Now trending… On-demand.
Ok, the on-demand movement has been flourishing for quite some time, but one industry that is just starting to make its way into the space is pet care. The industry has been slow to adopt technology altogether, but that’s changing.
We recently highlighted a new app built to help people live better lives with their dogs and now we get a look at a team out of the Harvard i-Lab who is bringing on-demand pet care to luxury apartment complexes.
Early last year, Lindsay Hyde and Meghan Reiss (picture below with their dogs (Hyde, left; Reiss, right)) launched Baroo, who partners with premium apartment buildings to deliver high-quality pet care services straight to residents' doors, including walks for dogs, and grooming, feeding, bathing and pet sitting for both dogs and cats.
As we often find with startups, the idea came about as a solution to one’s own problem.
In 2012 Hyde, left her post as President of Strong Women, Strong Girls, a Boston-based not-for-profit organization she founded as a Freshman at Harvard. Having started the organization while a student, Hyde built and ran the company for more than twelve years before departing to enter Harvard Business School.
“I was passionate about entrepreneurship and ready for a new challenge, but I had spent my entire career in the nonprofit sector. I decided to go to business school to better understand the for-profit world, gain new skills, and become a part of the amazing community that HBS provides.”
Then Hyde got a dog…
Living in Boston and married to another entrepreneur, Hyde and her husband got a dog and it wasn’t long before they realized the challenges that come along with having and caring for their newest family member.
“We struggled to find pet care to begin with and once we did, it was hard to schedule and highly variable in quality. Transactions were cash only, scheduling was inefficient and unreliable, and there wasn’t any technology helping the process.”
THE BIRTH OF BAROO
Hyde was already a successful entrepreneur with a proven track record of building scalable platforms to provide high quality care.
Just after entering college she realized there was an opportunity in the world of mentoring to more efficiently utilize the abundance of college students in cities like Boston to help get young people who wanted mentors off an ever-growing waiting list.
She fixed this problem by building Strong Women, Strong Girls, a mentorship program that leverage college undergraduate women as volunteer mentors working with school age girls. To make the program consistent and scalable, the organization designed a standardized curriculum that made it easy for college students to say yes to being a mentor and that ensured the young people in the program were getting high quality experiences. By the time she left Strong Women, Strong Girls, the organization had grown to 5 cities globally and served 10,000 women and girls.
With the addition of their new dog, Hyde saw a new challenge and opportunity to improve the accessibility and quality of pet care.
Early 2014, Hyde called long time friend and colleague, Meghan Reiss, who was employee number 1 at Strong Women, Strong Girls, to chat about a potential solution to her pet care woes.
“Meghan had also just gotten a dog and was realizing the same struggles. We knew the opportunity to make a really positive change in the pet care space and build something important,” Hyde told me.
In February of 2014, Baroo walked their first dog at inaugural partner building the Ink Block in Boston’s famously dog friendly South End.
Since that first dog walk, Hyde and Reiss have raised $1.2 million in seed funding (officially closed last month) added 20 properties as partners, launched an iOS app and opened operations in Chicago.
One of Baroo’s investors is Miami, Florida based entrepreneur Dennis Scholl. What got him to put his money behind Hyde and this young startup?
“Baroo has a huge addressable market that has heretofore been ignored by all but the mom and pop operators, so it is ripe for this kind of roll out. And frankly I would fund just about anything our founder was up for, as she is in it to win it!!”
Some of Boston’s most notable luxury complexes are on board as Baroo partners, including newly built InkBlock, 100 Pier 4, and the Van Ness. While Baroo works hand-in-hand with property managers at each location it is the residents who pay for their desired services.
“It’s important for us to work directly with the property managers to ensure trust, reliability and an efficient process. We also have a strong belief and focus on community and work with our partner properties to build that among their resident pet parents.”
Baroo, Hyde tells me, creates community activities and events within each property, such as morning coffee at 100 Pier 4 or Yappy Hour at Ink Block.
Baroo serves up a menu of offerings – everything from a simple dog walk to pet sitting and grooming services. As a resident of a partner property (you can request Baroo at your property) a pet owner can simply pull up their Baroo app and order a feeding, litter box change or a play date with the tap on their phone. Only an hour’s notice is needed.
Can’t get home to let the dog out during your lunch break or want to meet some friends after work for cocktails? Simply open your Baroo app and get your pet the attention, service or food he or she needs and carry on with your day, worry free! When you get home, you’ll even receive a daily report card, a nice personal touch from your pet sitter.
All Baroo’s pet providers are FBI background checked, bonded and insured, and undergo a proprietary training program Baroo designed with leading experts from MSPCA-Angell Memorial.
“Safety and reliability are front and center for Baroo. It is a critical element that we focus on to be sure that we are delivering the highest quality care of our pets and pet parents,” Hyde says.
With the rapid growth in Boston and the recent launch of Chicago, Baroo is adding to their team. Here in Boston, Hyde is looking to add a Boston City Manager.
Baroo expects to continue adding property partners in and around Boston’s city limits and with the amount of construction going on in Boston, there should be no shortage of demand here. By spring of 2016, Hyde expects Baroo to be available in two additional markets (not disclosed), with plans for rapid growth to major metro markets in the coming 12 months.
Hyde, Reiss, and their growing team, want to professionalize the pet care industry, starting here in Boston and expanding throughout the country. The current trend of on-demand services and the instantaneous world in which we live, combined with the growing number of city-living pet owners, has Baroo poised to build a serious business.
So Boston (and Chicago), support this local startup and team of entrepreneurs, and simplify your life in the process.
*Homepage cover image courtesy of TheFenway.com