Kennesaw State alum finding success at intersection of AI and animals

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 8, 2024

Emerson Smith
Emerson Smith knew he wanted to build his own company, he just didn’t always know what problem he could end up solving.

After graduating from ʯֱ’s Coles College of Business in 2018, Smith tested a few business ideas before heading to Silicon Valley in California, working in software sales and development. It was there, while absorbing the in-demand technical knowledge that a lightbulb went off in his head, and HappyDoc — an AI assistant helping veterinarians drastically reduce the time it takes to complete their legally required record-keeping — was born.

“We capitalized on artificial intelligence and have built a product that just wouldn’t have been possible five years ago,” he said. “The AI is like having an assistant transcribing the conversation, pulling keywords, and placing them in the correct spaces in a vet’s medical records while the vet meets with clients. That’s time that those vets can be at home with their families instead of the office. In some cases, it can turn three hours into 10 minutes.”

Last year, Smith returned to ʯֱ to seek the guidance of the experts at the Coles College and Shore Entrepreneurship Center. During his visit, the center’s staff quickly recognized they could help, and soon, Smith received a $15,000 investment from the Mookerji Innovation Fund. Later, the company received a second $15,000 investment.

“At this stage of HappyDoc’s development, $15,000 maybe wouldn’t move the needle so much, but when I received that money, it was critical to building the company,” Smith said. 

That critical investment helped the company show significant potential to change the veterinary industry. In February, only a month after the official launch of the app, Smith’s company received more than $500,000 in investment in a 24-hour period, and Smith’s next goal is to hit $3 million. Likewise, the company has grown to serve more than 1,000 veterinarians.

Greg Quinet, the Shore Entrepreneurship Center’s executive director, said Smith is a perfect example of the kinds of companies the center and the Mookerji Innovation Fund aim to produce. The center vets business and product proposals from students and alumni and, if they meet certain criteria, provide seed money for early marketing, publicity, software development, customer acquisition, and more.

“We’re aiming to have an outcome-driven center. We want companies started, registered with the state, and the whole goal is move them through a milestone funding process that sets them up for outside capital investment. That’s exactly what Emerson’s done,” said Quinet, noting that ʯֱ has assisted 30 companies with seed money in the last three years.

Quinet recalled Smith’s tenacity during his college years and shortly after, when he was searching for a business idea to pursue. Smith has remained laser-focused on the goal of building a company from the ground up, and he hasn’t let naysayers or obstacles stand in his way, Quinet said.

As hard as he’s worked to get HappyDoc up and running, Smith says he owes a debt of gratitude to ʯֱ and the Shore Center.

“There were things that we needed that we didn’t have the money for, and the Center took a leap of faith on us,” Smith said. “I have so much respect for ʯֱ, my professors and the people there who helped me develop into the person I am today. When it’s my time, I plan to give back to ʯֱ in the same way it gave to me.”

– Story by Thomas Hartwell

Photos submitted

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, ʯֱ offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit