Great news from CrunchFund startup Rover earlier today – They’ve raised a new round of financing led by Petco, and the deal includes a really nice strategic partnership arrangement as well to promote Rover in Petco’s 1,400 physical locations and on their website.
More on the news (including lots of details I don’t mention here) at: TechCrunch, Next Web, Pando, Geekwire and TechMeme.
This is a company we were lucky enough to invest in early on and we continue to invest more money in each new round as well.
But that’s not the end of my relationship with Rover. Pet sitting has always been a hassle with my heavy travel schedule. We’re now Rover customers and it has solved the problem.
Often my parents pitch in, but with (now) three dogs that weigh a combined 350 pounds, it’s just not fair to throw the problem in their lap. Especially since I’m being literal here – Kennedy, the youngest and weighing in at 80 pounds, really likes laps.
He likes laps so much, and I’m not kidding, I’ve seriously considered finding some way to protect myself from these attacks.
Anyway, back to Rover. We used to put Kennedy in the local dog hotel (which is better than the vet’s cage).
He seems to like it at the dog hotel, although he gets lonely and doesn’t get to interact with other dogs at all or people very much. And it’s expensive – Minumum $25/night plus all kinds of taxes and fees for things like “extra walks” (how can you say no), etc.
Rover fixes all that. It’s a very Airbnb type experience. You look through listing of people who live nearby who take in dogs through the service. You read their reviews and chat with them and make a decision.
Your dog will now be staying with real people, and probably other dogs, in an environment that welcomes them.
From there things are a little different than Airbnb. With Airbnb you just show up at the place at the time, figure out keys and go from there. But you aren’t going to feel good about just showing up somewhere for the first time, meeting the people and then leaving your dog there. If they creep you out you’re in trouble, because presumably you’re leaving on a trip and don’t have time to start looking for a new Rover sitter.
Rover’s fixed that by strongly suggesting people meet with the dog(s) beforehand. Usually this is at a local dog park to keep the sitter’s address confidential for now. If that meet goes well then the stay is confirmed.
After you find a sitter you like you’ll tend to use them repeatedly. There’s a business problem there for Rover that is less prevalent at Airbnb – people could just work directly with the sitter from then on and bypass Rover. One sitter we used suggested this, actually. We declined.
Rover has some good ideas for adding value besides the initial hookup to keep people using them even if the keep using the same sitter repeatedly. Insurance, 24/7 vet care, pet geo tagging and, best of all, videos.
About those videos – the site suggests sitters take lot of pictures of the dog while the owners are away. They can be shared on the Rover site and app and are a real comfort when you’re worried about your pet. But they also automatically create a really cool video compilation of the pictures at the end of the trip as well. It’s a great way to end the transaction.
And that’s still not it…We’ve now become Rover sitters as well and care for local dogs when the owners are away. It’s always interesting to drop what I’m doing for CrunchFund and drive over to the local dog park (with our three dogs in tow) to meet a dog and its parents.
Rover makes it really easy to donate all or part of the money you receive as a sitter to various dog and pet organizations. I wish they would speed up their efforts to get more local organizations (like my local Humane Society), but there are still plenty to choose from.
So, yeah, I love Rover. I’m an investor, a sitter and a customer. I’m really glad to see Petco working with them, too. We’ve seen a great increase in the number of Rover sitters available in our area out in the sticks. A few months ago it was just 1-2. Now it’s 10. I imagine that soon there will be lots more.