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GeniusVets Selects Debt Over VC to Grow Its Business
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GeniusVets Selects Debt Over VC to Grow Its Business

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Catherine Daly
Content Strategist
GeniusVets Team, San Diego, CA

TIMIA Capital recently provided a US $1.5 million investment facility to GeniusVets, a San Diego, California-based software company that builds solutions that help practices thrive by creating smarter connections between pet owners and veterinarians.

About GeniusVets

Harley Orion, CEO of GeniusVets, founded his first digital agency in his 20s and sold it to a larger brand agency called L7 Creative. While working in the agency business, he enjoyed the fun, energizing environment but discovered one core flaw: scalability.

“Agency work is like building a skyscraper from the ground up, over and over again. There is very little repeatable work that you can take from one project to the next. This creates a lot of headwinds on profitability, retention, and—most importantly—on scale,” said Harley.

Harley was inspired to go down the SaaS path when he began to get numerous inquiries from veterinary practices needing help with marketing and websites. The costs involved in building new websites and marketing technology stacks from the ground up are prohibitive to most private veterinary practices. Harley knew his web and digital marketing skills could be used to develop a SaaS-based solution that would scale easily and be cost-efficient for vet practices.

He took his idea to David Hall, founder of SEO Inc., and Dr. Michele Drake, established veterinarian with one of the most successful practices in the U.S. They joined him on his journey to help veterinary practices thrive.

Building a Repeatable Solution

Michele introduced the team to a mastermind group of vets to discover their pain points and inform product development. Next, the team began conducting marketing workshops teaching practice owners about the value of digital marketing in maintaining sustainable businesses and competing against large corporations.

“I knew that there was a need in the market. Unfortunately, the quality of the companies that were selling marketing services to the space was terribly low. We knew we could deliver something far better,” said Harley.

Bootstrapping Its Way to Success

Harley kept his day job for quite a long time initially, and the three executives only took a very small salary from the business.

“At first, I realized I could either go out and raise a bunch of capital to pay myself – or I could keep my compensation modest and find high-quality people, and empower them to build something great,” said Harley.

The team developed a core solution for early clients and continued to iterate based on their feedback. They reinvested the cash from these paying customers into further product development and continued to work on product-market fit.

“Genius Vets was a business from day one. We didn’t take a bunch of investor money. Instead, we financed the company by having the courage to go out on day one and sell something to our clients that was still under development, and be confident that we could deliver on that promise” said Harley.

Why TIMIA Capital?

When the time was right to take on capital, Harley and his team explored debt-based options as an alternative to venture capital.

Harley had kept in touch with TIMIA Capital for several years. He believes in Stephen Covey’s sentiment: “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” So when the time was right, he reached out to TIMIA to discuss options.

“TIMIA’s model is ideal for a business like ours,” said Harley. “I think that most people don’t really understand debt—in many cases they think of debt as a negative. But in reality, if you can finance your expansion through debt rather than selling equity, you position yourself better for the future of your company.”

Harley understood that the cost of equity-based capital is be far higher in the long term. “It’s just foolish to think that a million-dollar seed round from a VC is cheaper than raising debt,” he said.

TIMIA’s non-dilutive investment was a better fit for GeniusVets.

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Plans for Investment

GeniusVets is laser-focused on growing its business and remaining the highest performing company in its industry. Today, they drive more search engine traffic than their ten biggest competitors combined.

To maintain this growth, GeniusVets will use some of TIMIA’s investment to build out its sales and marketing teams and some to continue product development to stay far ahead of its competitors.

“We’re working on some other tools that we can deploy to help practices continue to grow and succeed in their marketplace and compete with ‘Dr. Google’ for online search in their local areas,” said Harley.

The rest of TIMIA’s investment will help GeniusVets refinance existing debt to reduce the overall cash burden on the business.

Where to Next?

Harley is focused on building a sustainable business in a deliberate way. Ultimately the team is considering multiple options down the line, including an acquisition or a series A.

Harley explained, “At the end of the day, we want to hold on to as much of the business as possible, up until an eventual exit. I don’t know that I can say we’re going to get to our exit with zero dilution, but we’re going to do our best.” 

GeniusVets is a great example of bootstrapping success, and we look forward to following their sustainable growth journey closely!

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Catherine Daly
Content Strategist

Catherine joined TIMIA Capital as a freelance copywriter and social media manager in January 2019. She has 15 years experience in marketing and held senior positions at a number of technology companies including Hootsuite, Absolute, and Avnet Technology Solutions. Catherine is an expert writer and marketer and holds an executive Masters in Marketing, a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Journalism, and a Diploma in Digital Marketing.