Former CEO of Doctor Anywhere, Athena Lee, and medical practitioner, Dr. Grace Su, embark on an entrepreneurial journey in the nascent pet telehealth industry through the launch of their digital veterinarian platform, ZumVet. Sharing a vision of transforming access and approach to animal healthcare, Athena and Grace aspire to leverage their state-of-the-art data-centric solution to bring an impactful change to how we care for our pets. 

ZumVet was founded in 2019 by two telemedicine veterans, Athena Lee and Dr. Grace Su, with a vision to revolutionise the connectivity and accessibility of veterinary care through their digital platform. Connecting caregivers to the most trusted healthcare and wellness providers, ZumVet is driven by its avant-garde data technology, honing its modern-day solution offerings over the years. 

Athena and Grace, as pet owners themselves, are well acquainted with the struggles of juggling their careers alongside caring for the wellbeing of their furry ones. Their experiences and the looming opportunities within the nascent industry, brought the two together in spearheading the animal health and wellness movement in Southeast Asia.

Athena, as the former CEO of Doctor Anywhere, was exposed to the many intricacies of telehealth models and services, which helped her cause and passion for building accessible veterinary care. On the other hand, Grace’s medical background and years of experience within the industry, equipped her with the fundamentals of what goes into providing essential solutions and access to healthcare. 

They are since dedicated to pushing the boundaries of veterinary healthcare through their digital platform, while building a broader community of like-minded individuals to deliver quality pet care and other holistic offerings. 

The HealthTech entrepreneurs share more on their collective experiences and passion for animal welfare, and how their telemedicine platform has bridged the gap between caregivers and veterinary aid, driving a purposeful digital transformation. 

Zumvet_Athena Lee and Dr. Grace Su

Can You Introduce Us to Your Roles at ZumVet?

Grace started: “I am the co-founder and COO of ZumVet. I manage the operations, and everything related to the structure of our services, how we ensure the safety, and meet the need of pet owners with new [solutions] and offerings.”

Athena followed: “I am the co-founder and CEO here. [My work] mainly starts with [communicating] our vision and mission, and [planning] our strategy to coordinate with our team and [ensure] we are moving in the right direction. [I also handle] external stakeholders, as well as fundraising, and talking to [various] investors, and partners, and making sure that we are [well-positioned] in the public perspective.”

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What Was Your Role Prior to Founding ZumVet, and What Inspired This sShift? 

Grace initiated: “I am a human medical doctor by training, I [worked] in accident emergency centres, intensive care units, and surgical disciplines, [where] things need to happen quickly, and outcomes need to be measured to mitigate any negative [effects] or mishaps. 

What inspired me to make the career shift was that I have cats, and it is often quite difficult to tell our bosses that we might come in a little late because we had to take care of pets. 

As a [caregiver], there is the intention and desire to do the best for your pets, but you have real-life implications. We wanted [to develop] a service that provided individuals with convenient access to veterinary help, and equip [them] better to navigate various difficulties.”

Athena stated: “I worked mainly in corporate and financial institutions. Within my roles, I was [rather intrigued] by the technical aspects of operating a business. [Thereon], I decided to shift to the startup world, and took up a position to expand a series B startup from the United Kingdom (UK) to South Asia. 

I then took up an opportunity to join a startup in Singapore, which was a human telemedicine platform, Doctor Anywhere, that was how I became drawn to healthcare. It was high impact and there was [plenty] to learn and fix. 

Being a new pet owner myself, and seeing the problems within the ecosystem, [propelled my desire] to fix the issues, our [shared passion for animal care is what] brought Grace and I together.”

ZumVet_Hive Life

Can You Introduce us to the Concept Behind ZumVet? 

Grace: “ZumVet is an online digital veterinary platform, we started with video consultations as our initial service on the website. We now have an app whereby you can book vet appointments through [virtual] call, which is embedded in [our platform]. This is part where [we aim] to create a service per human healthcare standards, and safety issues are also [taken into account]. 

Every pet is different, [we offer you the] option to select and customise healthcare [solutions] based on your [unique needs], which is an important part of our platform. 

[Addtionally], [we have expanded our] e-commerce offerings, which are [relatively] new on our platform. We wanted to provide pet owners with a curated selection of [essential pet] products. 

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What Were Your Aspirations Behind Introducing Such a Platform to Singapore? 

“As animal lovers and pet owners first, we are on a mission to raise the standard of care. In the industry, there are not many who are looking to solve the problem, and are focusing on what is available to them. We, however, want to go about it a different way, we [consider diverse] elements that can drive [healthcare] and improve it over time. This includes [targeting various] stakeholders, from pet owners, and vets, to nurses, and then addressing the real pain [points] of the market,” said Athena.  

What Unique Value Do You Envision Creating? 

“We aim to be as consumer-centric as possible, and reduce the number of questions and [uncertainties] through the accessibility of information and care providers. As for our supplier, we do our due diligence [in ensuring] and providing quality medications. We [hope to empower] pet owners in understanding the consequences of the medical decisions they make. 

We are [working on] reducing those struggles for pet owners. [What makes] our solution fast and accessible is that one does not have to visit a clinic, our online telemedicine functions as a viable option. [We incoporate] a holistic 360 care approach to our services, covering pet dietitians, physiotherapists, and others. 

[We] help you make the next best decision for your pets,” added Grace and Athena. 

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As Pet Owners Yourselves, What Are Some Major Challenges You Face, and How Does ZumVet Tackle Them? 

Grace: “I had a dog since I was 12, and recently got a cat. One thing I have learned is that everyone assumes that your doctors will surely know what to do. The truth is it is not [the case]. I still have many questions, and this is not a struggle unique to me. We feel [immense amount of] stress as the caregivers, [to ensure we can] provide them with good quality of life and access to what they need. 

[Hence,] we [ought to] provide solutions to the benefit of our clients. We have been passionate about [offering] palliative care for geriatric pets, because these experiences are emotional and personal for every owner, and this is where we make the biggest difference.” 

Athena: “As a newer pet owner, you realise that the most fundamental decisions you make are not intuitive, for instance, I had no idea what I should feed them and how often so, the only solution is to search Google or ask people around you. 

Personally, when we first started ZumVet, my ethos was we should not turn anyone away. Regardless, of whether it is a simple question or a [complicated one], we should be prepared to equip learners in making these decisions.”

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How Has Your Platform Raised More Awareness of the Need for Better Healthcare for Pets? 

Grace: “Our initial modality is that we provide care through video consultations, we have seen this for human telemedicine, however there is still quite a bit of education that needs to happen. We need pet owners to understand that a big part of diagnoses is, in fact, careful history-taking. In 70% of our cases, [the professional can identify] a fairly definitive and accurate diagnosis.

It is important that as an entire pet care ecosystem we all work together to help improve education, and hence, the quality of healthcare.” 

Athene: “One of the major issues with pet care is that everything is out of pocket. It is a problem with payment, but also education. Most owners wait too long before they see a vet right because they are trying to save some money. We want to advocate the idea of getting advice early, and there is a high possibility that your bill size may go down [significantly]. 

After Covid, we are seeing this shift, as there is a better understanding of telemedicine.” 

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How is ZumVet Unique in Integrating Technology in Its Solution?

Athena: “In other healthcare platforms, they would ultimately [direct] you to a vet, whether it is online or in-clinic. However, we found that in most cases, the issues could be behavioural or medical, which does not make sense for us to refer a pet to the veterinarian. [Our platform] allows [careproviders] to speak to trainers, healthcare professionals or even nurses. 

We work with various clinics, and within our system to harness the data, synthesize it, analysis the most common conditions to put forward the best treatment in those cases.” 

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How Does Your Platform Bridge the Gap Between Pet Owners and Care Providers?

Grace: “Our solution will continuously strive to bridge this gap through our data-driven [capabilities], as we can collect essential statistics from our clients and pet owners, and based on their [unique] needs, our offerings can be customised accordingly. The needs of each market are prone to change and are influenced by local government, recommendations, geography structure, demographics, along with other factors. 

[Our strong] data-centric approach allows us to [effectively] address the issues of [distinct] veterinary care in the [region].” 

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What Are Some Important Factors Pet Owners Should Consider When Selecting Healthcare Services for Their Pets?

Athena: “Take a similar approach to that of human health and pediatric care and apply it to your pets. When it comes to choosing the right solution, it mostly depends on the specifications [of the problem], and whether people are more comfortable with technology or prefer face-to-face interactions. Whenever in doubt, turn to vets or specialities, as they will be able to guide you in the right direction.

As [careproviders], especially for first-timers, do your homework and understand the responsibilities of pet ownership and be open [to trying] different solutions.” 

Grace: “Ensure that you do not get analysis paralysis. Sometimes you get fixated on finding the best and most trusted vet, the ideal timing or more, and that is when pet owners in efforts in sometimes miss the point. Be realistic with your [demands], and try to be more compliant with visitations to your physical clinic whenever your pet needs it. 

If you need a solution that gives you more convenience, you can then utilise solutions and access that better fit your lifestyle.”

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What Does the Future Hold for ZumVet? 

Athena:Our initial plan was to go into palliative care, we wanted to create a solution for the [aged] population of pets that tends to be ignored, especially in Asia. People who are first-time caregivers lack the [knowledge and resources to provide for their furry ones] when they start getting older, as there is no real infrastructure for that age group. 

Over the next three years, we hope to [create] an [impactful] solution where we can grow with our pets and offer treatments catered to older [population of animals.]”

Athena: “Southeast Asia will be [our major] focus. Other than Singapore, Indonesia is a big market for us, and will spend the next year growing that market.”

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