ENTREVESTOR: Antigonish firm a world leader in veterinary voice recognition

Shawn Wilkie at his office in Halifax

Shawn Wilkie at his office in Halifax

Not many startups can describe themselves as “profitable” before their third anniversary, but Dragon Veterinary can.

Based in Antigonish, Dragon Veterinary provides voice recognition software for veterinarians. Two years ago, when it was just setting out, the company had no sales, but now the product is being used by about 500 vets around the world. The company has funded this growth with just $135,000 in equity financing and a $100,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and now it is scaling.

“The biggest news from my perspective is that we’ve got a really strong foundation for growth,” said president Shawn Wilkie in an interview Monday. “We’ve got a solid base of private investors. We’ve got some money and we are making money day by day. . . . We’re continuing to enhance our software and helping veterinarians around the world.”

Dragon Veterinary came to life when Wilkie, the founder of Antigonish-based Robotnik, which provides robotics networks, was introduced by Nuance Communications to Brian Poteet, a veterinary radiologist in Houston, Texas. Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance is the global leader in voice recognition software. The company had a voice-to-text product for doctors and wanted to work with Poteet and Robotnik on something similar for the veterinary industry.

Wilkie explained that the technical vocabulary used by veterinarians is so complex and so precise that it’s difficult to produce software that recognizes the words and places them in the proper context. Any vet using standard voice recognition software on their smartphone would have about a 30 per cent accuracy rate, he said. But by using Dragon, which is available for iOS or Android platforms, they can achieve an accuracy rate of more than 95 per cent.

The company — which has offices in Antigonish and at Volta Labs in Halifax — is continually adding to the vocabulary recognized by the system, especially the names of new drugs. Wilkie said the complexity of this vocabulary provides a barrier to entry for any competitors into its business.

The thrust of its sales pitch is that vets save time by using voice recognition software, which means they can increase their billings. And the fact that it’s a mobile app means that animal doctors visiting farms or homes can make notes on site.

The sales strategy relies heavily on trade shows around the world. The company is attending 26 of them this year, and the total budget for them is almost $300,000. But Wilkie says it’s an effective sales strategy in this market.

“We’re going after doctors who are busy and don’t like people showing up at their office trying to sell them something,” said Wilkie. “And they’re required to attend continuing education every year. We thought this was the best chance we have to get in front of them because they all have to attend these conferences.”

Wilkie said the company’s 500 clients are spread across every continent, which provides strong validation for the product. And given that there are about 300,000 veterinarians in the English-speaking world, he believes the company has only scratched the surface of its market.

“We’re kind of just ready to grow,” he said. “I liken it to a race horse that’s been in training for the past couple of years and is now ready to get on the track.”

Peter Moreira is a principal of Entrevestor, which provides news and data on Atlantic Canadian startups.

Dragon Veterinary Goes Global While Supporting Local

A High Tech Start-Up From Small-Town Nova Scotia is Changing the Way Veterinarians Around the World Practice Medicine

Visit Antigonish.

Visit Antigonish.

ANTIGONISH, Nova Scotia, Oct. 26, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Antigonish based Dragon Veterinary, developer of a speech recognition software vocabulary custom tailored to veterinarians, is pleased to have been a platinum sponsor of the 2017 Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association AGM Weekend.

On the weekend of Oct. 14 veterinarians from across Nova Scotia gathered at the Atlantica Oak Island Resort to share lessons learn, plot a direction for veterinary care in Nova Scotia and catch up on continuing education.

"We're really happy to be part of this," said Dragon Veterinary President Shawn Wilkie.
Dragon Veterinary has become a resident business of the Volta Labs startup hub in Halifax. The non-profit super-hub for technology innovation provides office space, legal and human resources support to progressive startups like Dragon Veterinary. In addition, Dragon Veterinary head office is in Antigonish.

This year Dragon Veterinary is taking its voice recognition software vocabulary to over 26 tradeshows from Europe, to Australia and the United States. "It's just growing exponentially," Wilkie said about the expansion.

It hasn't even been two years since Dragon Veterinary unveiled its voice recognition software vocabulary specifically tailored to veterinarians and designed to work hand in glove with existing practice management software's on the market. Dragon Veterinary now has customers on every continent. The Dragon Veterinary software is compatible with Dragon® Medical Practice Edition 2 speech recognition software.

Dragon Medical Practice Edition 2 and Dragon Veterinary help veterinarians navigate and dictate medical decision-making and treatment plans into their Veterinary Management Software of choice.
Recently Dragon Veterinary unveiled their Android and IOS compatible app - allowing vets to fill out patient forms, answer emails and attend to their practice's paperwork hands-free while away from the office.

"Anytime I would be going to a keyboard, I will turn to the microphone on and use that instead," said Dr. Eamon Draper, a Bedford, Nova Scotia, veterinary surgeon who uses Dragon Veterinary. "I'm on top of my records better and it means I tend to have them more finished by the end of the day."

Dragon Veterinary has teamed up with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to continue improving its technology and expanding its reach to more customers. ACOA is providing a $100,000 interest-free loan to match the $125,000 Dragon Veterinary has raised from private investors. For Wilkie, being able to partner with government agencies not just to access capital but for guidance has been one of the advantages to growing a tech start-up in Nova Scotia.

"Just one example would be when we were going to London for a trade show. The day before the show we realized in true start-up fashion we didn't have a visa and had no idea about the laws and legislation when it came to a Canadian company doing business in the UK. We called Nova Scotia Business Inc. and within 15 minutes we were on the phone with a development officer who had tonnes of experience in the UK and could tell us exactly what we needed to know."

Another advantage to doing business in Nova Scotia has been quality of life. Dragon Veterinary, says Wilkie, is further proof that high tech can be done in rural Nova Scotia just as easily as it can be done in this continent's urban centres where both the beach and a sense of community seem so far away.