SpotOn Founder Aparna Srinivasan was inspired to start her company because of her dogs. When she was traveling with them, it was tough for her to find a ride, especially to the airport. To see if other pet owners shared her same pain point, Srinivasan sat outside the United and American terminal outside of LAX airport. She asked those who came in with an animal how they got there, and whether they would use a more convenient method if it was available. Based on the responses, she realized she wasn’t alone.
While consumers can travel with their pets today, Srinivasan said, “it’s not as easy as people might think.” Hotels accept pets, airlines let travelers bring their pets on flights and many restaurants let consumers bring their animals along. “But actually getting there is the problem,” Srinivasan noted.
To tackle the challenge, Srinivasan started a ride-hailing service for pets (and their human companions). Consumers can download the company’s app on the Apple Store or Google Play to start using the service.
Consumers can fill out information such as the date and time they want to be picked up. (The app can also detect the pickup location on its own if the user has location services enabled.) As of now, the app requires consumers to place reservations at least two hours in advance. (“We are not an on-demand system just yet,” Srinivasan noted.) After the location is determined, consumers can enter their destination. They also indicate the number and type of pets they plan to bring on their trip. The request is then sent out to the drivers.
Consumers can also select favorite drivers on the platform, who will receive their requests first. If those favorites are not available, the service will contact other drivers. The aim is to develop a more pleasant user experience, for both humans and animals. Once pets get comfortable with a particular person or vehicle, Srinivasan said, it will be a smoother ride for everyone involved.
SpotOn also offers back seat liners to protect the drivers’ cars, as well as harnesses that connect to a vehicle’s seatbelts to keep pets safe while in transit.
SpotOn launched its service in New York, which is seen as a better market to show the fluidity of the offering. It’s “not just an urban play,” Srinivasan said. “It’s also suburban play.” New York City provides the opportunity to show that potential, with urban areas such as Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, as well as suburban areas such as outer Brooklyn and Staten Island.
All rides can originate in the city’s five boroughs, but the service can’t take riders if the trips start outside of those places. For payments, consumers can enter their credit cards, which get pre-authorized and stored on file. Once the trip is finished, consumers can add a tip and the trip gets charged.
To start driving for the service, potential drivers can email the company and express their interest. They then undergo a vetting process, and those who transport the passengers and their pets must obtain a permit to become TLC drivers. After SpotOn verifies their information and runs them through an animal cruelty database, the platform sends them an invite to download the app. Drivers are typically onboarded in a day or two and can immediately start taking rides. They can see ride requests pop up just as they would through an Uber or Lyft scenario, and can then accept their trips and discover the destinations.
Drivers are paid via direct deposit every Sunday, and the rides are processed from the previous Sunday to Saturday.
In the age of the on-demand economy, innovators in the PetTech space, such as SpotOn, aim to make it easier for consumers to travel with their pets through the tap of a mobile app.