Entrepreneurs are drawing from their personal and professional lives to connect prospective pet owners with their new best friends. Good Dog’s Chief Experience Officer Lauren McDevitt and Chief Executive Officer Josh Wais, in one case, had expertise in building customer experiences. The concept for their company came through their own efforts of looking for a dog, when they were surprised by the brokenness of the process.
“It was really difficult to navigate as someone who didn’t really know much about the dog world,” McDevitt said. The entrepreneurs also talked to others they worked with, and heard stories about others abandoning their searches because they couldn’t figure out the process. Some even had family members who got involved in scams or unwillingly received their dogs from puppy mills.
McDevitt and Wais latched onto the idea of Good Dog because of their experiences with marketplaces and technology. “We could picture something that was totally different” that makes the experience simple and straightforward, McDevitt said. The result is what Wais describes as “an end-to-end platform” that helps prospective pet owners through the process of connecting with a breeder, shelter or rescue and the logistics of getting the dog home. The site has developed a set of standards, along with experts to help find sources such as breeders, shelters and rescues.
Good Dog offers an end-to-end experience, which serves people who are looking for their first dog as well as those who already have one. The platform allows users to search, browse and explore a community of sources that are pre-vetted to ensure peace of mind. It also gives users access to a learning center that helps answer questions, such as how their lives will change with a dog.
To connect with a source, users can reach out and introduce themselves through an application that has a series of questions, such as why they are interested in a dog and the state of their current living situation. Breeders, shelters and rescues can review the information to determine if applicants can provide good homes for their canines. Good Dog also looks at how the breeders take care of puppy health and temperament, among other factors, to ensure they meet the company’s standards.
For the logistics of transporting a dog home, some customers will have “flight nannies” who are paid to take the dogs on planes to them. In other cases, users might be able to drive to pick up the dog, and many people will fly out themselves to pick up a dog.
Good Dog also plans to roll out its own payments platform to simplify the process of locating a dog from a responsible breeder, shelter or rescue. The company recently raised $6.7 million in funding from investors such as Felicis, BoxGroup and BarkBox, which would be used to scale the business and grow its team.
The Canine Market
Beyond Good Dog, other players – large and small – are serving the market for dog-related products and services. Wag Lab’s smartphone app, in one case, connects dog owners with dog walkers that are vetted and tested on their dog walking skills. Through the platform, dog owners can ask for a walker immediately or schedule future walks. To help walkers pick up the dogs, the company provides customers with lock boxes for their keys, and walkers receive the codes. Early last year, Wag Labs was reportedly receiving $300 million in funds from SoftBank’s Vision Fund.
Other startups are tackling the pet food market. The Farmer’s Dog, for instance, makes meals for pets using “human-grade USDA ingredients” based on pre-portioned and customized feeding plans. The service distributes the meals to consumers via a subscription business model. In another case, Grocery Pup’s eCommerce site sells its fresh-prepared, human-grade dog food, which is cooked using the sous-vide method. (The company also offers its products in brick-and-mortar stores.)
From human-grade pet food to dog walking services and end-to-end platforms for finding a dog, startups are tackling all sorts of challenges to make life easier for current (and future) pet parents as they seek better lives for their best friends.