Pet startups spend a day in the field

During the fourth from the weekend of July, Americans filled airports and highways almost as much as the holidays before the pandemic. For many people, the busy travel weekend will be followed by getting back to the office and other activities away from home. This ongoing transition period raises many important questions, including: What will happen to all pets?

The past 18 months have been filled with reports of rising adoption rates and reproductive extender waiting lists as Americans searched for furry companions during the lockdown. Business has also been booming for pet-focused startups. Sales on Chewy, the Amazon of pet food and supplies, rose 51% in the fourth quarter, according to its latest report earnings report. Barkbox, which sells personalized boxes of dog toys and treats, reported 264,000 new monthly subscribers in the fourth quarter, an increase of 72% year-on-year. Pawsh, an app that connects dog owners with groomers, saw a 125% growth in customer numbers between March and June of last year; two-thirds of new users were first-time pet owners. “Adopting a dog has become a trend during the pandemic,” says Pawsh co-founder Karthik Naralasetty.

“Our hypothesis is that the group who waited for a pandemic to adopt the pet may be more frequent travelers, or people who work longer hours, which could explain why they did not have a pet. company before, ”said Aaron Easterly, CEO of Pet Rover startup. If these people start taking vacations again or working more hours in an office, they could enter a new chapter in their life as pet owners, with new challenges, requiring new solutions, potentially offered by startups. Rover, an app for finding dog walkers and dog sitters, says it had its biggest month of May, booking more than $ 45 million in services. (While some fear unprepared pet owners donating their dogs, animal welfare groups have said The New York Times there was no such peak.)

Pet care was already a $ 100 billion industry in the United States before the pandemic. A recent report of Morgan Stanley estimates that number could triple over the next decade, marking a sharp increase in growth. “We believe the US pet industry has reached an inflection point,” wrote one analyst, and they are not alone. Venture and private equity investors are looking for the next big deal, whether it’s luxury items like gourmet dog food or staples like grooming services. In 2020, venture capital interest in pet-focused startups increased 29.5% from the previous year, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

“There are more pets than children in places like San Francisco,” says David Cane, vice president of Wag, a dog walking app. These cities could be fertile ground for other business opportunities, such as pet care provided by employers. Wag is now in talks to offer dog walking and boarding as a business benefit “with some Bay Area organizations that employ thousands of people,” said Cane, who declined to name specific companies because the agreements are not finalized.

It’s not just the growing number of pet owners that attracts investors; it is also the relationship that these owners have with their pets. For many people, pets have become another member of the family. “It evolved more into that parental relationship,” says Easterly. “Pet owners insist on finding the right training techniques, whether the dog food with grain is good or bad. Much of the stress you see with parenting human children is now seen in the pet industry. Especially for new pet owners, these stresses can be alleviated with new products and services. The amount households spend on pet care has been steadily increasing since well before the pandemic, according to Morgan Stanley.

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