In 2013, Mr Ivan Loh was on a business trip overseas when he got a call telling him his two dogs had gone missing. A contractor renovating his family home had left the gate open, and the 11-year-old Labradors, Dawn and Ash, had wandered off.
"It was a horrible feeling, and there are probably no words to describe it. I couldn't focus on the business trip, and there was nothing I could do because I wasn't in Singapore," said Mr Loh, 38.
Fortunately, two weeks later, his mother spotted a notice at a nearby shopping mall saying two dogs had been found, and the trio were reunited.
To save fellow pet owners from the same worry, Mr Loh started Pet Widget, which was launched three weeks ago. Pet Widget is an iOS and Android smartphone app that is integrated with Badge, a small round tag meant to be worn on a pet's collar. Badge has a QR code and an identification number on it, as well as NFC capabilities.
Mr Loh said Badge has advantages over traditional methods of locating lost pets. "If a pet is microchipped, it needs to be taken to a vet with a microchip scanner, and the vet will still have to contact the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority for the owner's details.
"Engraved tags that can be bought at some pet stores cost about the same, and they contain very limited information. If you change your phone number, the tag also becomes useless."
Pet Widget is an ecosystem or social platform for pet owners to connect. You can ask about what to do if your dog has a cough, or look for recommendations for pet-friendly cafes.
MR IVAN LOH, founder of start-up Pet Widget, on what the free platform can offer pet owners.
A Badge costs $29, and is available at pet stores such as Kohe Pets, The Barkery Singapore and The Animal Ark Veterinary Group. It is also available from lifestyle store Naiise.
Once a Badge is scanned with a smartphone, it will link to a profile on the Pet Widget platform, where you can get the owner's contact details, as well as other information like the pet's allergies and medication it is on. These details can be updated online at any time.
Mr Loh, the CEO of e-commerce platform Bugis Street Online and an adjunct lecturer at Nanyang Polytechnic, hopes Pet Widget will be a one-stop resource for owners of all pets, from dogs to fish and birds.
"Pet Widget is an ecosystem or social platform for pet owners to connect," he said. "You can ask about what to do if your dog has a cough, or look for recommendations for pet-friendly cafes."
It has a forum where users can add to and comment on listings of services like those of vets, cafes and trainers. It also lets you "friend" fellow pet owners, and see pictures of their pets, and get updates.
The free platform, the first of its kind in Singapore, has more than 2,000 registered users.
Mr Loh has put "about $100,000" of his money into developing the platform. Pet Widget is generating revenue from the sales of Badges - about 1,500 of them have been sold so far - but Mr Loh hopes to eventually move towards a business-to-business model. For example, the app can work with a pet store to offer location-based coupons. Mr Loh has plans to expand to Malaysia and Australia by the first quarter of next year, and the US after that. He said: "We want to create something that can service the pet community worldwide..."