Today Seattle-based Rover, a marketplace that connect dog owners with screened dog sitters for when they’re away, announced that it has closed a $7 million Series B funding round led by Boulder, CO-based Foundry Group and existing investor Madrona Venture Group. As part of the agreement Brad Feld from the Foundry Group will be joining the company’s board. Since launching in late 2011, the company has over 100,000 members who use its network of more than 25,000 dog sitters across the U.S.
CEO Aaron Easterly spoke with BetaKit about the primary use of the funding and his excitement at having Feld as an investor. “The three areas for possible expansion for us is expansion of services, expansion of geography and covering other pets. Our focus initially is expansion of services within the category that we’re in. We think there’s lots of opportunity for innovation,” said Easterly in an interview. “One of the things we’re most excited about is…bringing [on] investors that are very value add and very experienced in mentoring entrepreneurs.”
To screen the sitters on its site Rover uses an algorithm to review the information like photos, profiles, and description submitted. It also partners with TrustCloud and goes so far as sending staff in person to visit their home and give the sitters their first check. According to Easterly, only 20 percent of applicants make it through the approval process. The company also provides 24/7 access to licensed veterinarians through VetLIVE, a customer emergency service support, and provides insurance coverage. It also announced that it will now partner with Animoto, an online video creation platform, to send dog owners free custom video updates.
In terms of prices, much like Airbnb dog sitters get to pick their own rate, ranging from $10 to $80 per night, with the average somewhere between $25-$32. Rover takes 15 percent of the nightly rate. What dog owners get in return are dog sitters who can provide a home environment that their dogs are used to, with a minimum of 1,000 listings in major metropolitan cities, and the care and attention that they would expect from people who genuinely love dogs, according to Easterly.
Another startup active in the space is DogVacay. BetaKit covered the Santa Monica-based startup when it recently added a $6 million Series A round in late 2012. Though we’ve also covered the sizable petcare industry and startups looking to disrupt it in the past, Easterly believes Rover can continue differentiating itself by being more than a listing site and offering additional value-add services that ensure each dog owner peace of mind.
“We fundamentally think there’s a big difference in being a listing service and actually adding value in the care of animals,” Easterly added. “Our goal is to actually provide the support and the technology to make the stay an incredible experience.”
With most of the funding going to adding more technology and resources to continually review its network of sitters, Rover will gradually begin extending its offerings to other types of pets. However, for the time being, it wants dog owners feeling comfortable leaving pets with Rover-vetted sitters, and seems to be focusing a lot on the trust aspect, something that any homeowner or traveler knows is important when it comes to renting via Airbnb. Whether it can become the Airbnb of the space, or at least the most well-known player when stacked up against competitors like DogVacay, will ultimately depend on the quality of the service provides, the number of cities it can cover, and the services available, but this funding should be a step in the right direction.