Barkbox Raises $1.7 Million For Subscription Pet Gear

By Erin Griffith , written on July 9, 2012

From The News Desk

You gotta hand it to them for nailing the name: It's not difficult to suss out what a company called "Barkbox" does. (Hint: It's stuff in a box. For your dog.)

The New York startup is the brainchild of Matt Meeker, co-founder of Meetup and Wee Web. A pet "parent" himself, he started it as a fun project, but found he'd tapped into an enthusiastic market of potential subscribers. It's possible that pet parents pamper their pets more than actual parents spoil their human children.

Seven months in, and the project has turned into a full-on business. Renewal rates for the boxes are in the high-90s percentile, Meeker says. Customer acquisition costs have stayed low, thanks to word of mouth and its friend referral program. Barkbox has under 100,000 subscribers. Sample items in the $17 to $29 per month box include fancy bones and treats, toys, and biodegradable bags for dog poop.

This week Barkbox closed on $1.7 million led by with participation from Lerer Ventures, RRE, Polaris Ventures, Bertelsmann, and 500 Startups, Meeker says. Angel investors include subscription guru Brian Lee, the founder of Shoedazzle, Honest Company and LegalZoom, as well as Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder of College Humor and Busted Tees Josh Abramson, co-founders of InviteMedia Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg, and Doug Chertok, Aaron Earls, Mike Jung, and Aaron Harris. Previously the company raised a small seed round.

The capital will go toward building a team. Up until now, it's mostly been Meeker, Henrik Werdelin, and Carly Strife working on it. "We're at a place where it's gotten too big for us," Meeker says. That certainly wasn't the plan at the outset.

"We thought it would be a nice product to launch and have a nice cash flow and be a fun thing to do," he says. "But the response was so good, and we realized that its a huge audience that's underserved in many more ways than just discovering cool products." Barkbox is rolling out a broader business that will include content, straight retail, and even some vertically integrated product development.

The company's advisors include Katia Beauchamp and Haley Barna of fellow stuff-in-a-box startup Birchbox. That startup, focused primarily on women's beauty products, hasn't ruled out pets as a category -- it recently launched a men's vertical to much fanfare.

If the state of the daily deals industry is any guide, we're poised for a backlash to the stuff-in-a-box trend any day now, with Brian Lee's Honest Company and Shoedazzle dropping their subscription plans. Barkbox is aware of that, but, for now, needs only to point to the organic subscriber growth and high renewal rate to prove its staying power.