DogVacay, a collaborative consumption startup that pairs dog owners with potential dog boarders, has landed $15 million in funding in a Series B round led by Foundation Capital. Current investors Benchmark and First Round Capital and new investors DAG Ventures and Sherpa Ventures also participated.
DogVacay is often compared to Airbnb, and while the comparison is apt, there are a few key differences in its business model, DogVacay CEO and co-founder Aaron Hirschorn told me in a recent interview. Like Airbnb, DogVacay’s “hosts” tend to be part-time entrepreneurs, using DogVacay’s service to earn extra income. Many of the boarders are retirees or currently dog-less animal lovers that want temporary companionship, Hirschorn said.
But unlike Airbnb, DogVacay clients use the same host numerous times – while the dog owners may be traveling to different places for work and leisure, their dogs are staying put. Once dog owners find a boarder they like, they tend to stick with them, boarding a dog with them many times a year, Hirschorn said.
You would think that with this type of model DogVacay would encounter the same problems as many online babysitting and housecleaning outfits – once DogVacay make the initial referral, dog owners and hosts work out their own arrangements. But Hirschorn said that hasn’t been the case.
DogVacay’s 10,000 hosts aren’t kennels – a host is restricted to three dogs at one time – and don’t have the services and financial infrastructure professional boarders can offer. DogVacay not only processes the transaction, it supplies insurance, an on-call vet, 24-hour support and online tools and mobile apps where dog owners can see photos of their pooches and get updates on their status. Hosts set their own rates, and while there is an upper limit of $100 a night a boarder can charge, the average nationwide rate is only $28, which far undercuts typical kennel prices, Hirschorn said.
The Santa Monica, Calif., -based startup has raised a total of $22 million since launching in 2012. The company said this latest round would go toward add new services to the DogVacay portfolio. It didn’t offer specifics, but a good bet is that DogVacay will continue to bulk up in mobile. Last month it launched its first consumer-facing mobile app for the iPhone, which acts as a kind of wireless tether to your boarded pup. There are millions of over-protective dog owners in this country – myself among them – and a lot of them that have Android phones and tablets.