Dog lovers rejoice! If you ever wanted a dog but couldn’t care for it full-time, you’ve got an opportunity here. If you have a dog and are looking for a new “dog-sitter,” you’ve got an opportunity here.
Meet Liam Berkeley, founder and CEO of Bark’N’Borrow. He’s the guy who’s going to match dog lover with dog owner. Calling Bark’N’Borrow a “matchmaking service,” he’s launched this week’s Uber of X company, and it’s launching well.
With already 70,000 user profiles added since Nov. 2015, Berkeley is barking up the right tree. It’s a subscription-based model, and neither user gets paid. However, 5 percent of each subscription goes to Best Friends Animal Society.
PYMNTS talked to Berkeley about the founding of the company, what’s next and why people just are so in love with this darn doggy idea.
PYMNTS: How did Bark’N’Borrow all begin?
LB: I was living in California with my girlfriend at the time and always wanted a dog, but it didn’t really make sense. I was working 12-hour days, and she was still in school with a job on the side, and most importantly, we were living in an apartment. So, it just would have been too much. But we started going out in L.A. and meeting people with dogs. We started making friends, and I would ask them, “Hey, I go running a couple days a week. Can I take your dog with me on my run?” or “Can I take your dog to the beach for the weekend?” And they’re like, “Yes, please take my number, whenever.” So, then, we’d do that, and other people would come to us and tell us how cute the dog was, and we’d admit it wasn’t ours. Many times, they’d say that they just moved into an apartment or travel a lot for work, and ultimately, they just can’t have a dog full-time.
I had never seen anywhere like New York or L.A., where people spend so much money on their pets. And I thought, “Why do that when there are people like myself who love dogs but can’t have one full-time, who would love to hang out with your dog and don’t expect to get paid?” It’s just a question of how you establish that relationship.
So, we threw together a website and would go to dog parks to ask people about the idea. I gathered about 300 email addresses from people in the Santa Monica area. The response was super fun and very interesting. Learned a lot about dog owners, learned a lot about what people who didn’t have dogs wanted and what they expected.
We launched the platform in Nov. 2015. We built it out in San Diego and then launched in San Francisco. From there, we started getting some press, and that gave us a boost. They just really were interested in the service we were providing. So, we started feeding supply in Boston and New York. So, we went from 600 profiles in Los Angeles to 12,000 over eight hours after our New York Times story. And we’re improving the life and experience for the dog.
So, we started expanding the service and the product. Thinking about how we deliver. How do we make it better? It’s been a great, exciting year for us.
Owners can now reach out to borrowers, which they couldn’t do before. Other dog owners can now reach out to other owners to set up playdates with other dogs.
PYMNTS: What’s your take on this phrase “Uber of X?”
LB: We are part of that to an extent. We like to cultivate and bring about a relationship. But it’s not a product; it’s sharing. It is, and it isn’t. It brings joy and happiness to a user and a service to the user (the owner). It’s a feeling, and it’s a life.
So, I sort of agree with it, and I sort of don’t. We would love to improve the service time and have that instant relationship. At the same time, we want people to form these relationships that help owners find someone who loves their dog just as much as they do.
If we can deliver that in a turnaround time in the same amount of time that Uber can get to your house, that’s what we’re working toward. At the same time, we’re allowing people to have genuine relationships.
PYMNTS: How does everyone get paid?
LB: There’s no transactions between users. The owners and borrowers pay a subscription on a monthly basis. Every application gets verified in the background. We have a team of people verifying each application. But no user or borrower gets paid.
Basically, they’re getting a service by sharing a service. It’s all about the “sharing economy” and serving a need. That’s based on lots of dogs, lots of owners and lots of people who love dogs. If anything, it’s really a matchmaking service.
This is not a service for people who want to try a dog out. This is for people who grew up with dogs, love dogs, just can’t have one full-time right now.
PYMNTS: Any bumps in the startup road you can share?
LB: Nothing on the user end. We do a good job of a system in place to tackle problems as they arise.
We’ve had a few people who say that they don’t like giving their dog to a stranger, but then, we show them that it takes time to establish a relationship. But we try hard to make matches that will work. Ultimately, you didn’t know your dog walker or even your friends before you met them and built a relationship.
PYMNTS: What’s the future look like for Bark’N’Borrow?
LB: We’re looking to have rescue dogs on our platform. Here, we have a platform that can help so many dogs and people who want to borrow a dog but not on a full-time basis.
We are part of this sharing economy of 2016, and people are open to this concept more than ever.