Rover.com is betting that many dog lovers will look online to find local dog sitters rather than turn to expensive kennels, or burdening friends or family with Fido while traveling.
Some angel investors share Rover.com’s view, because a number of firms — including Madrona Venture Group and CrunchFund — have committed $3.4 million in first-round financing for the startup’s expansion.
“Rover.com provides dog lovers with a community of like-minded people who love to take care of dogs and more often than not are willing to do it for less money than a traditional kennel charges,” said Aaron Easterly, CEO of Rover.com, in a company statement.
The company says it will use the financing to expand its services into markets across the U.S. TechCrunch reports that Rover.com has accumulated 10,000 members since its launch in November and is active in about 500 cities and towns.
Easterly told AllThingsD.com that the market for professional kennel services amounted to as much as $6.5 billion every year nationwide. However, he said he hoped to tap into an even larger market that includes dog sitting services provided by friends and family members. Easterly said such arrangements boosted the total dog boarding service market to a between $35 billion and $60 billion per year.
Easterly told TechCrunch that boarding prices at professional kennels start around $30 a night, but can hit $80 or more at pricier locations. Other services, like walking, often are subject to additional charges, he said.
“It’s a pretty wild scenario, but you could end up paying $100 per night. The existing commercial solutions fail 90 percent of the market,” Easterly told TechCrunch. “Then there’s this untapped skilled labor force that loves to do this.”
The company also has rolled out a 24-hour customer service hotline — or, in this case, Barkline — and will offer guarantees to users who board their pets with sitters found through the website. The company vets sitters, and those listed on the site are charged between 3% and 15% of their fees for boarding dogs referred through the website.