Pack leader Benchmark Capital tosses DogVacay a giant $6M Series A bone

By Michael Carney , written on November 13, 2012

From The News Desk

Not all investors are created equal, and pet services marketplace DogVacay has reeled in one of the best in the business as part of its $6 million Series A financing round. The latest heavy hitter to back the company is Benchmark Capital, who joins existing investors First Round Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Quest Venture Partners, and Baroda Ventures, and its founding partner, Santa Monica technology studio Science Inc.

Not only did benchmark open up its checkbook, but its general partner and undisputed Silicon Valley titan Bill Gurley will join the company’s board of directors – Gurley is also a board member of Zillow, OpenTable, and Uber among other success stories. Further, Bob Kagle, another Benchmark general partner, is expected to be “deeply involved” as an advisor to the company.

“Benchmark, and specifically Bill and Bob, has incredible experience with marketplace style businesses and very good pattern recognition in the space – in addition to a genuine passion for dogs,” says DogVacay founder and “Top Dog” Aaron Hirschhorn.

Given the pedigree of these new investors, it’s no surprise to hear that DogVacay has been experiencing exponential growth. Since launching in March, the company has reportedly seen 60 percent month-over-month revenue growth and is undisputedly the largest home dog boarding and pet services marketplace in the US.

Two weeks ago, the company paid out its one millionth dollar to its pet sitters, Hirschhorn tells me. Given that the company collects a 15 percent service charge from the fees charged by its sitters, this would make the company’s eight month gross billings to date nearly $1.2 million.

Consumers seem to love the service because it’s generally cheaper to use than kennels or other private dog care services. Pet caregivers gravitate toward the turnkey nature of the platform. This said, the company is barely scratching the surface in terms of awareness and has plenty of room for additional growth. DogVacay and Benchmark are aiming to wrangle a US market consisting of 78 million pet dogs (more than live-at-home kids) and in which $5 billion per year is spent on pet boarding.

The young startup offers a number of technological bells and whistles to both pet owners and sitters, in addition to its matchmaking services. Owners in New York and Los Angeles, for example can use GPS to track their pet’s whereabouts at any moment and can view real time daily activity logs that calculate things like time spent running, playing, and resting (reporting features coming to more markets soon). Another similar features in the works is live or recorded pet activity videos, which anyone who has a pet owner friend can attest will be feel-good gold.

Sitters, on the other hand, 25 percent of which are full time pet care professionals and 75 percent of which view it as a hobby or income supplement, benefit from features including free services listing, comprehensive insurance, booking and pricing autonomy, customer support, and marketing.

The new round of funding will be used to grow its team and to expand the service nationwide then eventually overseas. Product-wise, the company is increasingly focused on mobile and will be to roll out new features and experiences that lend themselves toward this use case.

“DogVacay is a remarkable two-sided marketplace,” says Gurley. “The consumer has an experience that is an order of magnitude better than the traditional solution, and simultaneously the supplier (sitter) receives substantial incremental income with relatively little investment, which creates a sustainable flywheel effect.”

[Image source, Canines and Cuisine]