Rover is going global.
The Seattle-based pet-sitting marketplace company today announced the launch of its service in the United Kingdom starting this July. It’s the first expansion outside of North America for Rover, which helps match more than 200,000 vetted sitters with pet-owners looking for someone to take care of their dogs and other animals.
“We’ve always thought of Rover as a global brand,” Rover CEO Aaron Easterly told GeekWire. “The dynamics that make Rover work in the U.S. are not limited to the U.S.”
Born out of a Startup Weekend event in 2011, Rover now operates one of the most popular pet sitting platforms in the U.S. and Canada. It nearly tripled net revenue in 2016 and 2017 and processes roughly one million bookings per month.
Now the company is ready to bring its business around the world.
“When you go into international expansion, it’s a big milestone,” Easterly said. “It means you have something that has really predictable financials; that there’s a big market opportunity; that you feel really secure with your competitive position in the U.S.; and that you’re just getting started.”
Europe represents 30 percent of global pet spend, Easterly noted, with 80 million pet-owning households. It features similar pet ownership trends to the U.S., he said — for example, 90 percent of pet owners in the United Kingdom consider pets as part of the family.
Easterly also pointed to more urban density in Europe, which can make pet care difficult — but also provide more opportunity for Rover.
“We can be more helpful in making it easy for everyone to experience a pet in their lives,” he added.
Rover employs 377 people, including nearly 300 in Seattle, and will open a European headquarters as a result of the expansion.
Easterly said Rover’s core business — dog walking, drop-in visits, house-sitting, boarding, and daycare — was profitable this past December. But he hinted that overall profitability could be delayed as Rover enters more countries and targets other sectors of the $100 billion global pet care industry.
“The pet space is this interesting juxtaposition of an incredibly large industry that grows really fast, that has business practices pulled from the 1970s,” Easterly said. “There really isn’t a segment in [the pet industry] that has really embraced technology as much as we think it can.”
Easterly, who won CEO of the Year honors at the 2016 GeekWire Awards, pointed to everything from pet insurance to grooming to vet services as possible new verticals for Rover to enter.
“We are building a very sticky relationship with a large portion of the pet-owning population,” he said. “We expect to roll out additional offerings to make that even stickier.”
Rover has capitalized on increasing pet ownership with a peer-to-peer online marketplace that offers an alternative to asking a family member or friend for help, or having to use a traditional kennel. Part of Rover’s growth is due to rich data the company has collected and how it can effectively vet the marketplace. As more sitters use the platform and are reviewed after each service, Rover can better match pet owners with an appropriate caretaker.
The company competes with other tech-fueled companies like Wag, which raised a $300 million round in January from SoftBank.
Rover has raised $155 million to date, including a $65 million round this past July led by Spark Capital. It acquired rival DogVacay in March 2017. Other investors include Bespoke Strategies; StepStone Group; Madrona Venture Group; Menlo Ventures; Foundry Group; OMERS Ventures; and Technology Crossover Ventures.
Rover has long been rumored as an IPO candidate. As other Seattle-area companies test the public markets, Easterly said “we’ll continue to look at that option.”
“Our plan is to be a large enduring standalone business,” he noted.