Barkly’s business model focuses on trust, ‘hiring the best dog walkers’
About two years ago, Chris Gonzalez ran into a problem that many pet owners face. He was not only studying for his MBA, but also working full-time having no hours left in the day to take his beagle, Schroeder, out for walks.
With the trust-factor as a high priority, Chris kept calling on his pal Dave Comiskey to walk his four-legged friend.
“Funny story actually, Chris ordered a jacket and it accidentally got delivered to Dave’s place and that’s part of how Chris and Dave met,” said Barkly Co-founder and CTO Jim Camut.
And like any good friend, Chris didn’t want to have to keep relying on Dave, since he too, had a full plate himself.
“He was trying to find some options to get his dog walked while he was at class, so he said ‘there’s got to be a better way.’” explained Camut who went to high school with Chris. “All of the pet services that existed were trying to lock him into packages, it was really cumbersome, so he started to put together a business plan.”
Chris and Jim caught up at a mutual friend’s wedding and that was the beginning of Barkly, an on-demand dog-walking service, which was launched in Washington D.C. and has spread to Philadelphia, Baltimore and now New York City.
“Building a company empowering hundreds of people to pursue their passion in working with pets while also making a living, is the thing we are most proud of with launching Barkly,” said Comiskey, one of the three co-founders, in an email.
The six-person team, which also includes two developers and a regional manager, is one of nine companies that recently completed Newark Venture Partners’ inaugural 3-month accelerator program this fall based in Newark, NJ.
Demo day was December 7 at the Prudential Center where Barkly pitched its product to investors.
“We really liked the partners, we really liked the setup here,” Camut said of Newark Venture Partners. “They’re doing a lot to really set people up for success. It’s a great environment to really accelerate and grow, and I think we all had a good gut feeling about it and it turned out to be true.”
What sets Barkly apart from countless dog-walking services around New York City is the rigorous process of selecting the best, most trust-worthy walkers.
“They’re really the superstars of our service,” Camut said. “The higher quality walkers that we have, the higher quality experience our customers are going to have.”
And customers are noticing. According to Dave, over 95 percent of users repeat booking.
Currently, there are hundreds walkers (and a large waiting list) who are available within an hour’s notice from 6 a.m. to midnight, daily. And being the best dog-walkers in town, they are also treated highly. Barkly’s dog walkers take home 80 percent commission, the highest out of all of its competitors.
“We’re not looking for motivated money-makers, and an applicant’s sincere desire to work with pets and care for them will show through if it’s there,” Comiskey said. “Naturally, applicants with prior pet care experience fit what we look for in candidates. It isn’t necessarily prior dog walking experience, but about 80 percent of our applicants have prior experience working with animals at volunteer shelters, veterinary school, or through previous pet care experience.”
The company and app, which users can download for free on iOS and Android, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Technical.ly Philadelphia, Fast Company, The Washington Post and The Washingtonian.
To save time and money, the app is hybrid.
“You don’t want to ignore a whole subset,” Camut said. “If we just concentrated on iOS, there’s a whole group of people who wouldn’t get to use our service.”
Curious to learn more about Barkly? Check out their website at https://barkly.us.