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BarkCare Brings On-Demand, In-Home Veterinary Care To NYC, And Soon, San Francisco

Bark & Co., the doggie-themed technology company that currently offers a subscription service for dog treats and toys called BarkBox, is expanding its BarkCare service in New York. Last month, the company quietly launched on-demand vet appointments where customers can order a vet to come to their home as easily as they order an Uber or some lunch.

Previously, BarkCare existed as a subscription-based service allowing dog owners to chat with vets on the phone or via video chat. That service grew to a few hundred customers, but, explains Bark & Co. co-founder and COO Carly Strife, the company was limited in terms of the legalities surrounding diagnosing over the phone.

Plus, she adds, “we saw pretty quickly that people wanted the vet in their home, to really be able to do the full service – not just diagnosis, but get tests, prescribe medicine – all the things you would do with the new veterinary practice.”

The new service, which is currently available in Manhattan and Brooklyn and is scheduled to hit San Francisco in March, is meant to replace the earlier BarkCare product. Though the phone-based version of BarkCare is not entirely shut down, Strife says no new subscriptions are being sold.

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One of the big use cases for a vets-on-demand service is for the more routine “well visits,” like when it’s time to re-up on a dog’s rabies vaccine, for example, or to get all the vaccines a new puppy requires. Vets can also diagnose minor, non-emergency ailments, like small cuts, rashes, and other concerns a dog owner may have that warrant an in-person look.

The company found that the majority of vet visits (around 85 percent) are those that can be handled in the home. Anything that’s an emergency, or requires sedation, would be an exception, of course, but the BarkCare vets carry with them the typical vaccines and other commonly prescribed medicines, like topical creams.

For those medicines they don’t have on hand, Bark & Co. has partnered with Best Pet Rx, a medicine delivery service used by local vets, that brings the prescription to the customer for no extra fee (beyond the cost of the medicine itself).

In New York, BarkCare had been contracting with just two vets who could handle anywhere between 5 to 8 appointments per day, each lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Currently, the vets move around the city via mopeds or public transportation, but the company is planing to have a “BarkCare” branded bus. It has also expanded the number of vets on the service to five, and is looking for more.

FEES

BarkCare’s pricing is not as painful as you might think. The fee is a flat $99 for a typical “well” visit. This includes the general exam, and other “doggie maintenance” tasks like ear cleanings or nail clippings, for example. For anything requiring lab work or vaccines, it’s $199. There’s also a “puppy” tier for $149, which includes the puppy exam and vaccines.  

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Bark & Co.’s plan is to eventually take a percentage of those fees, but those prices are not yet set in stone.

When the business expands to the San Francisco Bay Area in a few weeks, the company is planning to cover the entire city and some surrounding areas, including Oakland and elsewhere in the East Bay. A BarkCare app will also be made available, which pet owners can use in addition to setting up appointments via the web or phone.

The convenience of the service is obviously a big selling point, but Strife adds that it’s nice for the “patients,” too. “We felt like no one really asked the dogs when they decided how veterinary care was going to work,” she says. “We tried to optimize the service around what it is the dog would want – which is not going to the vet.”

MORE TO COME

Bark & Co.’s other businesses have been doing well, so far, with its BarkBox service growing 10 times in 2013 to 160,000 customers. Its content portal called The BarkPost, meanwhile, sees some 2 million+ unique visits monthly. And so far, BarkCare vets have made over 500 house calls since the mid-January launch. The company also claims a $25 million revenue run rate.

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NYC-based Bark & Co. now has 45 employees, and Strife says that BarkCare is only one of the many expansions the company has planned.

“One of the things that’s core to our business is ‘social good,’…things we can build and develop to help more dogs to be adopted and rescued out of shelters,” she hints. More news around what’s next will arrive sometime in the next month or so, we’re told.

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Vringo Sells Infomedia Its Mobile Content Business To Sharpen Focus On Patent Suits Against Google, ZTE And More

Vringo, a publicly-traded patent-holding company that has been locked in infringement lawsuits against Google, ZTE, (TechCrunch owner) AOL and others, today announced that it has sold off the last remaining assets of its mobile business that were not directly related to those patent suits, throwing its hat into the ring as a full-on patent chaser.

Infomedia Services, a UK-based company that provides CRM and mobile monetizing platforms to third parties, is buying Vringo’s “video ringtone,” Facetone and other mobile products, existing mobile partnerships, and a portfolio of internally developed patents related to them. It is an all-share deal, in which Vringo will take an eight percent stake in privately held Infomedia.

A spokesperson for Vringo declined to give a valuation for that stake.

Infomedia — which works with publishers like Gameloft and EA Games; carriers EE, Orange, T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile; and mobile device makers Samsung, HTC, Sony and Alcatel — had revenues of $20 million in 2013 and says that included “over 750 million mobile engagements, 300 million portal sessions, 75 million billing transactions and over 5 million downloads.”

It will now add video ringtones (for little clips to play when people call you), “Facetones” (a Facebook integration that lets profile pictures appear when a friend calls, example pictured here), a DIY music video product called Remix, and a fan loyalty platform to its portfolio.

The idea behind the sale is that it will mean Vringo can focus more of its attention on existing patent lawsuits and those it may file in the future, effectively transforming the company into more of a full-fledged patent assertion entity (or patent troll, if you are less charitable).

“We believe this transaction with Infomedia unlocks additional value,” said Andrew Perlman, Vringo’s CEO, in a statement.  “Infomedia has achieved consistent high growth and we believe that combining our global distribution platform and research and development platform with Infomedia’s product offerings and services will create a valuable synergy.  Vringo looks forward to being an equity owner of Infomedia and working closely with the company as it continues to grow.”

As part of the deal, Perlman will join Infomedia’s board of directors after the transaction closes (by March 31, 2014).

Existing Vringo lawsuits include an ongoing search patent case between I/P Engine (a subsidiary of Vringo) and Google, AOL Inc., Google, IAC/InterActiveCorp-owned IAC Search & Media, Gannett Co Inc. and Target Corp.; a multinational case against ZTE (which most recently saw ZTE receiving an injunction on selling base stations in Germany) ; and a case against ADT and Tyco.

Microsoft, which had also been in I/P Engine’s crosshairs, last May agreed to pay Vringo a settlement of $1 million, and enter into a licensing agreement for future use of search patents.

Provisionally, Vringo has won the larger I/P Engine case, too, although without as lucrative a finish as it had hoped. The company had been asking for $696 million in damages, but in the end the judge ruled for $30 million.

There are some more developments on that case to come. The Vringo spokesperson says that his company is meeting with defendants in a settlement conference on January 22, and there is also an appeals court meeting after that, likely at the end of Q1 or early Q2.

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Lock8 Smart Bike Lock Surpasses Funding Goal

If people feel comfortable renting out their houses, and cars, to strangers, why not bikes?

That’s the question that the Lock8 founders asked themselves, inevitably leading to one of the first true smart locks for bikes. Plus, Lock8 uses its smart lock, paired with a mobile app, to facilitate a peer-to-peer marketplace.

Today, Lock8 surpassed its funding goal on Kickstarter, with six days to spare.

Lock8 also happened to be the winner at our first-ever TechCrunch Disrupt Europe Battlefield.

The company launched the Kickstarter campaign on our stage last month, and has now received more than $80,000 with a few days left to spare.

Lock8 works similarly to smart locks in homes; keyless unlock via pairing with a smartphone app. The Lock8 is installed onto the bike and is packed with sensors, which can alert the owner if someone is trying to steal the bike.

If the thief manages to get the bike unlocked, the owner’s phone can track the bike and even set off a remote alarm.

The idea is that, eventually, bike robbers will recognize the Lock8 and beware, paving the way for more trusting cyclists. Then, bikers can rent out their bikes to their friends or others registered on the service to make a little cash on the side.

The Lock8 usually costs around $200, but will be available for $149 for the next six days, during the campaign.

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This rare photo shows the first batch of Apple 1 computers in 1976

A newly-surfaced photo of the original batch of Apple’s first computers is offering a rare behind-the-scenes look at the company’s humble origins, according to the Daily Mail. The image, which is believed to have been taken by Steve Jobs in his bedroom, emerged as part of an auction for a mint-condition Apple 1.

apple1 stack This rare photo shows the first batch of Apple 1 computers in 1976

The owner of the computer decided to put the lot up for sale after another working Apple 1 sold for a record $671,000 earlier this year.

Steve Jobs’ 1976 photograph of the company’s first computers seen for the first time

Image credit: BNPS

Go here to see the original: This rare photo shows the first batch of Apple 1 computers in 1976