'Airbnb for dogs' reveals growth plans following merger
Pet start-up HouseMyDog has revealed grand growth plans following a merger with Madrid-based firm Gudog.
HouseMyDog was founded in Dublin by brothers Timothy and James McElroy and now operates principally from London.
Available in more than 70 cities across eight European countries, its services enable dog owners to find and book local, trusted dog sitters and walkers, with more than 25,000 professionals on the platform.
Over the next 18 months, the company – which has offices in London, Dublin and Berlin – will expand into a further 30 cities in Europe.
“We were in Dublin first, then Manchester. We spread from there to Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow as we figured out what was working and built a playbook on how to grow which we could drop into new cities,” James, 27, told BusinessCloud.
However biggest challenge for HouseMyDog, also available in Birmingham and Leeds, was launching in London.
“London is almost like every other city – but on steroids!” explained James. “It’s so big that it required many more resources – you need a much bigger team as you scale up there.
“It’s our goal to be in every UK city, and every major city around Europe.”
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By connecting dog owners with convenient professionals the aim is to reduce the cost of dog sitting, boarding and walking. However the business model wouldn’t work in every town, according to James.
“With B2C businesses we require a certain level of population for any city,” he said. “A city under a certain population just wouldn’t be worth our while in terms of our acquisition costs.
“The bigger the city, the better. That's why London is so important to companies like ours.”
The partnership with Gudog, the market leader in Spain, made sense as it operated in France while HouseMyDog had penetrated the German market.
“We weren’t competing in any markets so strategically it made a lot of sense. We had the same goal in terms of where we see the business going,” said James.
The merged business employs 21 people and there are plans to grow this to 35. Most of the new hires will be in London, with roles also created in Madrid and Berlin.
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James and Timothy, 31, had the idea for the business because it was a problem their family had always faced themselves.
“Growing up we'd have to drive like an hour down the road before going on holiday to drop the dog off,” said James. “We knew this was a problem that affects a lot of people: 25-30 per cent of every household in Europe has a dog.
“We want pet ownership to become much more affordable. We feel that everyone would like to have a dog but people are restricted in terms of where they live: they can't find as sitter or they feel bad about leaving the dog alone during the day while they're at work.”
The company closed an £850,000 seed round from Enterprise Ireland in January 2018 after it was crowned Crowdcube’s ‘best crowdfunded business of the year’ in 2017 for a campaign which ultimately raised £650,000 and hit £200,000 within 48 hours.
“Crowdfunding is great tool: we saw a lot of value in it because it gave our community a chance to invest in the business,” reflected James. “We thought it was cool that, if you're a user of HouseMyDog, you can also own a piece of it.
“We had about 65 per cent of the crowdfunding money lined up beforehand. Everyone who's on a crowdfunding round should certainly be talking to angel investors beforehand to give them a heads-up because if someone is writing a cheque for 5, 10, 15 or 25k, they're going to need a bit of time.
“A lot of investors say they'll see how you get on during the round, so a lot of things have to fall into place.”