Pet Sitting, Ashton Kutcher and the new sharing economy

ashtonBy now you probably heard of new apps and websites like Airbnb and Uber that allow people to connect and share or rent an unlimited number of products and services from tools, Christmas trees and even friends. As the pet business continues to grow, entrepreneurs, investors and celebrities are lining up to jump into the sharing economy for your pets.

Pet sitting isn’t a new idea or service, but is now having a twenty-first century makeover. Many of us have had the dilemma of what to do with our dog or cat when we go out of town. It used to be your only choice was to place your animal in a kennel, but now there are many more options for travelers.

This led tech executive Aaron Easterly to launch Rover in 2011 because he was having trouble finding a way to take care of his Pomeranian, Caramel, when he traveled on businesses. “I would never take her to a kennel, so I’d go frantically down the list of family, friends and neighbors every time a business trip came up,” he told Entrepreneur magazine. “This was just one of those areas that felt frustratingly broken.”

Rover has exploded in the short time it has been in operation. It has approximately 25,000 approved sitters in more than 5,000 cities across the country. It reports every sitter on the site has been reviewed and verified and it makes money by taking a 15 percent commission from its sitters that typically charge $30 per night. It claims a 600 percent year-over-year jump in revenue growth and has been especially busy during the past month.

“During the holidays, people travel on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Esterly. “So there is a wave of people looking to book all the same days. It’s a crazy time of year for us.”

With the booming growth and money piling in, investors and venture capitalists have been flocking to Rover. Hollywood actor and tech investor Ashton Kutcher along with his group A-GRade Investments recently backed Rover. Kutcher has previously put down $100 million into other tech companies like Spotify, Foursquare and Airbnb.

“The A-GRade team has been interested in this space for a while but it wasn’t until we met the team at Rover.com and learned about its robust marketplace that we finally found the company we wanted to back,” Kutcher said in a media release. “As dog owners, we understand how difficult it can be to find someone you trust to care for your dog. Rover is solving a problem millions of people deal with every day by providing the most sensible solution – connecting dog owners with people who truly love dogs and want to take care of them.”

But they were not the first ones to team up with Rover. Menlo Ventures invested $12 million in to company before Kutcher came on board. “The logic is simple,” said Venky Ganesan of Menlo Ventures. “Leaving your dog in a kennel is like leaving your kid in an orphanage. The kennel industry is a $5 billion market today but we think, with Rover’s help, it could be a $30 billion market.”

Investors will continue to make money with Rover; however, it’s our animals that ultimately benefit in the end. The next time you travel you can take your animal to another animal lover’s home or have someone come to you. You’ll be able to rest easy on your vacation any your pet will be able to as well.

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