Rover, the Seattle-based online community that connects dog owners with in-home sitters, is today announcing $12 million in Series C funding, in a round led by new investor Menlo Ventures. Existing investors Madrona Venture Group, Foundry Group, and Petco (yes, the retailer) also participated. The company has raised nearly $25 million to date.
The new funding also sees Menlo’s Sunil Raman and Venky Ganesan, who have invested in companies like oDesk and Rev, joining Rover’s board.
Sometimes referred to, along with newer competitors like DogVacay, as an “Airbnb for dogs,” Rover’s online marketplace matches dog owners with local sitters, who are verified and reviewed. The platform additionally provides dog owners with access to other pet services, beyond in-home, overnight boarding, including things like pet and sitter insurance, vet consults, dog walking, in-home daycare services, and more.
On mobile, dog owners can stay in touch with their sitter through a messaging app that lets them chat, and share photos, among other things.
The company says that, today, 92% of the U.S. population lives within a short drive a Rover sitter thanks to its presence in every major U.S. city (as well as the promotional assistance provided by investor Petco, which promotes the service both online and in its stores.) There are now over 25,000 Rover sitters and services available across the U.S., and one million total Rover community members. However, Rover.com won’t disclose how many dog owners have used the service, nor how many bookings per month the site sees, on average.
Some top sitters on the platform now report six-figure incomes, the company claims, and new sitters today are earning, on average, 50 times more in their first 90 days than those who joined 18 months ago. In addition, Rover says it ended 2013 with an 800% year-over-year growth rate, from a revenue perspective.
“Rover is a great example of the sharing economy at its best,” said Sunil Raman of Menlo Ventures, known for other “sharing economy” marketplaces, like Uber and Poshmark, in a statement. “It turns out that there are a lot of pet owners in this country, and Rover allows families to quickly coordinate overnight pet care. After getting to know Aaron and his team, we were certain this was a passionate group chasing a huge market opportunity,” he says.
In terms of the competitive landscape, Rover and DogVacay are top…err…dogs, here, but Rover is the older and larger of the two, with its 25,000 sitters/services to DogVacay’s 10,000+. However, DogVacay has the more modern mobile platform, having been first to launch a fully-featured app not just for communication, but also finding, booking and paying sitters, too.
That being said, Rover CEO Aaron Easterly has said before that DogVacay is not the company’s largest competitor, it’s the friends, family and neighbors dog owners today turn to, instead of using an online service. Many potential customers don’t know that other options in between full boarding and help from friends, even exist.
The company says it will use the new investment to increase its full-time staff (expected to double in the next 12 months), invest in technology (including its mobile application), grow its customer base and expand its products and services.
In case you’re wondering, Rover, DogVacay and others in this space promote themselves to dog owners (even though sitters may provide cat care), because dog owners simply spend more on theirs pets. After all, as long as someone cleans the litter, and feeds them, cats don’t really miss you when you’re gone. (They sure are cute when you open a can of tuna, though. Oh, and they do better in memes.)