Sixty percent of Americans have a pet of some kind. Dog ownership leads the pack — which we think is a-ok — with 44 percent of Americans claiming canine companionship, 29 percent owning cats for some totally inexplicable reason and 3 percent opting for something else.
For those wondering how we managed to account for 116 percent of Americans, many people have more than one pet. For example, 17 percent of Americans have both a cat and a dog.
And while pet owners are as unique as the pets they own, they all share some common issues when it comes to pet care, Founder and CEO Diego Alves of startup GoPetie told Karen Webster in the latest edition of Matchmakers. Pets — especially dogs — have care and social needs that can be difficult and expensive to meet for owners who are on the go at work or school.
There are services that one can hire out, Alves noted, to walk or pet sit during the day, but using those solutions on a recurring basis is expensive for those on a budget.
“If you have to pay every time you need to be out, pet sitting is $35-$45 a day in most major urban areas. If that is an occasional expense, that isn’t a problem — but if that is happening a few times a week, it will quickly add up to a very significant cost.”
A cost that Alves — a dedicated dog owner and general animal lover — found he was paying a lot, as were his friends. And that was assuming he could even find someone to pay, in the event of a last minute emergency there might be no room at the kennel. And so, Alves had the thought that has kicked off all shapes and sizes of platforms we have covered on this site: There must be a better way.
GoPetie — the app-based mobile platform that brings pet owners together — is that better way.
“The app is a combination of Uber, Tinder, Yelp for pets,” he told Webster.
How does it work — and how will it make money?
Bringing the Commonly Interested Together
Pet owners all have something in common, Alves realized, and thus might be willing to help each other out — if they knew about each other. GoPetie, he explained, is the medium where they can digitally encounter each other.
“Members can register on the app for free, and they can activate some of the favors they will be willing to do — things like pet sitting, pet walking and pet play dates as well. Once you are signed in, when you see another member ping the app … in your location, you can then see that member’s profile and decide whether or not to send along a request. The member can then review your profile, accept or deny the request or start up a chat session within the app to learn more.”
The idea, he said, is for the platform to let pet owners help each other, creating a community within the app.
A community, Webster noted, that operates largely on favors and goodwill — since no one is paying anyone else for their services. So, doesn’t that run the risk of some users taking advantage of other users’ goodwill?
While there is always a risk of abuse, Alves noted, the reality is that members can flip on and off the kind of things they want to offer, or even when they want to do them through the platform. The dog-walking enthusiast who feels too put upon can always pretty easily switch off that offer — and thus not receive any more requests.
“We expect members will likely help each other at some point. You don’t have to, but members are encouraged to do so,” Alves noted.
Plus, he told Webster, in its first few months, people are asking for fewer favors like pet sitting on walking — and a lot more in the way of social interaction.
“We have been tracking the features people are using the most, and the most popular by far is people who chose to use the app to schedule play dates for their pets with other pets.”
Plus, he noted, GoPetie is incorporating features that simply aren’t seen anywhere else in the market currently — like pet dates.
Which is not what it sounds like, actually.
“We are not a dating app for pet owners. Doggie dates is not to help users find love with other pet owners. The point of the feature is to help people who are trying to breed their pets with a suitable date.”
It may sound a bit silly, he noted, but for those who are looking to produce some purebred pups, finding a suitable partner for their pet can actually be something of a hassle.
“I met a woman the other day who had to go to California to find a male to breed her dog with, and it took her four to five months to find the perfect date for her pet. It can be very time-consuming.”
Yes, there is now an app for that, too.
And, he noted, GoPetie is expanding its features to include people who don’t own pets because they are not able to — but who would love nothing more than to get their fix by walking someone else’s dog or care for someone’s pet mouse.
Because yes, GoPetie is even for those with pet mice. Dogs are far and away the most popular group of pets whose humans use the platform, but it increasingly is going far beyond that.
“We also have cat owners, chicken owners, horse owners, mouse owners, hamster owners — if you can keep it as a pet, it has a place on GoPetie.”
And though all owners are welcome, he does note that so far young urban professionals and young families in the suburbs are the most avid users of the app.
But growth is always the plan. Growth, and making some money.
Monetizing Social Media Is Going to the Dogs
Since no one is paying to use the platform as of yet and the users are trading favors for free, Webster asked Alves the natural question: How is he — or anyone — making money from the invaluable services they are providing?
The short answer: They are not. But neither did Snap in its first two years of existence. There’s always tomorrow. And in the future, Alves noted, money will come from three sources: Local brands and retailers looking to market to the pet-owning audience, as the app will contain space to buy goods and services directly from them (and take a cut of those sales). And the platform will also offer a place for service providers to directly sell their goods to members. These services will be particularly useful to these businesses, which, in many cases, are local operations that do not have much of a digital presence and more likely get lost in the shuffle in a larger and less specialized marketplace.
Going forward, Alves noted, GoPetie will also offer a premium version of the app for a subscription fee that will unlock additional features for users.
But those attempts are a still a bit down the road. For the platform to work profitably, it must first get to scale, which means it has to work on growing its user base out of the single digit thousands. GoPetie is still a pup, having launched in April of 2017, and is going through the hand-to-hand combat of getting both sides on board — where both sides are suppliers and consumers of services.
“Of course, getting people is a challenge, but people love the idea, and we are gearing up to do a more major marketing campaign. The goal is to get people to test it and use it.”
Sounds like a day in the life of every Matchmaker, big and small.