Business Pivot: How Greg Liberman Went From People to Puppies

Dogs make people happy. 

There's a reason why they've always been referred to as "man's best friend." 

And connecting the perfect dog to the perfect home has a lot more in common with oldschool match-making than you'd think, as PuppySpot CEO Greg Liberman has discovered.

PuppySpot is an online platform that works only with reputable dog breeders (to eliminate promotion of puppy mills—and concerns from customers) to match healthy puppies with the perfect owners. They're on a mission bring more ethics to the dog breeding industry by promoting only those who follow humane, healthy and stringent compliance standards, have a re-homing program for retired breeding dogs, and an ongoing partnership with Make-A-Wish.

Liberman joined the company in 2015, after years in leadership at Spark (parent company of JDate and ChristianMingle). We had a chance to catch up to him about the work he's doing, pivoting into other industries as an entrepreneur, and the power of puppies. 

Net Impact Los Angeles: What inspired you to make the move over to PuppySpot?

Greg Liberman: Puppies. Need I say more? Elaborating, though, there were two things that excited me about PuppySpot. One was the opportunity to build another iconic brand by injecting trust, transparency and technology into an industry that had historically been pretty opaque and confusing. The second was having the opportunity to work with a team truly dedicated to our mission and each other. Being a lifelong dog lover who convinced my parents to buy me a puppy (actually, several) when I was a kid, I know finding a puppy is not something people do every day. And, navigating the world of shelters, breeders and rescues to ensure you find your dog from a responsible, humane source is not easy. The opportunity to create the trusted brand in the space by eliminating all the scary unknowns as people fetch their new best friend is something that was (and is) really exciting. To compound that, I had the opportunity to do it with an amazing and talented group of people, many of whom I’ve had the privilege of working with before, and it made this an opportunity I could not pass up. PuppySpot, similar to the last company I ran, is truly a mission-driven company and a private sector business that can have a tremendous impact on society—one family at a time—by helping people find a new, furry family member from a responsible source and avoiding puppy scams. And, again, it’s all about the puppies.

NILA: Moving over to PuppySpot from the online dating world seems like a substantial pivot. Can you share any advice with other entrepreneurs and business-leaders about what you learned in that process? 

GL: At first, the pivot may seem big, but the world I live in today has a lot in common with my old world. I’ve gone from matching people with each other to matching people with puppies. The opportunity we saw here, when we started to build PuppySpot, felt very similar to what the online dating industry felt like 15 years ago, and I have discovered that the similarities far outnumber the differences between the two businesses. At its core, PuppySpot is really about building an authentic, trusted brand and community. Helping people find a four-legged family member is a big deal and a long-term commitment, just like it was helping people find love and marriage through iconic brands like JDate & Christian Mingle. It’s important stuff. To get it right, you can’t just create a website and expect to be successful. You have to take it slow, roll up your sleeves and ensure you are serving your community.  That’s why each of our customer receives a survey and I read each and every review that comes back. I’d like to think our customers see that attention to detail—plus the awards we’ve won for excellence in consumer experience—and that’s part of the reason they keep in touch with us long after they get their puppies. All the time, we receive emails and photos from customers sharing updates on how their puppy has changed their lives. It's very rewarding to know we are achieving our mission to make lives better by placing healthy puppies into happy homes. 

NILA: What has working with Spark and PuppySpot taught you about matchmaking in general?  

GL: Matchmaking, whether it’s for people or puppies, has taught me that, by listening to your customers, you always have opportunities to improve what you do. At PuppySpot, we check and then re-check everything to ensure that not only are our responsible breeders meeting our standards, but we screen our customers as well to verify they are ready for their puppy. Our industry-leading standards can’t be static, which is why we created a Scientific Advisory Board comprised of recognized experts in veterinary medicine, animal sciences and dog welfare. We only invite about 10% of the breeders who enter our review process to join our exclusive network, and we turn down customers who we do not believe are ready to make a happy home for a puppy.  Matchmaking is tough because you have to keep refining, keep vetting and keep honing the process if you want to make the best matches.

NILA: What are some of the most impactful matches you've seen happen on the platform?

GL: Every story is amazing, and I love reading reviews that tell me about the immediate and long-lasting impact what we do has on families. That being said, when you ask that question, our Make-A-Wish puppies immediately come to mind. We’ve had the privilege of working with Make-A-Wish chapters across the nation to, literally, help make dreams come true for wonderful children who want or need a very specific puppy based on their medical condition.