Germany-based startup Dogo uses Firebase to help "pawrents" train their dogs
How a veterinarian found mentorship, business guidance, and project management help for her dog-training app at Google for Startups
Training a puppy is for the dogs, even when you’re a professional. Rasa Gentvilaitė Žiemienė, a Germany-based veterinarian specializing in behavioral problems, struggled with housebreaking her dog, Ūdra. So she and her software engineering husband, Tadas, cofounded Dogo, an app designed to help dogs and adoptive parents alike with personalized training suggestions and a boisterous digital community of other “pawrents.”
The product evolved over the past four years, from the first version–a clicker button based on Pavlov’s method–to what Rasa calls “a little dog trainer in your pocket”, featuring built-in games and activities that emphasize engagement and education. Dogo has a close network of dog trainers who test and give them feedback, and they also regularly conduct surveys, stay on top of Google Trends and research. But each iteration has to pass the most important test before going live: Ūdra, Rasa’s rescue dog and muse.
And thanks to the thousands of dog people out there, the app now has almost 2.5 million downloads and an active global community. To help maintain that momentum, Rasa and Tadas added a growth-focused cofounder, Elisa, who joined them from a Rocket Internet startup and now their team is 13 people mostly focused in product and tech. Reflecting on the help from her team, Rasa says, “I come from the veterinary world, and when I started, learning about development and product was a challenge. A lot of our colleagues are senior to me in that sense and they can educate me. We try to have a no-hierarchy approach and we have a very close relationship with our team.”
However, all three founders lacked startup experience—so Rasa joined the Google for Startups Immersion for Women Founders program to deepen her analytics understanding. She says her mentor introduced questions such as “What's actually important?” and “How should we make product decisions?” and helped Rasa approach her product in a way that was both intuitive and analytical which transformed her product management. “We had all the analytics in place but I think that was the first time that somebody put that much effort and structure into it,” reflects Rasa. “After the Google program, I felt more confident to own the analytics, so my mentor gave me this guidance and self-belief.”
Rasa and her team are longtime users of Firebase, which has been a gamechanger for Dogo’s back-end development. “Even with a very small team, we have managed to have this amazing product that doesn't break when we suddenly get featured in 12 different countries all over the world,” said Rasa. “We can get tens of thousands of users coming in and everything still works seamlessly, and we never had problems with it.” They’re also implementing in-app messaging for Dogo through Firebase, and Rasa says they have ended up with a better product without additional development costs or knowledge required.
What’s the one piece of advice Rasa would share with other founders? Talk to each other. When she first started out, Rasa says she second guessed herself about approaching other founders–but she found them more than willing to share: "Meeting regularly with other founders has been so valuable. It just gives you a wider perspective and helps you get out of your own head. Now it’s built into our best practice” And never forget your audience: “User testing. Like every month, even every two weeks. That's how you learn.”