Dog lovers, this one’s for you. According to the Humane Society, there are 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States, and nearly 40 percent of households own at least one dog. And all of them are TechCrunch readers. Obviously, this is a fairly sizable demographic — just imagine if they could vote. Though these high numbers may not be surprising to the canine-inclined, what may be surprising is how digital dog fans have become.
Take this infographic from Lab42, for example, which estimates that 14 percent of Facebook users have created a profile for their dog. Although the survey sample was fairly small, if we scale that percentage to include the 600 million people on Facebook, well, that means there are potentially millions of pet profiles. What’s more, not only are dog owners social networking, they’re blogging, too. The DogTime Blog Network, for instance, has 320 pet bloggers and attracts more than 1.2 million unique visitors a month.
Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs just as much as the next guy, but isn’t this getting a little out of hand? You don’t see this much digital enthusiasm for turtles. Well, one new startup currently in private beta, called Pawsley, not only begs to differ, but sees a huge dog-loving market out there that hasn’t yet been given an engaging place to do their social networking — or their shopping. Thus, they created Pawsley, a social networking and shopping site that’s part Facebook, part Groupon, and just for dogs.
Co-founders Mike Pacifico (a former investment banker and business consultant for MeeGenius) and Neda Pisheva told me that the site was inspired by two reactions they had while creating a Facebook profile for their 6-month-old puppy. First, they were surprised by the sheer number of profiles for pets and, second, they became acutely aware of how annoying it is for people without pets to receive friend requests, status updates, and messages from their friends’ pets.
As you can imagine, there are quite a few social networking sites for dogs, two of the most popular being Dogbook and Dogster. Yet, while the space is hardly empty, Pacifico said, the quality of the user experience on these sites isn’t great — the monetization strategy has been to employ a host of banner ads at the sacrifice of a clean UI.
So, in order to ensure a cleaner site design, Pawsley has opted against using ads and instead gone for a “daily deal” model focused on dog-related products and services. This, Pacifico said, will be done flash-sale style, offering deals at more than 40 percent off, but without the group buy model’s restraint of needing 300 buyers for the deal to go live. The “deal page”, where vendors will offer everything from collars to dog bones, will be similar to Groupon’s, except that a Pawsley deal page won’t expire, and your purchase activity is integrated into your activity field and listed permanently on your profile.
Pawsley has also integrated a Facebook app, in which you can choose to have the images and comments you post on Pawsley to show up on your Facebook Wall, as well as a point system, where users earn points for each purchase that can later be redeemed for gift cards and credits.
In terms of the social networking aspect of Pawsley, you can create a profile for your dog and connect to other dogs in your neighborhood or, in the unlikely event that you have a dog that travels frequently on business, with other dogs across the country. You can share thoughts, pictures, videos, and find out what kind of activities other dog owners in your area are into.
The profiles themselves look fairly similar to Facebook’s personal profiles (as you can see from the image above), so even though this will really be owners connecting with each other, there seem plenty of opportunities for you to brag about Rover and buy him some gourmet treats, Groupon-style.
Pawsley has created a landing page and invite code for TechCrunch readers to get an early look at the site, which will go live next month, so check it out here.