The Upstart: Mark Bordo is making visiting the veterinarian easier than ever

The Upstart: Mark Bordo is making visiting the veterinarian easier than ever

Allison Clark Photography

Who: Mark Bordo, co-founder and CEO of Vetster, a telemedicine service for pets
Company HQ: Yonge and Lawrence
Founded: 2020
Employees: 30

How it works: “Users create a free account for their pet—whether it’s a cat, a turtle or a horse—then Vetster will connect them with a registered veterinarian for a virtual appointment.”

Eureka moment: “Before the pandemic, I was a CEO stuck at the office most days, and I had a hard time getting my 13-year-old cockapoo, Riley, to the vet. Most of the time, someone else would have to take her, which wasn’t working for me. So I started thinking about telemedicine for animals. I wanted to create a service for people who were housebound, travelling or otherwise unable to get immediate health care for their pet.”

How much you spent initially: “$100,000 for product development, research and marketing, as well as hiring a head of strategy and a medical director.”

Your turning point: “The pandemic really accelerated everything for us. Suddenly, the rise in pet adoption, combined with everyone being stuck at home, increased the demand for virtual veterinary visits.”

Your big-time backers: “We got $12.5 million from angel investors and venture capital firms like Whitecap, Brightspark and Hedgewood.”

Tech jargon you use too much: ‘Pace.’ It basically describes doing things quickly. The world moves really fast, so I’m always focused on ways to help the company grow.”

The best advice you’ve received: “ ‘Be persistent.’ Being an entrepreneur is difficult, but every good idea can be successful if you execute and overcome the day-to-day hurdles.”

The worst advice you’ve received: “ ‘That idea won’t work.’ Some of the biggest tech success stories probably heard this at some point along the way. You just need to block out the negativity.” 

Past life: “In the 2000s, before Airbnb existed, I started the vacation rental marketplace CanadaStays. I eventually sold it to Expedia in 2019.”

Coolest thing in your office: “A painting of some of the most famous goal celebrations in Canadian hockey history, featuring Henderson, Gretzky and Crosby. I bought it online for $250.”

Typical work-from-home attire: “I’m a big baseball fan. I like to wear T-shirts with the Blue Jays or Yankees logo on them.”

App you can’t live without: “ When I’m not focused on work or family, I turn my attention to sports, which helps me decompress.”

If you weren’t running a start-up: “I’d love to be the general manager of the Leafs or Blue Jays.”