A pub, some curry, and ‘Ellen’: My Talking Pet’s road to success

December 3, 2013, 8:26 PM UTC

On Oct. 14, Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs, stars of the CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls,” joined Ellen Degeneres on her talk show to discuss an affection that many people can relate to: a love for their pets. Dennings and Behrs added a technological twist when they praised a relatively new app that not only helps users share photos, but also allows their owners to put words in their pets’ mouths.

My Talking Pet is a simple enough idea. A user snaps a picture of their beloved dog or cat (or anything resembling a face), tells the app where the parameters of the animal’s facial features are, and then records an audio message. The app animates the picture, moving the pet’s eyebrows, nose, and mouth, and plays the recorded message. The end result makes it seem like the animal is talking.

After the unsolicited endorsement on “Ellen,” My Talking Pet exploded, becoming the most downloaded paid app in the Apple iTunes store through October, and remaining in the top 20 paid apps in the entertainment genre through the beginning of December.

MORE: Amazon aims for drone delivery

The masterminds behind My Talking Pet are Iain Baird and Peter Worth, London-based former classmates with expertise in business development and mobile app development, respectively.  The concept for the app began, like a few other brilliant ideas, while Baird met some friends at a local pub. That night, he and his friends had discussed pets in general (Baird and his wife have a chocolate lab) and laughed about a viral YouTube video featuring a “talking dog.” They wished there was an easy way for them to make their pets look like they were talking.

“All of the ideas were starting to merge together,” said Baird. He brought the idea for the app to Worth a little while later. The two met for curry and talked about transforming a pint-infused funny concept into a real app. It worked. My Talking Pet took several months to develop, and when the London-based duo first put the app on the iTunes market in early 2013 at $0.99/69p, it made around $50 a day.

Thanks in part to the celebrity endorsement, My Talking Pet has raked in over $100,000 since mid-October.  “I’ve earned more from the last few weeks of the app then I have in six months at my day job,” said Baird. He said that the app’s success all comes down to its feature on “Ellen.” “[The endorsement] absolutely has changed my life,” said Baird. “I’m going to call it a day and go in on this full time.”

MORE: Chinese authorities conduct unannounced ‘inspections’ of Bloomberg News bureaus

WOBA Media — the name is a portmanteau of Worth and Baird’s last names — plans to expand by hiring more employees, breaking into the Android app market, and incorporating more modes into the My Talking Pet app. Current ideas include “devil mode” (which will add glowing red eyes to the photo), “angel mode” (which will add wings and a halo), and a number of cutesy birthday features like party hats. My Talking Pet is also developing an add-on for images of people that will realistically capture human facial expressions. While the app has had the most traction in the U.S. and the U.K., it has had global success with users in Australia, Canada, and Japan as well.

“People are obsessed with it,” said Baird. “I think it’s really struck a chord with how close people are with their pets.”