problem space for cats, but I wanted to change behavior. And so I got on the elevator and a fellow had got, come to the reception, but just to get a muffin. He came in and he had a chocolate muffin, I remember it, watching him eat his muffin, and he was picking at it. And for 21 floors, we went down, and I told him my business premise, without AI, and we got to the bottom, and he looked at me, and he's eating his muffin and complete stranger. And he said, you know, that'll never work. And I was like, Oh, my God, it was the first person that would just, that just cut through it. And he was right, the idea that I was thinking, I knew in my heart wasn't going to fly. But as we exited, he said, but you know, he says, there's a lot of cats on the internet. Couldn't you do something with cats on the internet? I know, an AI company, maybe you could do something with cats on the internet to help people. And he introduced me to the venture studio that helped us develop the first algorithm. And it was that coincidence, complete stranger that actually connected the dots. And then I just took it from there with this company. And here we are now scaling, launched in Singapore, scaling in Europe, and having huge conversations in the US to start our journey.

Susan Sly 16:23
Well, Susan, like unpacking that for a minute, since it is Raw and Real Entrepreneurship. Firstly, you had the audacity to actually share an idea and the willingness to be like, right, this could be a good idea, but I'm not sure if it's the right idea and, and to be able to just be open with that and so detached from that outcome. Because, as you said earlier, we reach a stage of maturity, which I have found interviewing 362 founders, that maturity doesn't come with age. I've had the 12 year old founders who are like Yoda, and you know, 24 year old founders and so on, but that you had the maturity to say, you know, okay, I'm detached from this, but you know, it could be something, maybe it's not, and that trust. What a lot of people don't do is they don't, they don't ever have that confidant, like you said, lean in your network, that they're going to talk to you and say, is this idea rubbish or is it something that could have some traction, that's one, or they speak to the wrong people who are not qualified. I mean, you speak to strangers. So who knew, right, that that would pull you in the right direction, but it's all good. The question that I have is, there's a statistic that came out in the United States. And I apologize, Susan and I both Canadian, Canada doesn't do the same level of statistics that the US does data sampling on entrepreneurs. They just don't yet, but it's coming. But the US statistic was 70% of Americans said they wanted to start a business but less than 7% ever took it from idea to actually starting a business. So what steps did you follow? Because Okay, now you're like, oh, this could be interesting. Okay, I'm gonna go meet with this person. What steps did you follow to actually take it from idea to this is an MMP? Like a minimum marketable product?

Susan Groeneveld 18:19
Yeah. So that's a, that's a great question. So not my first startup. So I'm a big fan of follow the money. And so as I talked to that group, about, hey, can we, you know, look at applying AI to this, because I really think, you know, if, if people could know, on their phone if their cat was in pain or not, wouldn't they do something for sure, right? We know that would be true. So I followed the money on that. And I found out what was going to be the investment that was going to be required. And I knew that this was a long game. And so being very, very, very mindful of steps before incorporation. So we did not agree to do an incorporated company until we actually already had the first algorithm created. And we did that ahead of time. And I paid for that through my not for profit, because the not for profit was about betterment for cats. And so the whole lens was this helps cats. This is something we would support.

Susan Groeneveld 19:24
We already created a funding model. But we did not lead to incorporation. We said we had to hit a minimum viability in the, in the AI before we actually went farther. So it doesn't start with incorporating even though it's easy to incorporate a company because it started with okay, how big is this? What is the total addressable market? Is this an area that's actually worth pursuing? Is it big enough to get VC? Is it bootstrapped or is it going to be venture based because those are all options. Yet much harder to bootstrap with AI just based on technology. But we went through the whole, I already knew size of market, I came in already with that understanding and the global potential, I understood that it wasn't going to be a hardware product, it was going to be software because of that. So a lot of those early business model thinking ideas I had already kind of processed before we incorporated. Saying you have a startup is really words. Right? And so technically, that's great. But what I was doing in that conversation with that stranger, because I need millions of strangers to love it. It's going to be successful, it's hundreds of millions of people that I don't- and so I, you know, the more people and the more surfacing that you can do outside of your own bubble, the better. But that was the first step, was actually is there a viable, is this real? And funnily enough, we did the first test and the venture studio came back to me, and we said, they said, I think we've screwed up, we're going to rerun it, because the accuracy is 96%, which is totally, ridiculously high. And so they ran it again, and they said, Actually, no, this is very accurate. And so of course, the next thought as a startup person is like, Why has no one thought of this?

Susan Sly 21:21
Well, we'll get to entrepreneurial paranoia in a moment. I want to, I want to, I do want to say something too. Susan, you said about incorporating. So I think one of the things just to disclaim across the globe, because the show goes to 171 countries is to know what makes sense in your country. So when I was in Canada, I would have followed very similar steps. I would have ideated. In America, Oh, heck no. If I have the idea, I'm not telling anyone. I'm setting up the corporation. I'm doing the trademark search. I'm doing all of that before I begin to talk to people. But knowing, and America, too, there are so many different types of corporate structures. In Canada, you don't have as many. So like you said, like, here as an example, for The Pause, I had to know was I going to bootstrap some of it? Or was I going to go and do like a, you know, a traditional pre-seed seed round? How many investors ideally? I was thinking, What I eventually want to take it public, and start with the end in mind. And I had another Canadian founder on here, and he had had a billion dollar exit. And he was like, oh, no, I don't incorporate until after. I'm like, Dude, I think it's just a country thing.

Susan Groeneveld 22:39
You know, you talked about the exit in mind. And it's, it's interesting, because it depends who I talk to. Right. I don't want people to think that it's just about making money, right? When you have passion plays, but when I say follow the money, it's all about the exit. And so this was building this based on exit. And quite frankly, that's now keeping me up at night, because I have so many, it's a wonderful problem. I have many exit opportunities, but I am, I am knee deep in looking at contracts in terms of IP access with companies and right of first refusal, and because it can take away your power for exit. So I love what you're saying about thinking with the exit in mind. And if it's not, if it's not, if you're doing something and you don't think that there's a achievable exit, or if you think the exit is like, oh, you know, and I'm going to just throw numbers, right? This is a 10, you know, I think I could make it to 10 million, it, you're not thinking big enough. The idea has to be massive for it to actually get to 10 million. So that is another kind of tip is if you're thinking this level, you're not thinking big enough. And if you really want to get a company to a D series, you have to keep thinking bigger. I've worked with companies in a separate life, through marketing that just does a, they did 150 million D series round. And their investors would say you're still not thinking big enough. So the scale.

Susan Sly 24:17
And to that, to that point too, the thinking about the kind of exit because how, who you are as a founder is very, very important if you're going to go public, because that means all yours stuff is in the public. And like Whitney Wolfe Herd when she went and founded Bumble, and I you know, I mentioned her often on the show. One of the things she did is she did you know went around, did the small focus groups and so on, but because of where she had come from previously in the dating app space, that thinking about who she was, how she presented herself on social media So, when that company went public and it was Friday, the 13th on a February, it was like three years after, her net worth went to $7 billion in a day. But there was nothing salacious about her. Yeah, she had had, there's, it's very publicly written, she you know, filed the lawsuit, the lawsuit is locked down, gag order, but the, she, there was nothing salacious. And that is the thing. If you think you have possibility that you're going to go public, you know, my advice to you is clean up your social media, clean up your language, clean up your everything, because you will be scrutinized in a way that you've never been scrutinized before. So thinking about that type of exit, if you're off ramp is an acquisition, to Susan's point, you have to have the number in mind. Founder fatigue is real. It's easy to get excited in the beginning. Every, of the 362 founders I've had on here, very few of them have the energy after 10 years, most of them are off ramping, like in the 5, 7, 10 year mark. Yeah.

Susan Groeneveld 26:05
For sure. I mean, you know, and also, we're good at starting things, right. We're probably not great at ending them, you know. So exit for us you know, it's never really about the long haul, really, it's about knowing what you're good at. And then finding people that can build it around you. One other thing that I've noticed, just you know, because I love talking, you know, North American based. There's a real appetite to think about it's one person, like, it's one person that's driving this. Like an Elon Musk, or, you know, Jeff Bezos, like we tend to, you know, these are heroes. Taylor Swift, I mean, amazing people, but there is a group of people around them that have made them who they are. And they know that. We are only as successful as the people around us. And so we are the company we keep. And I think, you know, when you talk about cleaning things up, that's just like good practice in life. And I'm not talking about like, shoving things down or not being authentic, I think it is very, very vital to be authentic. But if you are here nfor the right purposes, a lot of the things that may be are a problem in social media, when you're younger, and your teenage years, you tend to, you tend, you're shedding that. This is part of the journey, right? You're shedding that at the same time. And so I know it sounds maybe a little Pollyanna, but I think this journey is personal, in the learning that you have of yourself. You're not doing this by yourself, you are surrounded by people that are helping you and that is the question of why are they helping you. And you need people that will ground you and tell you you're full of crap and you know, call you out. And those people are who gets us to where we need to go. So it takes a village, right? And that's why, you know, take the hand if someone offers you support, take the hand, don't discount anything. Because you never know.

Susan Sly 28:06
Exactly, you just don't. And I love, I love what you said, you know, cleaning up is just good practice as a founder, as a co founder just to take that time and I recommend once a month like go through your social media, go through, and do a sanity check. How are you responding to emails? How are all of those things? What are you presenting in the world? Go and look at your social media as a viewer. And then, and then have, have those confidants that you can say, Hey, would you take a look at this, like does this make sense to you know, and because it's so key. Okay, I want to, I want to ask you a question. So since we last saw each other I got a rescue kitty. His name is Nigel. Nigel. I gave him a middle name, and my kids and my husband were like, Why does the damn cat I have a middle name? I'm like, because when he's in trouble I say Nigel Winston, you know like, I'm a mom, it just kind of is. And so anyway, so I get this rescue kitty, Susan, and he's still like, he was found on the street here in Phoenix and in the summer, so 120 degrees. And when we first got him he was super snuggly because he was, he chose me too, he rejected a bunch of people. So I felt like I was the chosen one and he jumped right in the cat carrier in the second meeting, he's like, take me home. So as a you know, as a cat owner, share with everyone like, how they get to use your technology. So I'm wondering if Nigel is in distress like, how do I, how do I use it?

Susan Groeneveld 29:46
So first of all, how old was Nigel when you got Nigel?

Susan Sly 29:50
He's about, they think, he's two.

Susan Groeneveld 29:54
Okay, so was he on the streets like as a younger kitty? Was he you know.

Susan Sly 30:01
They don't know how long he was on the street.

Susan Groeneveld 30:04
Okay, so he might have been, the reason I'm asking this as I get to our tech is, there's an I'm not a behaviorist. But I can say that when cats or dogs or humans or anybody, if we're not imprinted early in our lives, the first eight weeks of our lives are critical. So if a cat's been loved on with a human, in those first eight weeks, they will have a serious, wonderful bond with you. If they didn't get that kind of care in the first eight weeks, it's quite hard. There is the odd cat or dog that will actually come through, and they'll find different ways to demonstrate love. And that might be enough. But those first eight weeks are just everything for animals and humans and a real testament to why we need to show up for these strays, especially those pregnant ones, right? Or spay and neuter. So that's sort of my soapbox that we need to lean in, right? Because it really makes a difference in these animals lives. So our tech, the way we're, you know, I'm going to start with our sort of on the origin story. But we're originally, we created a free app that was on the Apple store, it is no longer on the Apple store. But when we created that free version, we wanted to see if people were really interested in the technology. And Reuters news picked us up just organically. And we had 54,000 downloads in one week, globally, because people want to know how their cat is feeling. And so the technology works in that you literally would have downloaded the app, you point your camera at a cat or you access a picture on your camera roll. And, you know, deep inside here, I haven't met one cat owner without pictures of their cats on their phone. And we can assess the picture. And then two seconds tell that person whether that cat may or may not be in pain. So very, very high level, we call it happy, unhappy. But it's sort of that tipping point, because as an owner, you kind of are a pet parent, you kind of have a niggling already that something may be off or you're not sure or you just want to find out. And then this technology can allow that. Since that time, and the reason we took that down was we pivoted because we needed to show proof of concept in terms of validation and payment. Pet owners are willing to pay directly for this. But personally, as a founder, it felt very light in that we didn't have a veterinarian that they could talk to if there was a problem. So we just would say go to a veterinarian, and I was not interested in building a platform, a telemedicine platform because there's many already in the market. So strategically, we pivoted to an API model. So we can plug into everybody else's platforms. So right now how you can access our technology is actually through select veterinary clinics. And we're working with platform partners to make it more available. If somebody really wants to try it, they can reach us at hello@sylvestre.ai. And I'm happy to share the experience just with your listeners. But clinics today are prescribing our tech when a cat leaves the clinic. And so the cats going home on discharge, and so they can access our technology through the clinic for two weeks to monitor the cat. The pet owner sees how the cat's doing because it's showing happy with a confidence score through the AI of happy or not happy. But that same picture and assessment is going to the clinic at the same time. So if you have a cat that's come in for a really serious procedure, you'll know that the clinic is looking at your cat at the same time as you are. So there's been some use cases like after spay or neuter. Or you know, some people have had to put feeding tubes in their cats, all the old cats, all the grandma and grandpa cats out there. Usually they're on multiple forms of medicine, and sometimes they need to get them adjusted. And so this is a really great way to know that they're feeling okay. A really sad stat that I can share with you, unfortunately, is most cats that are euthanized in the year previous to euthanasia, they've never seen a veterinarian. So by the time we know that they have pain, and we know it's time, they've already probably been suffering. And so we could be helping them have longer lives, right, or we may be able to do something to help those cats. So that end of life, you know, is is, you know, is as pain free as possible for the cats. So just incredible use cases for cats.

Susan Sly 34:53
It's interesting too. And I want to, I want to dive into that decision to pivot, but Tisha, this message is for you. I know you're gonna end up emailing the cat photos. I just, I know it. I'm just saying, girl, I'm calling that right now. So, Susan, you'll probably get a, Tisha will send a photo. And I'll probably send Nigel's photo anyway, because I'm a proud cat mom.

Susan Groeneveld 35:20
Yeah, and just to clarify, I'll send you a link or we'll send you a link. And so you, you don't have to send me a picture or anything. Just tell me you want to try it. And then we'll set you up with a link and you can you just literally take a picture on your phone, you go to a URL that we'll give you and you can take a picture.

Susan Sly 35:38
Awesome. Well, Nigel does like to be rocked like a baby. So I think he had some, and he just, he lets me hold him like a baby. So I get my baby fixed since my babies are grown. And I'll look in his eyes and he looks at me and I rock him and he loves it. It's strange. But anyway, as an aside, we're not here to talk about Nigel. Susan, deciding to pivot. So we just had Lori Harder on the show and she started LitePink and then pivoted to Gloci. She went, she was going to do alcohol and then now she's doing hydration. I'm, disclosure, for US disclosures, and I'm an investor in that company. But she talked about the pivot. Pivoting from I'm in the iOS store. I had this early win. 54,000 downloads in a week even though it's a free app, Reuters picks it up and then you go I'm going to pivot to being API based because that is a, for the listeners to understand, Susan is going from b2c, business to consumer, to now b2b. And this is a whole other customer acquisition model. Like what was the time period like in that and what was, you mentioned like you know, people, the kitties were in pain, but you didn't have the vet, you didn't want to do telemedicine, you could have just partnered with telemedicine and off ramp them there, but what made you go yes, we're gonna go b2c. Now we're gonna go b2b, we're gonna go from iOS to an API like, how did that happen?

Susan Groeneveld 37:13
So, so clearly articulated, fantastic, just fantastic. So when we launched, what we did is, when we were still going, b2c, we launched direct to consumer, we had a decent freemium model where it was like one week free, and then people could subscribe for 499 a month, 3% conversion, really quite decent. But this was during the COVID time, right. And I could see, there was a couple of things for me. The biggest problem was the day we went live to test when people were paying for it, I felt like I was letting people down because everybody that had a bad day cat would be looking for a solution. And I wasn't giving them solution, I was just causing the problem. And they're very wholesome for me in terms of I know, people would, you know, figure out how to get to a vet, and I know that we could onboard vets and we could go down that path. But that would take me into the realm of telemedicine versus being a wickedly good AI assessment of computer vision for disease. And so I knew I wanted to be an AI company, not a SAS platform company. And I think when you get into SAS, what happens is, and I'm going to use a Muhammad Ali saying is, your users get you on a bit of a rope a dope, because it's like, we'll just fix this and we'll do more. Just fix this or just fix this. And you're reacting all the time, because you're listening to feedback and trying to figure out what the right model is. Where if I'm true to who, what I want to do for cats, I want to help people know when their cat might need an intervention, or when we can do things. And so this was really core to my vision. And it was also very polluted, quite frankly, with everybody running on that SAS platform. So that pivot, that pivot was profound. But all of my early investor, investors were veterinarians. And so I knew that my heartbeat was with veterinarians, and these were veterinarians that could have been threatened by this technology. But they weren't. They actually believed that this was what we needed in this space. And so having it now curated by veterinarians, is actually helping veterinarians innovate their approach to this remote patient monitoring and so on. And so, you know, there's rich pathways in terms of investment in the veterinary community. I had a lot of those connections already. I have a marketing background and I know what it takes to do direct to consumer and the kind of dilution that would occur, because I would have to scale significantly. So it really came down to, it hit my core values to go through veterinary channel. I had good connections there. But bottom line, I don't think I would have been diluted as quickly as you know, I can build this story, and then bring it back out to the masses. And so it was actually a dilution question for me more than anything.

Susan Sly 40:17
Well, and to, I mean, I love how you walked through that process because the other aspect that I see very clearly, as a, you know, friend, founder, investor, namesake, is that the, whether it's animals or humans, to have your POV, the proof of value, I'm not saying that for you, but for listeners who are like, especially if their first language isn't, like Susan, don't speak so fast. What is this? So the proof of value, Susan already had the investors who were veterinarians who saw the proof of value because in order to onboard other veterinarians, they're going to hear it from their peers, not necessarily from entrepreneurial technologists like Susan or myself, right. And I'm going through a very similar journey with The Pause, where even all of our Medical Advisory Board, they're all investors, and they're all clinicians. They're all still practicing. And they're into that point, right? Because the, you know, for us, it's very similar in terms of even though we have a b2c model, we also have the clinicians who are asking for our platform in order to use it with their patients. Right. And so we're, we're, we're doing a hybrid of sorts, so I totally get that journey. Susan, there's so many things I want to ask you. And I definitely want to you know, do another show down the road. I always loved checking in on the founders, but it's time to play our Canadian game, because anytime I have a Canadian founder, Canada's the number two listening audience in the world, USA is number one. The UK and Australia battle for number three and four. But when I have Canadian founders, we play Canadian trivia, because we like to sometimes perpetuate stereotypes and sometimes dispel the myth just-

Susan Groeneveld 42:15
fantastic.

Susan Sly 42:18
All right, so the first one we're going to talk about, this show is not sponsored by Tim Hortons. But I do ask this question. If you were to go to Tim Hortons, and have a Timbit, what flavor is it?

Susan Groeneveld 42:31
Oh, boy, I'm not a, full disclosure, I'm not actually a Timbit fan. My boys played hockey for a long time and I had my-

Susan Sly 42:42
Girlfriend me too. I haven't eaten one. But my father-in-law, before he passed, he did, I had purchased a 50 pack, I guess of them. And he and my 18 year old scarf down the Timbits. But back in the day, if you had chosen a Timbit what is the flavor?

Susan Groeneveld 43:01
Probably this cinnamon sugar, you know, just a regular old cinnamon sugar. Goodness, I actually have a funny donut story. Can I can I tell you?

Susan Sly 43:11
Absolutely.

Susan Groeneveld 43:12
So you know, we think of Tim Hortons with Canada because it was a Canadian story. It's exited, though it's not owned by Canadian, which is also a Canadian story is we really liked to exit early for some reason, which is fortunate. I'd like to change that a bit. But I was just in your neck of the woods in Arizona last week. And my husband and I were looking for somewhere to eat. And we saw this little hole in the wall for breakfast. And it was a donut shop, an independent donut shop. And I have to tell you, that was the best donut I've ever had. And it was all just local people coming into it. And I will do everything in my power to support local because of being an entrepreneur and startups and as much as I love Tim Hortons as the icon, I will pick the other donut shop before Tim Hortons. Just-

Susan Sly 44:04
Absolutely, what was the donut shop?

Susan Groeneveld 44:06
You know, I can't recall it was in Glendale. And it was right beside a McDonald's. And they were fantastic. And we just watched a stream of local people come in and say you will not find better doughnuts. And so finally I just, we had to get one and it was it was just like, it's the reason we start companies. Because somebody actually cared about those donuts. And they made them with love and phenomenal people. There was a homeless person outside, someone came in and bought them a coffee on the way out. It was just like, super wholesome. So that's my donut story from you know Tim's and beyond.

Susan Sly 44:46
Love it. My husband is a massive lover of independent donut shops. And in fact he and one of our daughters, if we're on some family trip, they have gone to find all of the good local independent donut places and I don't eat. I don't eat doughnuts. I just sort of a voyeuristic watcher of eating of doughnuts since I am highly sensitive to gluten. But to that point, I will look it up and we'll figure out what the donut, what the donut shop was.

Susan Groeneveld 45:19
So good like, you know in that district that entertainment district.

Susan Sly 45:24
All right. So next Canadian question, I totally agree, I personally haven't eaten anything from Tim Hortons in decades but you know, I've got to ask because it was iconic for when we were growing up and when the kids were little. Alright, favorites, Canadian actor or actress.

Susan Groeneveld 45:45
So many, you know, you've probably heard a little bit about Ryan Gosling lately. So I just had the opportunity to watch Barbie and I actually quite frankly, was resisting that I watched it. And man, what a fantastic show. I just thought it was brilliant. So Ryan Gosling's up there and of course Ryan Reynolds.

Susan Sly 46:05
The Ryan's, Yep. Right. Yeah. The Ryan's.

Susan Groeneveld 46:09
The Ryan's are doing a great job. There's a lot of really good talent out of Canada. I think because, you know, we we're not trying to be number one. We're just trying to do our craft. And so if we're good and people recognize us, they, we think that's great. But we're not really trying to be the best of everything. We're just trying to do what we believe in. And I think that's that underdog kind of mentality. So lots of good talent comes out of Canada.

Susan Sly 46:37
Canada right now in Toronto is the number one AI for AI startups. So there are some records, I think, Canadians do like to go for number one in certain sports too, in different days. Well, we'll leave those at the side for the moment. Third and final question. Favorite Canadian band?

Susan Groeneveld 46:59
Oh, man.

Susan Sly 47:00
Or singer.

Susan Groeneveld 47:03
Gee, that's rough. That's really rough. So Oh, boy. So I don't know if he's actually Canadian. And I don't know if you've heard of Orville Peck. Do you know Orville? But he's kind of hit the big, the big scene. And he's a take on Country and Western. But he wears a mask and he's just an incredible talent. And I think he has roots back to Canada. But if you haven't heard him, I really would recommend Orville Peck.

Susan Sly 47:40
All right, Orville Peck it is. There are so many great Canadian musicians. And you know, I always give a shout out to The Tragically Hip. Because I used to prep them for tours in the 90s. Sarah McLaughlin, I used to work with her mom in Halifax and she would come in to the store and she would sing acapella. So shout out to, shout out to Sarah. My husband and I, he's like all about Rush. And I'm like the hip, but he likes The Hip too. So we won't even get into that battle of the bands but, Susan, I want to first and foremost, commend you. And thank you, thank you for being so transparent about, especially about the pivot, about, those are hard decisions. I, we may have broken it down like a recipe but it's a really hard decision. And no doubt it wasn't one you took lightly. And what really struck me was this piece around, I couldn't stand there and say, I'm doing this to help cats but I'm not helping them by just saying they're in pain. Right? And so that, it's almost like the Good Samaritan, right? You're like, No, I'm definitely going to do something about this. And this is the way and even though in the short term, there's like a path to short term money. But what is the cost of that money? Because you and I were talking about that, you know, as well, like not, money sometimes comes with more costs than the dollar value it is. So I want to thank you for being on the show. You're such a rock star. -work you want to show to see you again. So it's all good.

Susan Groeneveld 49:12
And you, Susan, I really enjoyed this, you know, very well articulated in terms of understanding the journey. I don't think a lot of people really fully understand it like we do.

Susan Sly 49:25
Yeah. Well, thank you, my friend. All right, well, everyone, wherever you are in the world, if you love cats, or even if you don't, Susan and I would love if you would give us a five star review and share the show, and you know what? Actually I'm going to do a bold ask, share the show with your veterinarian if you are a pet owner because let's get this amazing company sylvestre.ai out to all of the veterinarians. And so with that, God bless. Go rock your day and I will see you in the next episode.

Susan Sly 50:02
Hey, this is the Susan and thanks so much for listening to this episode on Raw and Real Entrepreneurship. If this episode or any episode has been helpful to you, you've gotten at least one solid tip from myself or my guests. I would love it if you would leave a five star review where ever you listen to podcast. After you leave your review, go ahead and email reviews@Susansly.com. Let us know where you left the review. And if I read your review on air, you could get a $50 amazon gift card and we would so appreciate it because reviews do help boost the show and get this message all over the world. If you're interested in any of the resources we discussed on the show, go to Susansly.com. That's where all the show notes live. And with that, go out there rock your day, God bless and I will see you in the next episode.

Susan Sly 50:55
Are you currently an employee looking to start your own business. Maybe you've been thinking about it for a while and you're just not sure where to start? Well my course Employee to Entrepreneur combines my decades of experience as an entrepreneur with proven methods, techniques and skills to help you take that leap and start your own business. This course is self paced, Learn on Demand and comes with an incredible workbook and that will allow you to go through this content piece by piece by piece, absorb it, take action and then go on to the next module. So check out my course on Susansly.com Employee to Entrepreneur.

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Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

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