To test the idea further, the couple brought in dog parents to get feedback. Although they didn't have a working prototype, Chang and Cheung set up a rigged camera and speaker so owners could talk to their pets from another room to experiment. Then, Chang, hiding behind a couch, would toss a treat to the dog at the owners' request.
The response was joyous, he says.
“[Owners] would just go nuts over it, so then we had that proof of concept,” Chang says. “Once the users showed us that there was that great demand, we were all in.”
The couple spent months sourcing engineering help, 3-D printing components and building an app to allow the internet-connected piece of hardware to be run via a smartphone. It wasn't easy: "[Hardware] is one of the toughest things you can possibly do, especially if it is an IoT [internet of things] device that connects to the internet," Chang says.
The couple had been running the operation using family savings, but decided in April 2016 to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
“Indiegogo was the first time we were showing ourselves to the world, and the feedback was just incredible,” Cheung says. “In the first six hours we already hit our funding goal, and that’s when we knew, ‘Wow, there’s something there.’”
By the time the Indiegogo campaign closed on June 26, 2016, the Furbo Dog Camera had raised more than $511,000.
Their campaign was so successful, it caught the attention of Amazon.
"There is a team at Amazon called Amazon Exclusives that focuses on looking at successful crowdfunding campaigns," Chang explains. "Once they saw Furbo, they were really quick to reach out to us."
Being a member of Amazon Exclusives means brands can't sell their product with other retailers, but Cheung and Chang decided partnering with the e-commerce behemoth would be a smart way to get their product in front of more consumers, "once we realized who our customers were," Chang explains. "They were about 25-year-old to 45-year-old dog mom and dads who shopped online frequently."
It took about three months for supporters on Indiegogo to start receiving their Furbo Dog Camera products. Then it was time to ramp up production for Amazon. "Immediately after we finished, Amazon was working with us to launch the product [there]," Chang explains. By October of 2016, the product was available for purchase on Amazon's platform.
The timing worked out perfectly, Cheung laughs — it was just in time for the holiday season.
"A lot of dog parents actually buy Christmas presents for their dogs," she says. "That was a really, really amazing season that we had."
But nearly two years later, the company still has challenges to overcome: Some buyers of the device report connectivity issues and sound quality issues. While Furbo Dog Camera holds a four-out-of-five-star rating on Amazon, the device's correlating app in the iOS app store only has a two-and-a-half-star rating out of five stars, with customers often describing trouble connecting to WiFi.
To focus on customer service, Chang has set up an automated system to alert every single member of the company anytime a negative review of the product is written on Amazon. "So we all have to suffer it together," Chang says. "I used to look at it myself, and I got lonely and sad about it so I started sending it to the whole company."
An obsession with customer satisfaction is something Cheung and Chang have adopted from working closely with Amazon.
"At the end of the day, it's [about] the people that are using it," Cheung explains. "They are the ones that can give you the feedback, sometimes painful, but honest feedback that you need to push forward."
For example, when a customer wrote a negative review about Furbo's connectivity on Amazon, the technical support team reached out.
It turned out he was "using a rare, outdated Android phone," Cheung says. "Instead of ignoring the comment, our team went out and purchased the same phone model that he had to troubleshoot the setup process. In the end, we managed to contact the customer and fixed his problem."
For Cheung, finding solutions for pet owners is the reason the company exists.
"The problem we set out to solve is to help dog parents," she says. "This is a group of people we love to serve."
Amazon says this business opportunity could make you up to $300K a year — here's how to get into the program
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!