Getting travel arrangements in order as gotten easier over the last few years with the growing popularity of ticket-buying sites, group discount we warehouses and accommodation alternatives like AirBnb, but little has come into the sphere of helping those of us that travel across the country and still need to make arrangements for the furry ones we leave behind. But it appears that strides are starting to go in the direction of connecting pet owners to responsible pet sitters now that Rover.com has secured $3.4 million in its Series A round of funding.
The Seattle-based service for traveling pet owners, which was once only running in a select few test markets, is pocketing the funding led by Madrona Venture Group and rolling out its service nationwide as of Monday.
The small startup, with nine employees, is taking on a massive and often overlooked part of the traveling experience under the leadership of CEO Aaron Easterly, who previously worked in the advertising arm at Microsoft.
Rover.com estimates that the formal commercial dog-boarding market is worth up to $6.5 billion annually, and that there’s a much larger informal market of people who rely on friends and neighbors to refill bowls and walk their dogs -- he even places that larger market in the neighbors north of $35 billion.
While finding a pet sitter is different from finding rental accommodations or flight options, it is all part of the profitable and ever-growing market of the travel industry -- and with innovative companies like AirBnb snagging $112 million in its last round, if Rover.com plays its cards right, $3.4 million could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Frankly, I have met pet owners that are more diligent with finding animal accommodators than most people will spend vetting a babysitter. On Rover, puppy parents can look at profiles to find people that would be a good fit for their best friend.
And unlike a congenital pet sitter situation, Rover offers owners the opportunity of bringing your pet to the home of the sitter so there isn't the added concern about your home being a liability.
Much like the startup growing pains AirBnb felt, Rover has been sure to beef-up its round-the-clock support hotline (called Barkline, of course) and it quality guarantees.
Sitters post their experience with dogs and their standard fee per night as well as the distance that they feel comfortable traveling to take care of animals.
As a former nanny, who would use services not unlike this for babysitting, I do see the huge value that comes with, especially when you are able to see people's profiles and their reviews from previous pet owners. This service seems to most closely resemble another growing business UrbanSitter, where families connect with sitters in their neighborhood and in their extended Facebook connections.
At the start of this year, UrbanSitter snagged $1.75 million in seed funding, led by First Round Capital, with participation from Rustic Canyon Partners, Menlo Ventures and several angel investors.
I would be curious, however, to see if Rover would ever consider expanding to more animal offerings and might even verify or suggest TrustLine certification for owners that want a little more security.