Where My Dogs At is a new social networking app angled at dog lovers and their four-legged friends looking for local dog-friendly places to go and people to meet.
Think Facebook for Fido, with a "Yelp for dogs" approach, built around a location-based search and rating of dog-friendly businesses, restaurants, parks and apartments with detailed listings and user reviews.
Rather than "checking in," users "mark their territory" at their favorite locations, interact with fellow dog lovers and let their friends know which places and businesses have earned their "paw of approval."
This may sound like satire, but it isn't. Animal lovers are a huge market, and many people like to share pictures of their pets -- especially on social networks.
"Everybody loves social media these days, even dogs," said Jonathan Kolker, co-founder and chief executive of Where My Dogs At. Kolker was inspired by his energetic cocker spaniel named Eddie and wanted to find new dog-friendly places to take him. After compiling a list of dog-approved places in Los Angeles, Kolker's childhood friend Gareth Wilson (president and creative director) suggested that the two partner up and put that data into a social app. The two were graduate students at USC's Annenberg Program of Online Communities.
Kolker and Wilson received $10,000 from the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab to build the Where My Dogs At app and later got $20,000 in seed funding from the start-up accelerator program StartEngine.
Where My Dogs At tries to "socialize dogs with its social components," Kolker said. Owners can create a Facebook-inspired profile for themselves through the "dog people" feature. Users' beloved canines also have "dog profiles" through which other furry friends can be found.
Like Facebook, the app also enables users to share pictures and post real-time status updates on its news feed. After all, what would doggy social networking be without posts about fire hydrants, tennis balls and other dogs you met at the dog park the other day?
Dog-friendly businesses, pet stores, vets and others can create profiles for themselves. Where My Dogs At offers small businesses that serve dog owners the option to create geo-targeted ads and sponsored searches to increase their visibility on the app.
Kolker said the free iOS and Android app will soon be updated with more options, including dog-friendly hotels and an events category. He said he will monetize the app by offering upgrade features for a fee. For example, users will be able to buy virtual gifts for their friends and pay to access exclusive data, such as hidden dog parks and trails that most people wouldn't know about.
Where My Dogs At recently released international data for their users to search dog-friendly places even when they are abroad.
Kolker said the team is releasing new updates every few weeks. He said the beta version of the app, which launched in January -- and about half of whose 10,000 users are in the Los Angeles area -- will be updated to version 1 in August or September.