Madrona throws Rover.com a bone, puts ex-Microsoft GM Easterly on leash as CEO

Rover.com is a new online marketplace where dog owners can discover pet sitters

Aaron Easterly loves dogs, and a four-pound Pomeranian by the name of Caramel controls a good chunk of his life. But the former general manager of advertising strategy and monetization at Microsoft also loves big business opportunities.

The two passions are coming together at Rover.com, a new online site that’s launching today in Seattle that matches those seeking doggie day care with nearby pet sitters.

“It is a big opportunity, and it is one of these incredibly large industries that is fundamentally broken,” said Easterly. “Between kennels and private dog sitting, it is a $6.5 billion to $8 billion industry, just in the U.S. and it has a huge rate of dissatisfaction.”

Easterly notes that the quality of care in some kennels is low, while many doggie retreat locations are expensive.

Rover.com is trying to find if there’s room in the middle of those two options. While there are a number of online directories that show pet sitters in specific geographic areas, Easterly said that no one has established an online market where pet owners can communicate and arrange visits from pet sitters. “The real thing is trying to find a home from someone who knows what it means,” said Easterly.

Aaron Easterly's Pomeranian Caramel

Pet owners can choose whether they have a small, medium or large breed, and filter the results by pet care in the home of the sitter or the owner.

On a recent search in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, prices ranged from $20 to $70 per night. (Higher prices may include dog training or other services). Rover.com takes a 15 percent cut of all transactions that are conducted through the site.

For now, Easterly is focusing on dog care. The service also is just based in Seattle, though Easterly said they’d likely consider geographic expansion early next year.

The idea actually sprung from dog lover and Seattle venture capitalist Greg Gottesman who unveiled the idea at a Startup Weekend earlier this year, winning the top prize at the competition. At the time, the service was dubbed A Place for Rover and was described as an Airbnb for pet owners in need of pet care.

Since then, the idea has evolved to include professionals as well with about 400 pet sitter profiles on the site. The company also acquired the name Rover.com, though Gottesman declined to say how much they paid for it.

“I don’t think anyone solves dog owner’s problems well — and so I think there is a huge opportunity in this area,” said Gottesman. “(Rover.com) is a superior solution, and it is one of those rare times when you can actually spend less money and have a far superior solution.”

The startup has been kenneled in the downtown offices of Madrona for the past few months, and now has grown to a handful of employees. The Seattle venture capital firm recently invested $250,000 in Rover.com, which is planning to raise more cash.

Gottesman is a dog lover himself, and he’s currently researching potential breeds for a family pet. To test out various types — and sizes — Gottesman said his family has been taking care of a number of dogs.

“Part of what we are using the service for is to actually try out different dogs,” said Gottesman, adding that he’d prefer a larger dog while his wife opts for one on the smaller size.

As one of the pet hosts on Rover.com, Gottesman said he recently changed the family’s profile page to reflect a desire to pet sit for smaller breeds.

  • http://blog.findwell.com Kevin Lisota

    Bear, the findwell dog, will be trying out this service in the near future. Woof!

  • Farren West

    Greg’s team kicked everyone’s tail (Get that ;-) @kevinlisota:disqus  Startup weekend Amazon back in June. It was like Michael Jordan playing against preschoolers ;-) Congrats Greg & Team..

  • Anonymous

    Awesome. I’ve loved this idea ever since Greg told me about it at that Startup Weekend. 

  • dbb

    Greg, sounds to me like you are headed towards being a two dog family. I have a Black Lab, my wife has a Jack Russell Terrier…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=94500172 Kyle Kesterson

    I love watching the arc and growth of this idea and company. Best of the luck to the talented team.

    Also Greg, I’ll be sure to put you in touch with my mom who runs K9RR – Rescue & Rehab. She’s currently got about 45 really awesome dogs just waiting to find the right home. :)