Whatever Happened To: Ex-Kaspien CEO Kunal Chopra
E-commerce executive is now on ground floor of pet care marketplaceAugust 3rd, 2023
Kunal Chopra, former CEO of Spokane-Valley based e-commerce company Kaspien Holdings Inc., having been back in Seattle for over a year, is now at the helm of a new startup called PawCare.
“I wanted to return to my entrepreneurial roots and build a company from scratch,” Chopra says.
PawCare is a booking platform that connects pet owners and pet care providers, including pet groomers, day care providers, and trainers, he says.
He claims that the pet care industry in the U.S. generates $40 billion in annual revenue, but fundamental functions like booking appointments can be difficult.
Chopra says the PawCare platform takes a mobile-first approach with apps for Android and Apple devices.
“We want to give a modern way to access pet care,” he says. “I’ve got a lot of experiences with marketplaces, and PawCare is nothing but a marketplace for pet parents and pet care providers.”
Chopra, who is 41 years old, says he’s also a “pet parent,” with an 8-year-old labradoodle named Cocoa.
He describes PawCare as an early-stage business that was incorporated six months ago and currently has 10 employees.
“We’re growing the business and eventually will raise capital and scale it,” he says.
PawCare was founded in Los Angeles as a spinout of venture capital company Struck Studio, but Chopra says he intends to set up PawCare’s headquarters in Seattle.
The platform’s first urban market is in Chicago, although Chopra says plans are underway to roll out PawCare in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and other U.S. cities.
The company generates revenue by charging consumers a convenience fee and also by charging pet care providers fees for bookings.
PawCare currently is booking nonmedical services and plans to work veterinarians into the marketplace as soon as early next year, he says. The platform, for example, lists pet groomers along with their open time slots for appointments that can be booked by tapping a few e-buttons.
Chopra says he expects to tap Spokane for talent as the company grows.
“We’ve got a lot of sales and marketing roles and engineering roles opening up soon,” he says. “Things are very remote now. There’s no reason to be collocated in certain locations.”
Chopra says his time in Spokane from 2019 to 2022 was a “very positive experience,” especially at a time when Kaspien was growing and thriving.
One of his proudest accomplishments during his three-year tenure at the company was “being able to take Kaspien to its top level of growth,” he says. “When I was there, Kaspien had one of its best years of revenue growth and profit margins.”
He says he also was proud of the company’s culture under his tenure, noting that Kaspien was ranked among the best places to work in the Inland Northwest in 2020 and 2021.
He says that when his in-laws visited the U.S. from India for the first time in many years, they came directly to Spokane and fell in love with the Inland Northwest.
“They said that’s one place in the world they want to retire,” Chopra says. “That’s a testament to Spokane.”
Following a few quarters of disappointing earnings, however, Chopra and Kaspien parted ways in the spring of 2022.
After leaving Kaspien, Chopra was CEO for a year at Beckett Group, a private equity-owned platform for the collectibles industry. He helmed the Austin, Texas-based company from Seattle and helped transition subsidiary Beckett Collectables to a technology platform.
His managerial career in technology and marketplaces began in the Seattle area, where he logged two stints at Microsoft Corp. In the first, he worked in engineering leadership positions from 2006 to 2013. In the second, he was a product manager from 2018 to 2019.
Between Microsoft jobs, he was director of product management for Groupon from 2012 to 2014, chief operating officer of e-sports betting company Unikrn from 2014 to 2016, and a product manager at Amazon.com from 2016 to 2018.
Chopra and his wife, Sonal, have been married for 15 years, and they have a son, Kiaan.