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DigiCom Interview with Matt Terrill, CEO and Co-Founder of Innovet Pet Products & Chefpaw

Pet owners, this is an episode you don't want to miss!

Last week, we spoke with Matt Terrill, a lifelong inventor who's incredibly passionate about dogs.

Here's a little sneak peek into our conversation with Matt as he shares his journey and vision for the pet care industry.

From his early days in college, he realized that his true calling was to combine his passion for inventing with his love for dogs. However, it wasn't until after college, while working in engineering roles, that he found the spark of inspiration. 

Facing a problem with one of his dog's ears, Matt took the challenge of finding a solution, leading to his first patented invention in 2005 and the birth of InnoVet Pet Products.

And over time, InnoVet became a go-to for pet owners looking for solutions to common pet problems. 

His journey didn't stop there. In 2016, Matt recognized another opportunity to make a difference in the pet industry by introducing CBD products for pets. CBD products help with issues like anxiety, pain, and inflammation. Despite the challenges and stigma surrounding CBD at the time, Matt saw the potential to provide much-needed relief for pets like his Labrador and Bulldog.

Then, in the same year, he ventured into a new territory with ChefPaw, a dog food maker. Dealing with his own pets' health issues and struggling with the high costs and limited options in the dog food market, Matt recognized a unique opportunity to redefine pet nutrition. 

ChefPaw, as he goes on to explain in the podcast, simplifies the process of preparing fresh meals for dogs, making it easier for pet parents to provide nutritious AND delicious options for their furbabies. 

When Matt introduced the ChefPaw Dog Food Maker, he encountered a whole new set of obstacles. Getting a revolutionary product like this out there needed a lot of careful planning, substantial investment, and perfect execution. 

Matt mentioned running into problems with getting all the pieces he needed, dealing with issues in the supply chain, and sorting out the manufacturing process. He faced every challenge head-on, learning as he went along. His determination and resilience kept him going, even when things got tough.

On the other hand, the market was also tough, with lots of other companies trying to do the same thing. Matt candidly discusses the impact of competition on his business, emphasizing the need for accountability in digital marketing—a lesson learned through trial and error.

Throughout our chat, Matt continued to share some of his experiences with the ups and downs of building two successful brands and the importance of innovation.

He stressed the need to track results and make data-driven decisions rather than blindly pouring money into ads.

We also discussed the dynamics of e-commerce and the challenges faced by startups. Despite the hurdles, Matt remains hopeful about the future of innovation in pet care. He's driven by a passion to continue solving problems and improving the lives of pets and their owners.

Intrigued? Tune in to our third podcast episode to hear more from Matt and get inspired by his entrepreneurial journey!

Connect with Digicom:

We at DigiCom are obsessive data-driven marketers pulling from multi-disciplinary strategies to unlock scale. We buy media across all platforms and placements and provide creative solutions alongside content creation, and conversion rate optimizations. We pride ourselves on your successes and will stop at nothing to help you grow.

Hemant Varshney (00:00.761)

Matt, thank you so much for jumping on our podcast this week. I am very, very excited to have you. Would love if you can tell our listeners a little bit about yourself.

Matthew Terrill (00:14.51)

Well, I'm glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me. Well, I've been a lifelong inventor, and somewhere around in college, I began to understand that what I really wanted to do was invent products for dogs. It's I've just I've seen the innocence and then the...

the beauty in dogs and it's like they represent the best of humanity. And I wanted to combine my passion for dogs like that with my passion for inventing. And I didn't know how it would really work out. So I got a couple of engineering type jobs after college and then the first time that I had a problem with one of my dogs that there wasn't a solution for.

I began inventing a solution for that and it turned into my first patent and then that started our company and that was in 2005 and so for the past almost 20 years now I've just been pursuing that, pursuing whatever my dog's needs are or my family's dog's needs are and not to exclude other pets. I mean I love cats and that too but my true passion and my true passion and my true passion

Truly best innovations have been for dog related products and solving the problems for my own dogs.

Hemant Varshney (01:43.893)

So Matt, you mentioned your company, and of course we work with you, but our audience might not know your companies, right? And what you're doing, could you talk a little bit about both the brands that you are currently building? I think the story there, it's pretty incredible, especially with the patents. I know you got your first patent with the first company and then the second company, you're building patents.

would love for you to talk a little bit about who the brands are and what they do.

Matthew Terrill (02:18.762)

Yeah, well InnoVet Pet Products is our primary company. We got started with that in 2005 with an ear cleaner delivery product that gets ear cleaner and ear medicine deep into dogs ears while they resist. It basically saves people a ton of money with having like...

deep ear cleaning is done in a veterinarian's office under anesthesia. So that product, it's called Purotic Ear Cleaner. It gets the whole ear cleaning process over with in just a matter of minutes and without anesthesia or anything like that. And then one of my dogs went blind in about 2008 and I created tracers, scented markers for blind dogs.

And but that's a real niche product. So unfortunately, there is no way to, you know, really like, you know, build a build a company off of that one thing. But I love I love the product that helps it helps people. So even though it's not the most profitable one and most lucrative product, we still stick with it because it's really the right thing to do. And then in 2016.

Both simultaneously my Labrador and my Bulldog, they led me straight into the opportunity for CBD for dogs and pets. It was a necessity for it. It turned out that CBD was a necessity for them. And it was really difficult to get to. And I saw the ways that people that the few suppliers that were out there, I saw the ways that those CBD suppliers were manipulating people and.

overcharging by a factor of like a hundred. It was just absurd. It was absolutely absurd. Something that should cost $10 they were charging like $500 for is just crazy. So it was really dangerous at the time. At the time in 2016, CBD was not accepted on any level, federally or state.

Matthew Terrill (04:30.518)

So it was even though it was the right thing to do and it was it was necessary to save my own pets And I knew that other pets needed it also we got into that market and As the first ones to make it available to the public for pets over the over the internet through in a bet and We just we just stuck with it even never despite the risks and all that we stuck with it

and it was definitely the right thing to do in every way. At that point, we soon got a lot of large corporations following us and emulating our innovations and applying better marketing tactics to those innovations, or just trying to tear us down altogether. And so, that was a big learning curve, that having the best product,

Having the most significant innovation is not enough. It's not even close. It has to be paired with truly good marketing. Otherwise, we'll always get beat out by basically people copying us. So, yeah, so that was where InnoVet really got started into the public sphere in 2016.

And so we had a good head start with CB there, and we're still one of the most dominant players in CB for Pets online. But I never want to stop innovating. I never want to just rest on what we've accomplished so far. And so I'm always looking for another opportunity to make a meaningful impact on things. And so about two, three years ago,

Hemant Varshney (06:02.58)


Matthew Terrill (06:21.402)

I saw that I saw the all the basically everything in the universe kind of pushing me toward dog food. And you know, I was spending over $1,000 a month on dog food from for just my two dogs and it was it was insane. I mean, I was basically spending more on them on their food than I was on my own. And you know, they're it was to try and take care of the bulldogs skin condition.

and to try and put enough weight on this really active Labrador that I have. And a thousand dollars a month wasn't enough. Wasn't enough to do it. And so I'm like, you know, what more needs, what more could possibly be done? And so then I realized that my dog was, both my dogs were basically pooping out half of the ingredients to the, of each batch of food. They were pooping out half of them undigested.

So that's why I really started looking into the whole dog food, especially fresh dog food. And I realized there's a tremendous opportunity there of allowing people to make their dog food at home with fresh ingredients and to easily customize the batches and the recipes to tailor it specifically for their dog.

Hemant Varshney (07:46.481)

So what was, so you transitioned from InnoVet, and I've heard this story a bunch of times and it's quite remarkable. What's the name of the second company that you built?

Matthew Terrill (08:01.998)

Okay, yeah. So it took us quite a while to find a name that hadn't already gotten trademarked and that fit. And luckily, we were able to find a perfect one. It's ChefPaw, ChefPaw dog food maker. And yeah, so we secured that trademark. And then it took another six months of hundreds of different logos to go through before we found that.

before we found the one that really fits. Yeah, so we created ChefPaw brand alongside of InnoVet and we really tried to incorporate all the lessons that we had learned the hard way through InnoVet in terms of the launching of ChefPaw. And so we did.

We were able to launch Chef Pot in about a year and a half of R&D and preparation. And yeah, we did it all self-funded and learning some of the things that we were forced to learn with InnoVet and CBD and our peer CBD brand, we saw that InnoVet could

Matthew Terrill (09:26.534)

we could launch ChefPaw in a way that would not have a tremendous amount of overhead, and we would be able to utilize our existing email base from InnoVet to parlay over to ChefPaw to launch it. And we did such a good job with it that within about a week of making the website for ChefPaw go live,

we were dominating page one of the keyword dog food maker, as well as a couple other ones. And so I really feel good about how we launched ChefBall very lean without taking out loans or investors, anything like that. And we also didn't go too far in right off the bat. Like we didn't stock up on a million units, like the way BlackBerry did.

And so we scaled it from 100 units to a few hundred units to a thousand units. And we use that feedback from our loyal email base from InnoVet. We use the feedback from those loyal customers to really fine tune the messaging of ChefPaw and fine tune the app, how it functions, add features that people wanted, delete features that people didn't care about.

and really perfect the machine and everything about it. So now we're really at the phase where we can, the only thing holding us back is really the logistics of how fast we can expand it at this point.

Hemant Varshney (11:07.965)

Yeah, I think that is the next part of growth. And I know like us and the team, we've been chatting about that quite a bit. We're waiting for more product to come back. You have a chef pot right next to you, I believe. Can you just walk us through the unit?

Matthew Terrill (11:22.282)


Matthew Terrill (11:27.718)

Oh yeah, so it cooks and it mixes food up to about six pounds at a time. And the concept is you just throw the fresh ingredients in. Well, we use the app that we created to guide you step by step on which ingredients to add and how much of each ingredient. And it's got a scale built into it so that it really streamlines everything in that regard. And you throw the ingredients in.

turn the machine on to the appropriate setting for your particular recipe. And then 40 minutes later, you've got fresh, you've got about six pounds of fresh dog food. And the settings are really critical because some recipes have ingredients that will stick together or difficult to chop. And then also, the settings allow you to customize for your dog because I've got my lab.

he won't chew anything. He'll just inhale. He'll just eat stuff as fast as possible. So he's gotta have a slow feeder and if there's any chunks in the food, he won't chew them, they'll go right through them. So for him, he needs a higher blended setting so that it cuts stuff down into smaller pieces so it's easier to digest for a dog that doesn't chew. And then my bulldog likes to really chew on things, he likes chunks of stuff.

Hemant Varshney (12:37.502)


Hemant Varshney (12:49.565)


Matthew Terrill (12:56.19)

So for him, we use a slower setting in the machine that mixes really, really slow and doesn't chop. So yeah, so it cooks, it mixes, it chops up if necessary, and it's got a scale built in. And all of it is guided by the app that we created, which is a standalone thing. The app is really tremendous for making dog food with or without the machine. The machine is tremendous for making dog food with or without the app.

But together, the app and the machine really make dog food as streamlined as possible. And at the moment, I can't conceive of a better way to possibly make dog food.

Hemant Varshney (13:35.357)

Yeah, and I also know you've researched a bunch of recipes. Thank you for jumping in and telling us so much about InnoVet and ChefPaw. For our listeners out there, what is a piece of advice you can give folks that are building their brands, whether they're starting off fresh or they're currently in their journey? What advice can you give them to help them grow?

Matthew Terrill (14:04.106)

Well, I would say that in order to grow a business, especially a startup, it's really necessary to dive in and understand everything about the product, leave nothing to chance. And also, in terms of, along the way, there's going to be thousands and thousands of people that are going to...

pitch advertisements to you, everything from individual small marketing companies, all the way up to Amazon itself, and Amazon's like they have multiple different marketing divisions that will pitch stuff at you. And the one common thing behind all of it for a startup is you have to demand accountability, because the single fastest way to have money disappear or to take a successful product

and then have all of your funding go away, it's to put it all into advertising without any accountability behind it. And that's really the thing that I like most about your company and DigiCom, is how much information you give us, how upfront you are about the details and the data, and you're accountable for it too. You want, you see your success tied with our success.

in long term. It's not about it. All the other companies right out there from the from small marketing companies all the way up to Amazon's marketing division. They just want to get as much money out of you as they can in for that week or that month. And if that means you go out of business at the end of it, that they don't care. They'll just move on to the next one. So yeah, so I'd say looking back.

If I could change one thing about what we did with the opportunity with CBD, I would have drilled down into all of the ad spend. Obviously, I wish we would have met you in DigiComb before. But yeah, you can always boil stuff back down to...

Matthew Terrill (16:22.526)

All right, how much did these ads cost and how much money did these ads bring in? And if they can't give you a straight answer along that, you gotta just stop, no matter how scary it is, you gotta stop the ads and move on to the next ad agency that, or marketing company, that can give you a straight answer. And it's really hard to find, but we found it in Digicom and I couldn't be more grateful for that.

Hemant Varshney (16:49.301)

I first, I wanted to say thank you for saying that. It is very important. I myself am a bootstrap founder. I've tried to build brands before, some of them successful, some of them not so successful, but I learned a bunch of things out of it, right? And I very much understand the challenge, whether you've raised money or you're bootstrapping.

like all of the pressures that go into building a company. And so, for us, accountability is important, like having the right KPIs, understanding your product margins, and what profitability means is, it's just very much weaved into our ethos. And our goal is to drive growth, but not growth in like we saw in the dot-com.

boom or right before pre-COVID where it's like growth at all costs. Our goal is to drive profitable growth for select partners where we believe in the product we want to work with alongside our partners. So I really, really do appreciate you mentioning that. It's accountability. It's looking at specific KPIs and also the no bullshit tagline, right? That's where it comes from. Like if you're asking us, hey,

Matthew Terrill (18:02.444)


Hemant Varshney (18:06.101)

We spent $1,000 in ads. How much did that generate, directly and indirectly, right? And we always have access to those numbers. So yes, for brands out there, I think.

Matthew Terrill (18:14.774)


Hemant Varshney (18:21.341)

very much, it is important to have goals and KPIs, but also to break them down and understand the nuances of what that means for your business and how you can continue generating cashflow. Because at the end of the day, cashflow is very, very important to any business, and especially in rotating inventory, ordering new inventory, scaling up. That's, yeah.

So in terms of where you see digital and e-commerce going over the next five years, what are your thoughts there and insights?

Matthew Terrill (18:59.85)

Well, I'm always an optimist and I would like to believe that the trend is going to be toward the playing field getting leveled out and making it easier for a startup to access digital marketing in a profitable way.

However, the reality that I see is I think it progressively becomes more and more difficult for a startup. The cost becomes higher, the number of ways that your money can go towards something that's not profitable, it's staggering. It's really staggering. Yeah.

Yeah, I don't know. That's a tough, it's a really, it's a really tough question. I try, I try to just stay in, stay in my lane and focus on how to, on how to expand, you know, our own, our own business and our own profitability. But I do occasionally think about what it's like for a startup. If someone like, if we were trying to start ChefBot without having gone through what we went through with InnoVet.

or without being able to use InnoVet's resources to parlay over to ChefBot, I don't know how we would do it. Especially with the CB products in the hemp industry, the startup costs now are just unbelievable. Yeah, it's probably...

Matthew Terrill (20:55.543)

We couldn't have started our peer CV brand. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more. We started our peer CV brand for hundreds of dollars. And now there's no way to start a CV company for humans or for pets without hundreds of thousands of dollars. And a large staff to maintain everything behind it.

Hemant Varshney (21:15.573)

Got it.

Matthew Terrill (21:24.054)

Yeah, I would hope the playing field gets more level. With new laws, with digital advertising, and Facebook, and the accountability, the transparency, and all that kind of stuff, it sounds like it levels the playing field, but in reality, I don't really think it does.

Hemant Varshney (22:29.873)

You know, what is one question that you wish I asked you and how would you answer?

Hemant Varshney (22:41.267)

This was a great reflection of the

Matthew Terrill (22:43.679)

I'm the worst, the worst I am with questions is open ended questions like that. I say what do you, competition, what is the field of competition like, like how do you

Matthew Terrill (23:09.035)

Yeah, in terms of startups, what kind of competition?

Matthew Terrill (23:19.458)

How does competition, how do competitors, what is your experience with competitors, I guess?

Hemant Varshney (23:24.093)

impact your business? Yeah. So how do competitors impact your business?

Matthew Terrill (23:34.538)

Well, I'd say that our competition is divided up into, the majority of them are companies that follow what we do on a daily basis. They follow our emails, they study our website on a daily basis, every single thing about us. And they then copy anything they see innovative and just they're primarily marketing companies that...

essentially steal ideas and then apply a better marketing, a more focused marketing strategy to it. For them, what I like to do is reverse engineer what they do, and to a certain degree, do to them what they do to us. So we look at what their marketing tactics are that are successful, and then we apply it. There's a smaller minority of companies that just try and...

build themselves up by tearing us down. And there's nothing we can really do about that, other than not make the mistake of shining a light onto those companies. Those companies, just let them do what they're gonna do. It's sad and pessimistic for people out there like that, but it's a reality. And then there's a very, very tiny sliver of competitors that actually innovate on their own.

And for them, I give them props and I wish them the best. And yeah, man, so.

Hemant Varshney (25:09.957)

those are the brands that are going from zero to one right like they're like just like you they're creating they're creating new products they're creating new you know services they're solving a problem that exists in the market versus like a fast follow fast copy with better marketing and so yeah no I appreciate you calling that up where can our listeners find

Matthew Terrill (25:38.106)

Well, they can find us. Our biggest effort right now is on and our social media that's building on that on Instagram and Facebook. For Chef Paw, we're going to be coming out with lots of videos, especially on YouTube. We're going to be, once this set is finished here, we're going to be...

Developing a whole set of new videos comparing the old way of making dog food to the current chef paw way and And yeah, that's the that's the biggest one and then also InnoVet is where the heart of all of our products are the only reason that chef paw isn't inside of is that

Our largest product on InnoVet is our pure CBD product for pets and CBD has so much baggage attached with it in terms of restrictions and all that we didn't want ChefPaw to be held back by the restrictions that CBD has on InnoVet. So for that reason we created the separate ChefPaw website and the website. But yeah, all of our innovations.

from 2005 till now are on InnoVet and specifically all of our innovations with dog food, pet food actually, is on And yeah, on that note, we're just a few days away from being able to expand the dog food calculations of ChefPaw over to cats and then small animals, horses. And then we'll even bring it full circle and have ChefPaw making human recipes.

Hemant Varshney (27:29.762)

That's amazing, Matt. Thanks for joining our show today.

Matthew Terrill (27:33.014)

All right, thanks. Good to talk to you.


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