Tales of a Dog-Sharer: Silicon Valley’s unique “Sharing Economy” sector

This is Madi, a 6-year-old rescued Boston Terrier who I dog-share with a former coworker. She was living on the mean streets of San Jose, California when she was found and taken in by my coworker’s family. I started watching Madi when they needed to get out of town, fell in love with her, and eventually began to pick her up when I was just in the mood for Madi-time. Now, Madi has her city “pied-a-terre” (me), and her “country” place (really the suburban hills between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay, which is as country as it gets around here). She is exceedingly spoiled.

My arrangement with Madi happened organically, so I was amused to find a series of pet-sharing websites when hunting around online. The “sharing economy” is all the rage on the tech scene, but who knew there had been quite a few pet-related attempts.

There were flops like FletxPetz, which cropped up years ago offering rent-a-pet services, and has since shut down. Many speculated that being carted around was confusing and stressful for the animals being “rented” (I tend to agree).

The latest is DogVacay, the “Airbnb for dogs” or, according to TechCrunch, “a marketplace that matches dog owners in need of pet-care services with qualified animal caregivers.” This seems like a better business model. People with pets need someone to take care of them. We seek solutions when we have an urgent problem that requires immediate action; keeping Fido fed and walked while we’re out of town qualifies.

We’re probably all participating in the sharing economy and collaborative consumption (another hot term round here) in some way, but we may not even realize it. Leveraging excess capacity rather than starting from scratch just makes sense; especially when that excess capacity is something like the cuddly love of an animal.

If fact, this week Uber offered to deliver kittens and cupcakes here in San Francisco. Not surprisingly, response was through the roof. People tweeted that they’d been hitting refresh for hours with no luck. Uber kittens became the most sought-after reservation in town. The blogosphere lit up with photos posted by the lucky few who won the kitten lottery. In these photos, smiles lit up faces as the kittens, looking mildly perplexed yet playful, were carted around town like little love-bundle deliveries.

While this was clearly a stunt designed to generate buzz (which worked… I’m writing about it right now), it’s a vivid example of the sharing economy trend here. Uber was sharing the local pet shelter’s excess inventory of kitten cuteness.

Here in the Bay Area, we swap goods on Freecycle, work in flexible coworking spaces and recycle religiously. We use Airbnb to book travel and Lyft to grab rides. Communal homes have been common since the 60s and continue to be, now with entrepreneurial housemates from around the world banding together to make their startup visions a reality. There’s a sense that we should all help each other out, and that doing so requires sharing. I’m all for this; I just encourage people to remember that it can happen organically too!

I’m curious… anyone else out there pet-share? Love to hear your story in comments!

Madi about to conquer some stairs behind her city pad

2 thoughts on “Tales of a Dog-Sharer: Silicon Valley’s unique “Sharing Economy” sector

  1. Pingback: Just Breathe, It’s only the Holidays | SiliconValleyTales.com

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