As Americans spend more on pets, businesses hope to cash in
American spending on pets reached a record $55.7 billion last year, more than the GDP of Luxembourg. “If the pet industry were tracked by the U.S. government as a single entity, we’d be the seventh largest retail segment in the country,” says Bob Vetere, CEO of the American Pet Products Association, which released the spending figure in March. “It’s an attractive opportunity,” says Stuart Ellman, a managing partner at venture-capital firm RRE Ventures, which led funding rounds for the delivery service BarkBox. Ellman adds that it’s a recent development for Internet companies to target pet owners. Many of these new startups even mirror apps and services aimed at, well, people–from taxi service Uber to rental site Airbnb. Here’s a sample.
Whistle, a $129 coin-shaped device that snaps onto a collar, is like Fitbit for pets. Owners can use it to monitor their dog’s activity remotely. “We can calculate true rest or sleep, not just aimlessly wandering around to see if the mailman is there,” CEO Ben Jacobs claims. If a pet is sleeping too much, an owner might take it to the vet for a checkup. The two-year-old company has raised $6 million.
App Swifto allows owners to book dog walkers and use GPS to track their location. Swifto’s walkers, who charge about $35 for 30 minutes, send texts when a walk begins and ends, as well as real-time poop alerts. The company has raised $2.5 million and plans to expand beyond New York City this year.
DogVacay is a site that allows dog–also cat, rabbit and hedgehog–owners to find hosts across the country to take care of their pets while they’re on vacation. The site has 15,000 hosts in the U.S., who charge anywhere from $15 to $100 a night. The company, founded in March 2012, has raised $22 million.
BarkBox’s $19 monthly subscription sends owners a mix of dog toys, treats and gadgets. Co-founder Matt Meeker says the firm has over 180,000 subscribers. The startup, which has $6.7 million in funding, plans to expand into concierge services for pets.
This appears in the April 14, 2014 issue of TIME.