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1Mby1M Deal Radar 2012: Jellyfish Art, San Francisco, California

Posted on Tuesday, May 22nd 2012

Many people want to have pets, but they want pets that require less maintenance and attention than cats, dogs or birds. That’s part of what makes pet fish popular. Aquariums only have to be cleaned occasionally, and fish demand little attention. Most of us are used to seeing tanks with goldfish, angel fish and guppies. But the latest trend in the low-maintenance pet world is pet jellyfish.

Capitalizing on this trend, San Francisco, California–based Jellyfish Art sells specialized aquariums and products that allow jellyfish to thrive in the comfort of their owners’ homes. Jellyfish have become popular to exhibit because of their unique nature and mesmerizing and soothing movement. Personalized jellyfish aquariums from Jellyfish Art have been met with strong demand and are highly sought after as a new form of interior decoration. The aquariums are also used as sources of light and focal points in offices and other spaces.

Jellyfish exhibits opened in public aquariums several years ago when scientists first discovered how to display jellyfish in captivity by using tanks with special water flow patterns. Jellyfish can now be found in virtually all public aquariums. It quickly became clear people loved to watch jellyfish, but there was no way for individuals to own jellyfish as pets in the comfort of their homes.

Jellyfish Art founder and CEO Alex Andon has a BS in biology and environment science from Duke University. He became fascinated with marine animals while free-diving through underwater tunnels in coral reefs during a visit to the British Virgin Islands. For a time, he worked for the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, where he camped on beaches in Crete to protect sea turtle nests and hatchlings. Andon accumulated extensive experience in building aquariums for his own research projects at Duke and the University of Delaware. He founded Jellyfish Art on a platform of cutting-edge jellyfish husbandry techniques that have been developed over the past decade.

After much tinkering and experimenting, Jellyfish Art started selling its jellyfish tanks, food and jellyfish through its website to satisfy people’s growing desire to own the umbrella-like creatures, also known as medusas, as pets. Within two months, the company had sold roughly three thousand units. Andon chose to sell moon jellyfish because they are harmless to humans and inexpensive.

Although Jellyfish Art originally pitched its product as a luxury item, the founders discovered that the demand for pet jellyfish far exceeded their initial estimates. The general public was extremely interested in raising and enjoying jellyfish. So, Jellyfish Art created a product that was affordable, beautiful, and available to the masses.

Jellyfish cannot go into a standard fish tank because they would get stuck in corners and sucked into filtration intakes. Jellyfish Art’s signature Desktop Jellyfish Tank has a water flow pattern designed to keep jellyfish healthy and properly displayed. The company also makes customized frozen jellyfish food that’s high in fatty acids. Jellyfish are kept in stock at all times, so customers have a reliable supply.

According Andon, he and his company are literally creating a new market. Currently, Jellyfish Art has no direct competitors. There are competitors that sell fish and other animal life online (e.g., PetSmart, Petco), but no one sells specialized jellyfish tanks, live jellyfish, and food that’s tailored to maintaining happy and healthy jellyfish. Until Jellyfish Art, there was no company selling and making personal jellyfish tanks and shipping live jellyfish, which can be purchased easily online, to customers.

Jellyfish Art takes company culture seriously. The team members have a great bond both inside and outside of work, and they frequently meet up for out of work events such as playing basketball together, meeting for happy hours, eating meals together, etc.

Jellyfish Art targets men and women aged 30 to 45 years old who want a low-maintenance pet, a unique gift for someone who has everything, or a modern and fascinating interior decoration for their homes or offices.

The pet industry is a $60 billion dollar a year industry, of which the pet fish market claims $5 billion.  Jellyfish Art, still in its infancy, already earns more than $100,000 per month in sales and expects to exceed $1 million in revenue in 2012.

A jellyfish tank and accessories, without jellyfish, costs $285. Jellyfish Art’s single jellyfish kit, which includes a tank, accessories, jellyfish food, and one live moon jellyfish, costs $382. A three-jellyfish kit costs $499, and the deluxe kit, which includes three jellyfish, two red leg hermit crabs, and two cleaner snails, costs $709.

Instead of following the traditional funding route, Andon pitched Jellyfish Art on Kickstarter and raised $163,000. Because the company is profitable and growing, Andon is not actively pursuing funding at this time.

Jellyfish Art’s growth strategy includes diversifying revenue channels, providing its product for people in other countries, and developing new products related to its jellyfish aquariums and accessories.

Andon has no thoughts about exits. He and his team are passionate about what they do, and all of their time and effort is reinvested back into the business to, they hope, build it into the Amazon of the online pet industry.

Related Readings:
The 1M/1M Deal Radar 2010: SitStay, Lincoln, Nebraska
The 1M/1M Deal Radar: Dura Doggie
The 1M/1M Deal Radar: Camp BowWow 

This segment is a part in the series : 1Mby1M Deal Radar 2012

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