From Petcode to Otto

Senior reflects on the success of his business in the past year

By Niyatee Jain

Otto, previously known as PetCode, was founded by seniors Karan Dalal and Arnuv Tandon in January 2021. In the past year, Otto has quickly gained success and popularity, which Dalal said can only be described as unfathomable. 

The rebranding of the company was mainly due to its similar name with pet company giant, PetCo., and difficulty finding Instagram and other social media handles, Dalal said. The name Otto comes from the social media sensation, Otto the English Bulldog, who was famous for being able to ride a skateboard and even broke a Guinness World Record, Dalal said.   

Transitioning from a physical product to incorporating a digital aspect was the biggest change within the year-long period, as Otto first started as a pet tag with a QR code that could be scanned for information if a lost pet was ever found by a stranger, Dalal said. However, Dalal said he and Tandon realized the potential in helping pet owners learn how to take better care of their pets. 

“Simplifying pet ownership is kind of our new motto. We still have the tag component but it’s really important for us to capture new pet owners right when they adopt pets,” Dalal said. “We work with pet shelters and we give them these tags so that when someone comes in to adopt, they can download our app, scan this tag and all their pet’s information is ready to go. While everyone else is focused on building hardware, CPG or an online store, we’re focused on providing value to pet parents on day one and becoming the brand they trust.”

Otto’s graphic designer and director of marketing, senior Kate Estes, said Otto is special to her because it was something they created without the help of adults or teachers.

REBRANDING AND GROWTH: from a mention in Forbes to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, Otto has quickly become a notable company. (Photo courtesy of Karan Dalal)

“There was nobody guiding me except my team at Otto, and I feel extremely proud of every step of success we’ve achieved together,” Estes said. “When I first joined, I had no idea the full extent of what I was getting into. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved every minute but I never expected Otto to grow to the size it has.”

After starting a Kickstarter in February 2021, Otto was able to raise $100,000, while also utilizing OnDeck, an accelerator that invests money into a company in exchange for a percentage, Dalal said. OnDeck can help a business grow by offering investments, business advice through mentorship and providing connections. Dalal said he and Tandon were able to secure a position in the prestigious accelerator by showing commitment to the company during an OnDeck holiday party, an event in which they were the youngest in the room. 

Though starting a business is something associated with an older demographic, Dalal said age is just a number and that he and Tandon have the merit to share those spaces. 

“High schoolers have a lot of potential when it comes to startups, and it’s just about finding the right telescopes to scout out talent,” Dalal said. “For a lot of people, they acknowledge that we’re not here for validation. Sure, there’s an initial shock factor, but it really came down to ‘okay, you guys are young and you’ve done this much so far.’”

While a mention in Forbes gave Otto publicity, Dalal said they were more focused on how people reacted to their products due to the article coming out right after the Kickstarter. As Dalal reflects on their success, he said while the numbers have been great, the team’s biggest achievement has been creating a company that people enjoy using. 

“We’re excited to go full time and continue creating what we think could be the future of pet care,” Dalal said. “We really want to create a more empathetic world and that’s how we’re going to change it. We’re going to build something huge.”