Sunday 23 October 2016

Brothers aiming to collar the EU market with 'Airbnb' for dogs

Published 28/01/2016 | 02:30

Brothers James and Timothy McElroy with Holly
Brothers James and Timothy McElroy with Holly

Two years ago Dublin brothers James and Timothy McElroy had an idea to create an AirBnB-like service for their family pooch, Holly, called HouseMyDog.

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The idea took off, attracting 15,000 users and prompting 2,000 dogsitters to sign up. "It's basically like AirBnB for dogs," says co-founder James McElroy. "We sign up vetted sitters and they come to HouseMyDog and sign up for free. They also have to go through a five-step vetting process.

"One of the things when we set up the site was, we didn't want just anyone to be able to sign up, obviously we want our minders to be vetted and be very trustworthy," McElroy said.

Along with Igor Ferrira, the firm's engineer, the brothers set up the business after James' older brother Timothy left a venture capital firm in Berlin and returned home.

The basis of the idea could have been open to manipulation but McElroy says only 20pc of minders who sign up to the site end up going live. The firm, which employs eight, half of whom are interns, has been backed by a mix of Enterprise Ireland (EI) funding and private investors.

"To date we've raised around €150,000, and it's been raised through a mix of private investors and EI.

"EI take 10pc for €50,000. That's the only equity that has been given away so that kind of values the company at around €500,000," the 25-year-old said.

HouseMyDog is located in the Docklands Innovation Park in the IFSC in Dublin after entering into EI's entrepreneurship programme, New Frontiers.

The firm generates its income by way of commission. The service takes 15pc for each booking from the dogsitter.

According to McElroy, the idea is being carried out by a couple of firms in the US on a larger scale, to considerable success.

Meanwhile in the EU, he says that there are a few competitors but mostly in the initial stages. The DIT graduate wants HouseMyDog to take advantage of the currently fragmented dog-minding market. "The plan is to become the number one dogsitting service in Europe, that's the long-term goal," he said.

Expansion has already begun following positive feedback in the Irish market, spurring the firm to enter the UK.

"The response in the Irish market was really positive. We went out and talked to dog owners and found that 75pc of dog owners were unhappy with current solutions.

"We're in Ireland and the UK now, we have about 15,000 users and we have around 2,000 sitters in five major locations in Ireland and five in the UK."

McElroy, who lives at home in Blackrock with his 29-year-old brother, says the firm aims to continue its expansion as it looks to secure entry into Enterprise Ireland's high performance startup unit.

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