The “Airbnb for dogs” startup DogVacay today announced a new add-on round of funding from Andreessen Horowitz, which contributed an undisclosed amount to their original $1 million seed round. The site provides a place for dog sitters and people looking for an alternative to kennels to come together and connect, in an environment where people are vetted by the site, and rated by the community to help ensure trustworthiness. The site launched in March this year, and raised $1 million in seed funding. So far, it’s managed to sign on over 4,000 approved host families since its debut, and the new funding will be used to help as DogVacay adds even more to that growth.
The startup has already managed to cover a pretty strong geographic range, adding new cities in the U.S. and even new countries like Canada in the less than four months it’s been available to the public. But co-founder and CEO Aaron Hirschhorn said in an interview that it’s eager to expand even further.
“We’re using the funding to continue our growth, expanding in the U.S. and Canada, trying to introduce new people to the concept, and continue to bring the highest quality pet-sitters that we can,” he said. Hirschhorn also admitted that he’s inundated with inquiries about potential overseas expansion to countries in Europe, especially in the U.K. and Germany, and that he’s seen clones emerge, but he said that while the company is actively thinking about going even further internationally, the opportunity at home remains very large and that’s where the company is currently directing the bulk of its attention.
“I think it’s important for us to focus,” Hirschhorn said. “More important is the quality and support that we can provide here in the U.S. There’ll be a little bit more work before we’re comfortable that we can provide the same level of high-touch customer support before we go abroad, and also make sure we don’t lose sight of the bigger opportunity here, but it’s on our radar screen.”
As to how this funding came about, Hirschhorn told us that it wasn’t initiated on their end, but was instead a case of the investors expressing interest directly. It was welcomed, however, given the nature of the investor and DogVacay’s plans for the future.
“Andreessen Horowitz reached out to us directly,” he said. “[Partner] Jeff Jordan is really experienced in marketplaces, eBay and OpenTable, and a dog lover, and I think they respect and appreciate the market opportunity. Particularly when you see a market with a $3 to $5 billion opportunity and a lot of dissatisfaction, there’s a clear opportunity there, so we were thrilled to see a group like that appreciate it.”
For DogVacay, the key to success will continue to be ensuring its customers have a pleasant and consistent experience on the service, and that requires a hands-on approach. About 25 percent of DogVacay’s hosts are professionals, a category which includes dog walkers and people who care for pets full-time, but the rest often require significant onboarding to make sure they’re up to DogVacay’s standards, and that can be a relatively labor-heavy process, although the startup is always improving the efficiency of its formula.
Making sure that the startup can maintain its high standard for quality while also growing its user base will be a balancing act, but high interest from top-tier investors who believe in its vision should help DogVacay walk that line. Still, DogVacay is also facing growing competition at home and abroad, including the well-funded, Seattle-based Rover, so a strategy of aggressive growth is also something it’ll likely have to take into consideration.