Seattle startups have been pretty dang creative with how they hire talented developers. Two years ago, Cheezburger stood outside of an Amazon company meeting with free Dick’s cheeseburgers in hopes of luring talent away from the online giant. Then, now-defunct Giant Thinkwell tried giving away free cats in exchange for interviews.

Scott Porad leads product development at dog sitting startup and remembered these epic stunts. Now, he’s put together a similarly awesome pitch at his own company.


For the next 30 days, Rover is offering a free puppy — yes, a free puppy — to anyone who refers a potential developer that the Seattle startup eventually ends up hiring. And not only that, but Rover is throwing in one year of free dog sitting.

Scott Porad with Oscar
Scott Porad with Oscar

“Giant Thinkwell’s stunt was just sort of a joke, but I thought, “hmmm…what if we gave away an actual puppy?,” Porad told GeekWire. “I bet that would get some attention!”

Just a few weeks ago, Porad penned a post on GeekWire discussing the difficulties of hiring talented developers.

“The market for engineers is tight because they’re so critical to the success of startups,” Porad said. “So, creative companies that offer a great place to work are going to do better at attracting engineers, and have more success.”

Now, Rover won’t exactly give you a puppy — they are actually awarding $1,000 toward the purchase of a new dog. In that sense, you could technically just take the $1,000 as a normal cash referral bonus.

But the company definitely wants you to use that money toward a new family friend.

“I’d really prefer if a winner got a dog, assuming they can care for it appropriately,” Porad said. “Cash is fleeting, but a dog is forever.” just fetched $7 million in fresh funding. The money comes three months after’s primary rival, DogVacay, scored $6 million from Benchmark and others. It also follows a $3.4 million round in last year.

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  • Mike Christensen

    So, they’re giving you $1,000 in cash and suggesting you can probably buy a puppy with it?

    • Scott Porad


      Originally, I wanted to give away an actual puppy. One of my co-workers at Rover has a golden lab that is pregnant and expecting in a few weeks, so I was thinking we could give away one of those.

      But, then it occurred to me that a puppy needs a good home, so we should leave the dog selection up to you. That way, you can get a dog that fits your lifestyle and abilities. So, we switched it up a little bit, but hopefully people will still get a dog.


      • Adam Loving

        Good call. Giving away cash seems more compatible with animal rights concerns as well.

  • ReThinkMarketing

    Commoditizing dogs, which some people consider family members, seems like a strange marketing approach for a company that provides a pet sitting service.

    I understand that it’s just a gimmick and the real referral fee is $1,000 but it’s very offputting and creates a negative association for a company that should be trying to convey trust and security. Many people are already apprehensive to let strangers take care of their animals. This just makes Rover seem more “corporate” where they’ll just treat your dog like an asset on the balance sheet.

  • Kyle Kesterson

    Haha, glad to see the stunt live on!

    I’d be more excited about this if it were tied to a rescue and the recipient was appropriately screened.. Just so happens my mom runs an amazing rescue!

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