Dog-loving venture capitalist Michael Arrington is among the new investors in Rover.com, the Seattle online service that helps pet owners find lodging for their canine companions. The company, started by venture capitalist Greg Gottesman at a Startup Weekend event in Seattle last year, just closed a $3.4 million series A financing round.
In addition to Arrington’s CrunchFund and Gottesman’s Madrona Venture Group, angel investors Geoff Entress, Andy Liu and Scott Howe also participated. The new money, a portion of which was previously reported by GeekWire, will be used to expand the service nationwide.
Until recently, the 9-person company — with about 5,000 registered pet sitters in more than 700 cities — had marketed the service in only Seattle and Portland. But that will change with the latest funding as it takes the service national, with big plans to raise its profile in the coming months in major cities.
Easterly said he’s excited to join forces with Arrington, pointing to the TechCrunch founder’s numerous connections in Silicon Valley. There’s no shortage of competition in the arena that Rover.com is attacking, so Easterly and his pack will need all of the help they can get.
“It’s early, and I think the opportunity that we all see is that there is a very large industry that is very broken,” said Easterly, the owner of four-pound Pomeranian by the name of Caramel. “And that people are really dissatisfied with the existing commercial options.”
The former aQuantive executive added that the bigger challenge than the rival startups is the “education battle” over the existing pet care options that dog owners face, ranging from low-budget kennels to expensive dog retreats. Rover.com, along with the other upstarts, are attempting to fill that middle ground.
Like other online marketplaces, Rover.com takes up to a 15 percent cut of the transactions that occur through the Web site. (Those pet sitters who do more business through Rover.com will get a slight break on pricing). Rover also offers some featured advertising, allowing pet owners to pay for featured placement on the site.
In addition, the company is adding services to make the entire pet sitting process simpler and more convenient, including photo updates; maintenance of veteranarian records and pet care instructions; 24-hour customer support; and a satisfaction guarantee that includes coverage of incidents (up to $2,000) if the pet is hurt or injured during the watch of the pet sitter.
“As Rover goes from just a listing service to actually providing a lot of benefits during the stay activity, it just makes a lot of sense for dog owners and dog sitters to want the transaction to go through Rover,” Easterly said.
Previously on GeekWire: Online dog fight: Rover.com rival DogVacay launches Airbnb for pets