Friends for Fido: How Rover went from an idea to a coast-to-coast platform connecting pets and caregivers
written by Chad Walsh
The mother-of-invention story is such a common one for tech startups that it’s almost become a trope. Take Reed Hastings, who got fed up with late fees from video rental stores and eventually founded Netflix, the order-by- mail subscription DVD rental company turned streaming-content juggernaut. Founder sees annoying problem. Founder builds better mousetrap to eliminate said problem. Founder’s nascent company changes the everyday lives of millions of Americans. at’s how Rover, the Seattle-based website that facilitates relationships between pet owners and pet sitters and walkers, was born. In the mid-aughts, Greg Gottesman had to leave Seattle and needed someone to look after his yellow lab, Ruby Tuesday.
Like millions of Americans, he turned to his local kennel to look after his beloved pet and went on his way. But things were amiss when he returned home. When he picked up Ruby Tuesday, the dog was covered in scratches. Worse, the pet had come down with a bad case of kennel cough. Needless to say, the dog was in much worse shape when Gottesman picked her up than when he dropped her off. Gottesman’s lightbulb moment came when his then-9- year-old daughter chimed in, saying that if someone offered to pay her, she’d gladly look after pets. e story goes that Gottesman ran with his daughter’s idea, unrolling Rover, the dog-sitting (and cat-sitting) and dog-walking company, at Seattle’s Startup Week in 2011, where Gottesman and his business partners took home the event’s top prize.
Seven years later, Rover now contracts with 200,000 pet sitters and walkers in 14,000 cities across the United States, from tiny dog-happy towns like Sun Valley, Idaho, to large sprawling metropolises like Seattle and San Francisco. “Rover’s mission is to bring the joy of pet companionship to every responsible person in the U.S.—whether they work long hours, travel frequently or don’t have a local network of family and friends to help out with care,” said Pete Bahrenburg, a spokesman for Rover. Here’s how it works. Rover is in many ways a community message board, where pet owners in need of assistance can connect to those sitters and walkers who have downtime and are looking for extra cash. Think of it like a cross between Uber and Tinder. You search for pet sitters in your area and swipe right until you nd one you trust. Once you’ve settled on one, you can order a bespoke roster of services that cater to your pet’s needs.
Bahrenburg said prospective pet owners should place a great deal of faith in how Rover operates. Indeed, all the pet-sitters who apply to house sit or walk dogs are run through a rigorous screening process prior to coming into contact with anyone’s pet. “We have very high standards for our sitters and dog walkers,” Bahrenburg said, noting the company accepts fewer than 20 percent of those who apply to contract with them. “Our team reviews each sitter and dog-walker pro le submission with a focus on dog safety. Profiles detail a prospective sitter or dog walker’s experience and background, as well as photos, references and third-party verifications.” Each new sitter and dog walker also completes a full background check processed by Checkr, itself another tech startup.
While companies like ride-share programs create an environment where prices can rapidly rise during peak times, Rover allows pet owners and pet sitters the ability to haggle over the costs of services. “Pet sitters and dog walkers can set and adjust the services and rates they offer at any time by editing their user profile at rover.com or on the Rover app,” Bahrenburg said. “Sitters can always edit their rate as needed during conversations with pet parents, allowing them to offer custom rates for the services provided. For instance, sitters and walkers may offer a discount for multiple-pet households or raise rates for dog boarding, house sitting and drop-in visits throughout the holiday season.”
And Rover’s services don’t only apply just to dogs.
“While we are ‘ The Dog People,’ Rover isn’t just for dogs,” Bahrenburg said. “Cat drop-ins are one of the fastest growing segments of our business. Sitters on Rover have looked after cats, birds, horses, pigs and even lizards and sh.”
So go ahead and plan that next family trip with the knowledge that you don’t need to leave your dog at the kennel for two to three weeks at a time. Indeed, you can have a one-person kennel come to you.