BarkBox, Led by Uber and Meetup Veterans, Bites Into Curated Gifts for Dogs

11/29/11Follow @jpruth

BarkBox in New York launched its website today ready to ship monthly boxes of new toys and treats to dog lovers who want to pamper their four-legged companions. Co-founder Carly Strife says subscribers will receive, for a fee, well-designed, curated products chosen by BarkBox.

Though not affiliated with cosmetics sample service Birchbox, also in New York, BarkBox has adopted a comparable subscription-based strategy. “This is a hot new business model that we wanted to replicate in a way that we’re passionate about,” Strife says.

Strife says she and co-founder Matt Meeker, who also co-founded Meetup.com, are both crazy about dogs. Henrik Werdlin, managing partner of product incubator Prehype and previously entrepreneur in residence at Index Ventures, is also a co-founder of BarkBox. Strife says she handled much of the business operations prior to the launch and expects Meeker and Werdlin will become more involved now that BarkBox is up and running.

BarkBox has not sought outside funding at this point, though it remains open to the possibility in the future for marketing purposes or to offer something extra to subscribers. “If we can bootstrap in a way that allows us to be efficient, I think we’ll go that route,” she says.

Strife, who owns a puggle (a crossbreed of a beagle and a pug)  and a pit bull, is currently the New York operations manager for San Francisco-based Uber, a startup that created an app that connects passengers with on-demand car service. She began talking with Meeker and Werdlin in September about forming BarkBox. Strife says she plans to finish up her duties at Uber to concentrate on BarkBox.

For $25 per month, each subscriber to BarkBox will receive a box loaded with four to five items, including one special featured big-ticket product, chosen by the company. “We ask you the size range of your dog and try to customize it,” Strife says. “Other than that, everyone will receive the same box.”

Strife says $3 from every box sold will be donated to local animal shelters or rescue operations selected by BarkBox. Subscribers can also suggest who receives such donations.

Each BarkBox will include a mix of items such as treats and bones, as well as gadgets such as collar-mounted webcams. “Anything that allows you to engage with your animal and makes your dog happy,” Strife says. She says consumers might spend about the same amount as their monthly subscription on one item, if they purchased it separately on their own. BarkBox subscribers will also be eligible for promotional codes they can use when shopping at vendors’ websites.

Strife would not disclose who BarkBox’s product suppliers are, but she says about 75 percent are smaller brands that do not have as much reach as her company. “Through our partnerships we are able to get cool and innovative items that people don’t know about,” she says. “It’s definitely not like getting a grab bag from a place like PetSmart.”

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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