Bark ‘N’ Borrow is redefining the phrase ‘must love dogs’ with its online platform that matches local dog owners with dog lovers looking for canine companionship—without the commitment.
The company’s service is free (although professional sitters and walkers do charge a nominal fee) and works much like an online dating service for four-legged pooches. In other words, it’s designed for people who love dogs, but won’t (or can’t) commit to taking care of one fulltime. It’s, at its core, taking the lending service economy to a whole new level.
The Los Angeles-based startup is the brainchild of tech entrepreneur Liam Berkeley who believes that most people (especially those in major cities) want a dog, but just not all the time. He launched the company in 2014 shortly after moving to the U.S. from Australia and realizing that he and his then-girlfriend simply couldn’t commit to raising a dog.
“We were contemplating getting a rescue dog, but I was working such long hours,” he explains. “I met people in our apartment building in L.A., established a relationship with them and ended up asking them when they’re not busy to take their dog for a run, a hike, or down to the beach with my girlfriend, and they were cool with it.” His love for dogs, he says with a laugh, can easily be traced back to his childhood. “I grew up with dogs in Australia. They were part of my life.”
Bark ‘N’ Borrow isn’t the first app to offer dog-matching services, but the startup is distinguishing itself from the competition with its user verification efforts and match-up practices. “Dogs can’t communicate or handle a situation as humans do,” says Berkeley about why his company carves out time to authenticate each and every user. “I understand how people feel about their dogs, so we go above and beyond to make sure profiles are accurate and they’re real.”
Like most dating sites, Bark ‘N’ Borrow requires all users to create a profile, complete with user history, preference and a profile photo. Dog owners will be expected to fill out pertinent information like vaccinations, breed and temperament. After a profile is created, one of the company’s six full-time or five part-time staff members reviews it and approves it within about 12 hours.
Yes, that’s right—actual people review the profiles, a sharp contrast to the fancy algorithms used by quite a few of today’s popular dating apps. Dog care—unlike human love, it seems—is obviously too important to leave to a computer program.
The app’s surge in popularity, all in its first year of business, hasn’t come as a surprise to Berkeley, who casually references recent story profiles in well-known publications, such as the New York Times and Tech Times, and business solicitations from around the world. “People would come up to me when I was walking my friend’s dog and say ‘oh your dog is so cute. I miss mine. I can’t have one in my apartment’ and I would say ‘neither can I, I just borrowed my friend’s dog.’”
“Why pay for someone to play with your dog when there is someone who would want to genuinely be with your dog for free,” he explains. “Getting paid for me was taking care of the dog without the full commitment—which I understand is a huge commitment—and was the kind of the payment I wanted. I wanted to create a platform that could do that.”
For those who hope to mimic the company’s success, the entrepreneur only has one thing to say: “supply and demand.”
“It’s just supply to the demand that you’re getting and adapt to it when you have to,” he says. “We started just marketing in L.A. and then New York came by… [and] now we get emails from Berlin, Australia, Asia and Germany about taking our business there.”