Greta on a bean bag. Photo by Tom Dale.

This blog post tells the backstory of how Puppy Alert! was born.

Back in January, my girlfriend and I acquired a puppy. We named her Greta.

We live in a building on Market Street in San Francisco. It’s an old building with some character. It survived the 1906 quake. It used to be a women’s suit factory. It fell into disrepair some time ago before being renovated into apartments. When converting the derelict building, the architects added a small dog run to the roof.

But there is one problem.

The Problem

Greta waiting patiently by the door.

Dogs need socializing. Humans love watching puppies play. Because the building is one of the few dog friendly buildings in the area, many residents own dogs. At least 25% of the residents in the building own dogs of their own.

There are worse ways to end the day than relaxing on the roof with your neighbors and a few beers while your dogs burn off some energy. But coordinating these roof runs is an expensive task: the overhead of notifying each dog owner takes time. By the time you’ve gone around and knocked on each door, it’s too late and you’ve got a mess in your apartment.

And if a resident gets a new dog, how can you be sure they also get notified of these ad-hoc play sessions?

What we are faced with is a classic communication overhead problem; as the network grows, so too does the effort required to send a message to each node in the network.

Wouldn’t it be nice if when taking our dogs up to do their business, they could also mix in a bit of play time? Can we do this while avoiding the O(n) complexity problem of knocking on all doors in the apartment building?

The Solution

Greta on the dog run, wondering where her friends are.

Because this is San Francisco, this requires a needlessly technical solution. Thus, Puppy Alert! was born.

By merely texting “🐶” to your building’s assigned number, all other opted-in dog owners in the building are notified. If you’re at work, replying with the keyword “WORK” will snooze notifications until 5pm. Replying with the keyword “SLEEP” will mute notifications until 7am the next morning.

Puppy Alert!

The Results

Greta and a few neighbors playing on the roof, a successful application of Puppy Alert!

It’s an elegant solution to an extremely complicated problem. We’re already seeing some amazing traction just within the building.

There’s plenty of growth opportunities here as well. Rather than just an SMS interface, Puppy Alert! could one day grow to have an iOS app, an Android app, and other connected devices. Imagine pressing a button in your apartment when your dog is about to go out. The internet of things!

If you are interested in this remarkable investment opportunity, please get in touch.

Oh, and if you live in 973 Market, come find me in the halls and I’ll give you the phone number.

Visit Puppy Alert!