There are few things more gut wrenching than looking into the eyes of your beloved dog and telling them you’ll be back in a week. The guilt, the dejection – it’s a difficult time for everyone involved.
Enter HouseMyDog, the service which allows dog owners to find a trusted sitter for their pet.
We spoke to James McElroy, co-founder of the rapidly expanding startup about growing the team, their recent crowdfunding success and the realities of getting a business off the ground.
Tell me a bit about how HouseMyDog came about.
HouseMyDog was started by myself and my brother Timothy. We were looking for a sitter for our family dog Holly and couldn’t believe how outdated and inefficient it was. We decided to do some market research and found that over 85% of dog owners didn’t want to use kennels and were actively seeking alternatives due to caged environments, high costs and lack of trust. We saw how the likes of Uber and Airbnb had disrupted their industries with technology and knew the outdated pet services needed to be brought into the 21st century.
What was your background before starting your own business?
I was studying business and finance before. I always had an interest in tech so I started providing web development and digital marketing strategies for Irish SMEs. Looking back the strategies were pretty awful and the web development was worse but I really enjoyed it and it was a massive learning curve for me.
What was the biggest challenge in getting your business off the ground?
Getting a great developer (now our CTO, Igor) really made a big difference and then having the resources to grow. Enterprise Ireland and the NDRC were great in our initial funding and providing mentoring too. Having those resources available to Irish startups is so important!
How would you describe your growth thus far?
For HouseMyDog we’ve been lucky in that we’ve always trended in the right direction when it comes to growth. Sometimes it has been slow and sometimes it has been mad but everyday users have signed up. I think you expect it to always be in this hyper growth stage when you first launch but for us it’s been a case where we have always been growing, just the rate of that growth varies.
What’s been the hardest or most valuable lesson learnt by you and your co-founder?
For myself and my two co-founders I think the saying “It’s a marathon not a sprint” is one we can relate to. Again, it’s not always hyper growth and you need to be persistent as there’s always some problem to be solved.
We’ve always been cognisant of the fact money won’t solve anything if your users are not engaging. We held off on fundraising to the point where we were running on fumes.
We wanted to spend as much time as we possibly could learning what our users wanted from HouseMyDog and how we could give it to them.
What makes your life easier at work?
When we first started we knew the road ahead was going to be an interesting one. There are always challenges that can really test you but you and the team need to find a way to overcome them. I enjoy the grind and if I didn’t have it I would miss it. I think for me having a good team around you is so important and I am lucky I do so that is probably the single biggest thing that makes my life easier at work. And coffee.
What does your team look like?
Our team are all unique in their own way which is great as everyone brings something different to the table. Everyone who applies typically loves dogs, wants to work in a fast paced startup environment and is passionate about the idea that tech can make the pet services marketplace more efficient. We have been incredibly lucky with team members, past and present!
Are you currently hiring or do you have any plans to hire soon?
We are currently hiring now for our three offices across Dublin, London and Berlin. We plan on tripling the team in the next 12 months so it’s a really interesting time for us here and we are all looking forward to that expansion.
What’s been the most exciting moment so far for HouseMyDog?
Setting up a startup really has its ups and downs. Our recent Crowdfunding was an exciting few days. We launched a 30 day campaign to raise €200k as a part of our seed round and ended up hitting the target in just over a day which was the Irish record I think so that was cool!
We really liked the idea of being able to allow our users to become owners of the company and were overwhelmed by the response to the campaign.
What does the future look like for HouseMyDog?
We want to be Europe’s largest pet services platform. We want to be able to offer pet owners not just overnight care but daycare, walking, e-tailing, insurance and even medicine. Being the place you go to for all your pets needs, a bit like amazon for dogs. And yes I am going to check if Dogazon.com is taken!