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This article was published on July 22, 2017

This startup is quite literally Airbnb for pets

This startup is quite literally Airbnb for pets
Magali De Reu
Story by

Magali De Reu

Magali is a no-nonsense, go-getting storyteller. She writes about tech, entrepreneurship, marketing and personal growth. Learn more at magal Magali is a no-nonsense, go-getting storyteller. She writes about tech, entrepreneurship, marketing and personal growth. Learn more at

In the digital world, there is one certainty: if there’s a need, sooner or later (and probably sooner) there will be an app for it. Digital technology has revolutionized, streamlined and enhanced just about every area of our lives. And now it’s time to do the same for our pets’ lives.

Now that summer is here, pet owners everywhere are busy making pet care arrangements for the holidays. While we humans can find our ideal getaway on sites like Airbnb or Homeaway, what about our furry (or feathered or scaly) friends? For folks who cringe at the idea of Fido pining away in some impersonal kennel or cross their fingers that the neighbor’s kid will remember to come over and feed Fluffy, there’s Pawshake.

Like so many digital services, Pawshake’s inspiration was a real-life need experienced by one of its founders. In 2009, Dries Coucke had to find someone to care for his parents’ dog while his father was undergoing cancer treatment. Dries was already active in the pet rescue community in Belgium and he naturally turned to social media to make connections. In 2013, Dries teamed up with fellow Belgian (and former eBay colleague) Tanguy Peers to bring Pawshake to digital life.

This innovative service acts as matchmaker for pets and caregivers. Expanding on the airbnb business model, Pawshake also includes other care options. Pet owners can find:

  • A home where their pet can stay (great for dogs who thrive on social interaction with people and other animals)
  • A sitter who will come stay at their home (great for high-need pets or those who do better in their own surroundings)
  • A sitter to come in on a daily basis (great for cats, fish, birds, lizards and the like who do okay by themselves most of the time)

“What makes Pawshake even cooler,” says Tanguy, “is that pet owners can meet and interview sitters in person, and post reviews afterwards. This adds an extra measure of confidence and authenticity because owners can do their own due diligence before leaving their pets. Plus, sitters are not able to leave reviews so owners can be frank in their critiques if need be.” As of yet, there is no mechanism that allows pets to comment, but perhaps that’s a future enhancement.

Using their combined experience in digital marketplaces and the sharing economy, Couke and Peers have channeled their shared passion for using the internet to make meaningful connections into a company that currently serves pets and owners in 19 countries. Consider that Britons alone now spend well over 7 billion pounds a year on their pets. Combine that with the increasing popularity of digital marketplaces, especially in Scandinavia, and it’s easy to see why Pawshake is the cat’s meow. (While Pawshake is not presently active in the US, they do have a social media presence there.)

Dries and Tanguy maintain that there is a third co-founder and partner of Pawshake — the international community of animal lovers and pet owners who provide support, connections and feedback, and whose enthusiastic participation has contributed to Pawshake’s success.

Future plans include partnering with larger travel-related companies (such as airlines) to offer pet owners a full-service travel experience.