You’ve just gone and bought yourself a tiny, fluffy, adorable puppy. At first, it’s easy. You call up your trusted friend Marianne or Joshua, who can’t stop swooning over the pup, to take it out for a walk here and there while you’re at work. But eventually your puppy’s charms no longer do the trick and you need another option.
Problem is, you can’t trust just anyone to come into your home and give your dog the walk it needs.
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Israeli entrepreneur Penina First is confident she’s found the solution for desperate dog-owners everywhere with her startup Swifto. The new dog walking company, which has already garnered rave reviews, allows dog owners in Manhattan (and soon in San Francisco and Boston) to track their dog’s walk using a mobile app with GPS locator.
The app also sends owners real-time text message updates at the beginning and end of the walk, along with updates on bathroom breaks and even a photo of the pup enjoying his walk!
Founder Penina First tells NoCamels: “Dog walking is a trust-based marketplace. If you look for reviews of dog-walking companies online, you’ll see plenty of complaints that say things like ‘the dog walker never showed up’, ‘he walked my dog for 15 minutes instead of 30’, ‘she never even took the dog out’. But because we have the GPS tracking technology, it really allows dog owners to know everything is okay.”
$5,200 per dog, per year
The entire scheduling process is done online, and customizable to suit the needs of any dog. When dog owners register to Swifto online, they fill out a questionnaire covering everything from how long they want the walk to be and when they want the dog to be fed, to allergies and how the dog reacts to kids and strangers. All of the information is collected and presented to the matched dog walker through the mobile app.
Before the first walk, dog owners and their matched walkers have a meet-and-greet session (the dog is also present) and complete a more individualized questionnaire regarding any specific requirements for the dog.
However, Swifto’s dog walking services do not run cheap. Customers who use Swifto’s services at least five times a week pay $20 for a 30-minute walk, while less frequent users can expect to pay $35 per walk. Swifto currently has just over 300 clients, each spending approximately $5200 on dog walks per year.
A college degree is mandatory to be a dog walker
Landing a job as a dog walker for Swifto is far from easy. Each of the 60-odd dog walkers Swifto employs must own a dog, have prior experience dog walking, and have a college degree. The applicants first complete an online questionnaire, in which they indicate their dog walking and training experience and confirm they are available five days a week, and at least four hours per day for dog walks. If their application is suitable, the applicant then has a phone interview. Next, they come into the Swifto office to take a written exam to test their knowledge of dogs, and a face-to-face interview. The final step of the process is a mandatory background check for each potential dog walker.
Swifto has recently raised $2.5 million from Benchmark Capital. After only a year in business, sales are expected to reach $1 million at the end of this year, and the company is already planning to expand into the Boston and San Francisco areas in early 2014.
Photo: Dogs by Bigstock