Ben Shaw, founder and CEO of Vets First Choice in Portland, on Tuesday received the New England Entrepreneur of the Year award from Ernst & Young in the healthcare services category.
Shaw has grown Vets First Choice, the startup he founded in 2010 to provide online pharmacy services to veterinary practices, into one of Portland’s most successful technology companies. It currently employs at least 300 people, the majority of which are in Portland.
Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrated business excellence and leadership across a range of categories, including life sciences, healthcare, financial services, food and beverage, etc. Shaw won in the healthcare services category and was one of 17 entrepreneurs who took home an award from the New England region this year.
“I’m really proud of the team at Vets First Choice and the amazing impact we’re making in veterinary health,” Shaw told Maine Startups Insider. “We have fantastic veterinary practice partners that are seeing better health and financial outcomes via insight and engagement on our platform. These are early days at Vets First Choice, and I’ve never been more excited for future prospects for our business.”
Vets First Choice’s business model is simple. There are far too many pet medications for a local veterinary office to stock them all. This means customers go home after receiving a prescription for their pets and order the medications from major online pet drugstores like 1-800-PetMeds and Petcarerx.com. That’s money the veterinarians are leaving on the table, and Shaw saw a way to allow veterinarians to recapture some of that elusive revenue potential by providing them with a white-label e-commerce website, but handling all the back office operations and order fulfillment from a central pharmacy and warehouse, which is in Omaha. This allows a vet to send his or her customers to the vet practice’s own website to fill prescriptions, allowing them to recapture some revenue, while Vets First Choice takes a cut.
The most recent official revenue figure available is from last year’s Inc. 5,000 list, in which the company reported 2015 revenue of $60.9 million. Though, given previous comments from executives about its growth rate, it’s a safe bet that the company will reach, if it hasn’t already, $100 million in revenue this year. I recently wrote about the company’s prospects as an IPO candidate.
Shaw was the only entrepreneur from Maine to be recognized this year, though Jean Hoffman, president of Q Street Advisors in Portland and former founder/CEO of Putney (now known as Dechra), was on the judging panel. She won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in the life sciences category in 2014.