There’s been a sea change in how multifamily landlords view tenants with pets over the past decade.
Large apartment complexes in Greater Boston that accept pets used to be the exception. Now developers are trying to top each other with pet-friendly amenities, from pet-washing stations to dog daycare centers.
The trend has presented an opportunity for pet service providers such as Baroo, which partners with multifamily landlords to provide “pet concierge” services at luxury complexes in Greater Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Baroo has received $2.25 million in seed funding for expansion into additional markets.
“As we see people moving back into the urban core, the reality is people are going to have pets. It’s becoming a real competitive advantage for properties, to say they want pets to be an integral part of the community,” Baroo CEO Lindsay Hyde said.
The funding round is led by Birchaven Group, which specializes in backing tech startups. Another investor is the Graduate Syndicate, a newly-formed investment group that supports ventures led by Harvard Business School graduates.
Hyde, an HBS grad, previously founded Strong Women, Strong Girls, a Boston-based nonprofit mentoring program for urban youths. She and Meghan Reiss, who was COO of the organization, co-founded Baroo in 2014 based upon their experiences as dog owners in an urban setting (Hyde lives in Cambridge and Reiss in Medford).
They signed up the Ink Block in the South End as their first client in 2014, offering pet-sitting and dog-walking services, along with grooming services at the complex’s on-site dog spa. Baroo has expanded its client base to 50,000 residents in its three markets, offering an expanded menu of services including feeding, vet visits, playdates and training.
Baroo now has partnerships with 50 properties in Greater Boston, where “pet parent” rates tend to run between 30 and 40 percent, Hyde said.
Acknowledging concerns about finding a reliable pet service, Baroo runs background checks on applicants and put them through a three-interview process, classroom training and a full-day “walk-along” with a staff member. The company uses harnesses designed by MSPCA-Angell animal medical centers and leashes designed for sure grips.
After recently adding 70 properties in the Washington, D.C. market, Baroo is set to add a fourth metro with an announcement expected by year’s end. As it seeks new clients, it’s armed with industry research that shows that pet-friendly properties tend to have higher tenant retention rates.
The funding also will support updates to the company’s web and mobile platforms, which enables owners to schedule appointments and process payments.