(DogSpot Photo) The nation’s fanciest dog houses are coming to the most dog-friendly city in the U.S. , the maker of shared dog houses that you can rent by the minute, is launching in Seattle as part of a national expansion. The startup has partnered with grocery chain QFC for an initial roll-out of eight houses that are set to launch by early June. Just how fancy are the houses? They come with air conditioning and ultraviolet lights to disinfect the interior between uses. Pet parents can even check in on their pups during their stay through a “puppy cam” on the DogSpot app. Dog owners can book a house up to 15 minutes in advance or on arrival. The company’s cloud-based platform operates on Microsoft Azure. “[DogSpot] is good for local business, and it’s good for dog owners to have one of their problems solved. And it’s great for dogs because they get more walks and more quality time with the people they love,” said Rebecca Eyre, director of communications at DogSpot. DogSpot launched in New York City in 2016, but abruptly removed all 50 of their dog houses last year following conflicts with the city. Eyre said that new legislation, which will enable the company to return to its hometown, should pass in the next few months. The startup has raised $5.8 million to date. DogSpot is avoiding zoning problems by leasing the houses to local businesses, which will keep them on private property. For pet owners, the rental rate is $0.30 per minute, but QFC will offer the houses for free to shoppers. DogSpot is actively looking for additional partners who want to put the dog houses outside of their buildings. The company has 60 houses across 14 states, with many located at rest stops along freeways in New York and Connecticut. “Grocery stores and rest areas are huge pain points for dog owners who need to stop but have their pets and have no safe alternative,” said Eyre. For the time being, DogSpot doesn’t have any obvious competition. “We’re kind of the only dog in the fight, so to speak, for this specific piece of technology,” said Eyre, who grew up in Redmond, Wash., near Seattle. Seattle was recently ranked the by Rover and Redfin, which looked at factors including the number of dog walkers, the walk score of apartment buildings and share of property listings that included the word “dog.” When asked if DogSpot would ever partner with Rover, the Seattle-based tech platform for dog sitters and walkers, Eyre said the startup would be happy to. “We have some existing relationships with some key folks there, looking for the right opportunity,” she said. In addition to Seattle, DogSpot is also making a push into Washington, D.C. The startup initially launched as Dog Parker, but rebranded last year as it geared up for the national expansion. “I was wanting to change the name for so long because we never use the language of parking your dog,” Eyre said. “The national expansion with our last chance to do a rebrand.” DogSpot doesn’t have any Seattle-based employees but eventually plans to hire a local community manager.
David Adams, founder of the Seattle-based startup SniffSpot, with his dog Soba, at a property in the city where they had access to a fenced-in yard. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) When David Adams moved back to Seattle, he settled in an apartment on the seventh floor of a building in the city’s Belltown neighborhood. On Tuesday, Adams and his dog Soba were enjoying a grassy backyard behind a stranger’s house in Ballard, thanks to the company Adams started six months ago. is a marketplace that connects dog owners, who are looking for a safe and convenient space for their pet to get some exercise, with property owners, who have room outside for pups to play — and the desire to make a little easy money on the side courtesy of the sharing economy. Originally from Ohio, Adams, 31, moved to Seattle in 2010 and spent just over three years at Microsoft. He moved to San Francisco to found his first company: , a marketplace that helps users find monthly furnished housing. That company raised more than $12 million in funding, and Adams still maintains a seat on the board and travels to San Francisco regularly. “The trend that I have is that when I start a company, I start it based on my own problem,” Adams said. He used to always live in furnished rentals, until his girlfriend expressed an interest in something different. “I adopted Soba a year and a half ago and I’ve been taking her around to dog parks. She’s super high energy. I just always have had bad experiences there.” David Adams lives in Belltown near downtown Seattle and uses SniffSpot properties to get his dog Soba the proper amount of exercise. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Integrating pet services and technology is part of a growing trend that appeals to people in larger cities, especially in places like Seattle where so many Amazon employees and others take their dogs to work. Seattle-based has found huge success with its pet-sitting and dog-walking marketplace, and SniffSpot is clearly playing off that demand — with a twist of its own. “Thirty percent of dogs are owned by millennials, and millennials are moving into cities,” Adams said. “So you’re having an all new set of problems with dogs. That’s why you’ve seen Rover be so successful, you’ve seen Wag be so successful, because they’re new services that appeal to urban dog owners. It’s just getting started.” Seattle Parks and Recreation offers for dogs to run free. But after Soba was bit at a dog park and required a vet visit, Adams figured there had to be a better way to get his dog the fresh air and exercise she needed. “I think that dog parks are a really important public service. You’ve got to have them in the city,” Adams said. But SniffSpot caters to people and pets who are looking for a more controlled environment, often because the animal comes from a background that makes it more reactive around other dogs and people. SniffSpot works pretty much like Airbnb, the online hospitality business. Through its website, SniffSpot users can browse a variety of host properties — there are about 70 in the Seattle area right now and Adams is hoping for many more. Hosts provide information and pictures related to the property, including details about fencing. They can set restrictions on times, breeds and numbers of dogs allowed at any given time. It’s possible to reserve a space for solo dog time, or meet up with others. Users choose a date and time to reserve and pay through the site. Soba (and Brobee from “Yo Gabba Gabba”) got a workout on Tuesday in Ballard. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) In Ballard, I met Adams and Soba at a typical house in the neighborhood, advertised on SniffSpot as We let ourselves in through the side gate and found a sizable area in the back for Soba to explore. There were toys scattered about and a bowl full of water on the back deck. “Having off-leash exercise is really important for a dog’s health,” Adams said, as he talked about the full range of exercise that a dog requires, beyond walks on a leash, and how that benefits the animal not just physically, but mentally, too. It’s clear that the young entrepreneur is combining his marketplace and tech experience with a new passion for pets. “I’ll be the first to say I didn’t know anything about dogs when I adopted Soba,” Adams said. “And I’ve been learning a ton.” A totally bootstrapped endeavor, SniffSpot is pretty much a one-person operation right now. Adams has relied on contractors for a little bit of help, but he’s taken no outside funding and is doing no marketing right now. He believes the right way to start a company is to build a product that people want and need, and then the product will take off on its own. In the two full months since the website has been up and functional, SniffSpot has seen 60 percent growth month over month. An app will get built eventually, he said. Soba gets a drink of water on the back deck of a SniffSpot property after running around for 30 minutes. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) There’s no requirement to be a host on SniffSpot, so long as the property doesn’t contain any hazards and is owned by the person posting it. Hosts are vetted through name, email and address checks and generally there is an interview and even a site visit if needed. Hosts can set their own price, with $4 being the minimum per pet, per hour. SniffSpot takes 12 percent of the revenue. “We’ve got hosts on our platform making $60 a day,” Adams said. “You’re not investing in the space. You’re not working. It’s not like Uber where you’re going and driving for hours to make money. You just let someone come use your yard — maybe you’re at work or something else and you’re just making incremental income.” Users are expected to treat the space like it’s their own — clean up the dog poop and toys, be courteous to neighbors, etc. SniffSpot hasn’t officially launched outside of the Seattle area yet, even though some properties are listed around Washington and in other states. A couple listings on the site show the possibilities beyond a backyard romp. David Adam’s dog Soba, right, plays with Adams’ girlfriend’s dog, Toshii, in the Skykomish River at a SniffSpot called PaJo Ranch. (SniffSpot Photo) Just past Monroe, Wash., a includes a wooded area and access to the Skykomish River for $10 an hour. And south of Seattle in Cinebar, Wash., on a mountainside are available. For anyone who is apprehensive about hiking in open areas with their dog off leash, the bigger SniffSpot properties could provide a solution. Adams, who goes to SniffSpots pretty much every day, sometimes multiple times a day, said there are a million examples of people sharing things these days, but that SniffSpot doesn’t really compare. It’s not really invasive because no one enters your house, they’re in a controlled space, they stay for an hour and leave. Sitting behind someone’s house in Ballard, in rapidly growing and housing-crunched Seattle, he admitted how special a place it was. “If everyone had their own yard, there’d be much less demand for something like SniffSpot,” Adams said. “It’s amazing that these yards actually even exist still.”