Pet tech is big business. This can span everything from tech enabled food bowls to self-throwing balls, but not surprisingly, pet sitting services are particularly popular everywhere. In the US this has seen established sites like Rover.com and DogVacay raise over $100M in funding, while other similar sites are springing up locally.
Brazil is the second largest canine market after the US and so not surprisingly, in 2014, Eduardo Baer and Fernando Gadotti launched a new ‘Airbnb for dogs’ called DogHero. This has already proved a hit with pet owners and VCs alike and raised a further $3.1M at the end of August. We catch-up with Gadotti to learn more.
Did you fill a gap in the market when you launched in 2014?
Yes. We estimate that more than 40% of dog owners in Brazil have forgone travel plans at least once because they didn't have a safe and loving place to board their dogs. Dog hotels in Brazil didn't take off like in other parts of the world.
The market was very fragmented and dog hotels overall owned around 8% of the market. Around 90% of boarding was done through friends and family. DogHero filled a gap as we delivers a much higher quality solution than hotels with NPS over 97 even as we scale.
How has the company developed since then?
Since 2014 we have grown to about 5,000 sitters in over 400 cities nationwide. The company is growing fast, with growth rates above 20% a month. We have done all this only from our HQ in São Paulo and with a team of 17 people, including developers, marketers and a customer experience team. You can say we are very lean.
How do you intend to use the latest round of $3.1M VC funding?
We intend to use this round to ramp up operations in Brazil by expanding the team and investing heavily in technology and support for our community. We also intend to start expanding into other geographies and services in the next 12 to 18 months.
How does the algorithm match dog sitters with dogs?
Our algorithm is core to our business. It's always being tweaked and tested to maximise the quality of matching between client and sitters. We believe that this is key to deliver a better experience for both sides of the marketplace. Among other things, our algorithm takes into account conversion rate, response time, quality of reviews and repeat rates. But we are always trying to get to the bottom of what drives a great boarding experience – this is a continuous process.
What safety features do you have in place?
We have a R$5,000 ($1500) vet warranty for any accidentals that happen during the boarding or until seven days after the checkout (that was initiated during the boarding). In Brazil this amount is considered full coverage, as it is enough to cover any costs relating to an accident that could happen. In addition to that, we have a Trust & Safety team that gives support to sitters and clients in case of any emergency.
The service is currently offered only in Brazil, any plans to expand internationally?
Yes. The service is currently offered only in Brazil. We are planning to test international markets in the next 12-18 months.
How do you compare to notable US sites like Rover.com and DogVacay which have raised over $100M in funding?
From the start, we have been very focused on mobile. Today we offer a full experience for both sitters and clients on both the web site and mobile apps. We have been awarded best apps for Android as well as iOS. We have also made a conscious effort, from the start, to focus on dog boarding before offering other services. Today, we only offer one service: Dog boarding. Soon, we will expand the services we offer to dog owners.
Brazil is the second largest market for dog ownership globally and ‘pet tech’ is one of the big up and coming tech niches everywhere, are a lot of local startups jumping on this bandwagon?
We have seen some of that happen here in Brazil. I believe that the ‘why now?’ here in Brazil is even stronger. Internet penetration has been increasing with smartphone usage in the last five years and this has opened up for all kinds of innovative services. Also, as people start treating their dogs more and more as part of the family – something that has gotten stronger in Brazil in the last 15 years – this was bound to happen. Entrepreneurs go where there is a need and a smart way to solve it.
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