DogVacay, the Los Angeles-based startup that operates a pet boarding marketplace that’s been dubbed the “Airbnb for dogs,” is announcing today that it has raised $15 million in new funding.
The new funding round, which serves as DogVacay’s Series B, was led by Foundation Capital with the participation of existing investors Benchmark and First Round Capital along with new investors DAG Ventures and Sherpa Ventures. This brings the total VC investment in DogVacay to $22 million.
In an interview this week, DogVacay founder and CEO Aaron Hirschhorn said the new money will be used to continue to scale out the company’s marketplace platform throughout the United States and eventually to an international market. Today, the company has more than 10,000 hosts who have booked hundreds of thousands of dog-sitting appointments through the site.
One main focus will be hiring more full-time staff — right now, DogVacay has 42 employees at its Santa Monica headquarters, and Hirschhorn expects that to grow by 50 percent in the coming months. You can watch him discuss all that and more, including how DogVacay could expand beyond pooches and to other pets, how it is differentiated from competitors such as Rover and its strategy for making sure people use the site for both finding and repeatedly booking good pet sitters, in the video embedded above.
With serious funding comes serious responsibility, especially in the peer-to-peer marketplace space — and in recent months, startups such as Lyft and Airbnb have come up against major regulatory hurdles in expanding their own respective marketplace businesses after securing sizable funding rounds. But Hirschhorn said in a short conversation following our video chat that while even though DogVacay is also entering into a hugely lucrative industry — the U.S. pet market was worth $11 billion last year — it should be a bit more insulated from such attacks than other marketplace pioneers because of the angle it’s taking. He put it like this:
“The one fundamental difference with DogVacay is that, while the hotel lobby and the taxi lobby is very strong, there really isn’t a strong ‘pet kennel lobby’ per se… When we talk to our current customers and ask them what they did with their pets before DogVacay, they often say that they left their pet with their brother, or their mom, or their friend. So, in many ways our biggest competition is friends and family.”
In a separate phone call this week, Benchmark’s Bill Gurley said that his firm has decided to bet on DogVacay in part because of the size of the pet ownership market, and the traction and loyalty he sees in the customers who have used the service. “Everyone’s first gut reaction might be to underestimate this… but the more you see the numbers, and the more time we spent thinking about it, this is a huge opportunity,” Gurley said.
With 78 million dogs in the United States, there is indeed a big opportunity for a platform that helps people take care of them — so it will be interesting to watch DogVacay expand with the new money in the months ahead.