Weekend getaways have becoming increasingly popular in recent years. Rightfully so, as it gives people a quick escape from their busy, and maybe even stressful, day-to-day life. Unfortunately, for some this is less easily planned than for others. Take for example dog owners. It is not as easy for them to book that last-minute deal they just saw online, as they have to arrange for a place to stay for their beloved canine. Possibly they could ask one of their family members or a good friend to look after their pet, or they could consider bringing their dog to the kennel. However, this may be an imposition on some people, or if friends are willing, they may not know how to properly look after your dog. Sure, a kennel usually employs professional dog sitters, but then you are stuck with a bill that is larger than the cost of your weekend getaway! Even when money is not an issue, some dog owners have come home to traumatized pets after their stay at a kennel.
This last incident is exactly what prompted Aaron Hirschhorn and Karine Nissim to open up their home to other people’s dogs. After putting up a listing on Yelp called Aaron’s Dog Boarding in 2011, the couple realized that there was indeed a large demand for their services and that good money could be earnt with their business. This is when Aaron and Karine decided to scale things up. They reinvented their business model from pet sitting themselves to operating a platform on which dog sitters and dog owners are brought together, and so DogVacay was born. DogVacay is thus a two-sided marketplace, which has enjoyed great network-effects over the past years. Currently, 40,000 dog sitters across the U.S. are registered on the platform, making DogVacay the leading online platform in its niche industry.
DogVacay works as follows. Dog lovers can apply to become a sitter on the platform, however Aaron and Kate ensure their capability through a strict screening process. In order to become a DogVacay Host, applicant must pass interviews, video training, and a reference check. In turn, sitters can set their own rates, schedule, and preferred dog breed. In addition, they have access to 24/7 customer support. Dog owners on the other hand, can search for the perfect sitter simply by entering their zip code. They can select their DogVacay Host based on their profile, which includes a short biography, rating, reviews, number of repeat visits, and whether they own a dog themselves. Furthermore, every reservation is covered with premium pet insurance, which thus takes the legal aspect into consideration. DogVacay also encourages both parties to meet up beforehand to guarantee a perfect fit and a happy stay. The platform itself generates revenues by taking a 15% percentage cut from the transaction. With a revenue stream of $70mln in 2016, DogVacay is expecting to hit profitability this year. Currently rated 4.97 out of 5 stars, is there really any better alternative out there for a man’s best friend?