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Host My Pet gives pet owners a break

Having a puppy tag along on holiday might sound like fun. If it’s too much hassle, Host My Pet wants to help both the animal and its owner.Istock.com/humonia

Animals are lovely companions in everyday life, but jumping on a holiday plane with them isn’t necessarily a viable option. Host My Pet offers a helping hand to people and their best friends.

Worrying is the last thing you want to do when you’re on vacation. However, leaving a furry friend behind can cause extra stress for holiday-goers: whom can I trust to look after my dearest?

Ukranian Julia Shevchenko travels every now and then, but she’d never want to take her cat at a kennel. Once she had to cancel a trip to Italy because no friend or relative was available to look after her pet.

Then Shevchenko spoke to her friend Mert Kürşat Mutlu, who’d just won the Startup Weekend Helsinki hackathon with a business idea: an Airbnb for pets in the need of care and/or accommodation. She was shocked to find out Mutlu’s hackathon team wasn’t going to follow through with the idea.

“I said I would volunteer to help him set up the company,” Shevchenko says. “I know it can be such a struggle for pet owners to find someone reliable to look after their pet, and I thought this would be a perfect solution.”

Now, a little over two years later, both Shevchenko and Mutlu are co-founders of Host My Pet and run the company from Ukraine and Turkey respectively. The third co-founder, Vietnamese Daniel Ta, joined the team at its very early steps. He lives and studies in Helsinki, which is both the birthplace and the base of Host My Pet.

No dollar signs in eyes

Initially, Host My Pet set out to alleviate the concern of travel-loving pet owners. The company’s platform introduces pet owners to pet sitters, whose reliability and experience have been confirmed by the Host My Pet team. Not just anyone can sign up as pet sitter: they need to apply, and all profiles on the platform are subject to approval.

“We don’t want people who only do it for money,” Shevchenko explains. “We want pet sitters to genuinely love animals and have experience in looking after them.”

Host My Pet is a very international team. Co-founders are Daniel Ta (in the middle), Mert Kürşat Mutlu (second row left) and Julia Shevchenko (third row left). Image: Host My Pet

Pet sitting is only the first step in the startup’s ambitious plans. At the moment, the platform includes dog walking, home visits and pet boarding, meaning that the pet sitter also accommodates the animal. In the future, the service will include house sitting, pet-friendly taxi companies, pet grooming services, contact details to nearby vet clinics and dog holiday options that let people send their dogs to have fun at a farm.

Host My Pet takes a commission from the fees paid through the site. Later on, the company hopes to collaborate with other businesses such as vet clinics, grooming services and high-quality pet product manufacturers. It aims to provide a pet insurance that covers possible vet costs as well as around-the-clock customer service.

There’s also a mobile app to help pet owners and pet sitters keep in touch on the go and send and receive photos of the pet.

Looking for labrassadors

At the moment Host My Pet is only available in Finland, but eventually it wants to enter all European countries. Europe in general seems like a fruitful market for the service, considering the number of households with pets as well as Europeans’ fondness for travel.

If everything goes to plan, Host My Pet will launch its service either in Sweden or Turkey later this year or early next. The expansion is planned to happen country by country.

“We need to make sure we comply with local legal regulations and have the right contacts,” Shevchenko notes.

Another goal is to be able to provide a caretaker for pets of any level of fluff: not only cats and dogs, but also fish and snakes might be in the need of help too.

With no extra funding in hand, Host My Petters have been running the company alongside with their studies and other projects. The three founders are supported by a team consisting of friends and trainees who want to gain experience and learn more about setting up a company in general.

Host My Pet is also searching for friendly ambassadors from its target market: pets themselves.

“These days people have Instagram accounts and blogs for their pets,” Shevchenko points out. “We’ll be having some very cute ambassadors for Host My Pet soon!”

Host My Pet can also be used for regular dog walking, for example during the owner’s long working days or illnesses. Image: Istock.com/damedeeso
By: Anne Salomäki