Startup Pet Screening raises $3M in new funding, plans to hire, expand

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MOORESVILLE – Pet Screening has raised $3 million in a Series A financing round, led by current investor Grotech Ventures.

“We could have raised more, but we felt like $3 million was a good number,” said company founder and CEO John Bradford, who is also a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives.  “We did a minimal A, consciously.”

The announcement comes after the company shared that it had moved to a larger facility in Mooresville.

In an interview, Bradford said the funding will be used to accelerate the company’s development of features and functionality for its software, which is used by residential property managers to screen tenant applicant’s pets, assessing risk on a company-trademarked FIDO score, based on inputs provided in the pet application process along with a tenant’s application to a property.

The company also plans to hire, increasing its headcount by 25% in 2021.  At the start of the year, the company had about 30 employees, according to Bradford.  They’re hiring additional employees at this time, including announcing the hiring of James Jenkins as associate legal counsel and Andrew Hartman as chief growth officer.

The company also hired an in-house video producer and built a production studio space into its new facility.

The company works across all types of rental properties, said Bradford, including landlords that operate one property up through national companies that operate 800,000 properties.  Bradford estimated that nationally, there are 46 million rental units, and of those who were already living in a multifamily property, such as an apartment complex, at the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, one in four of those residents chose to adopt or purchase a pet during 2020, according to research conducted by a third-party firm that completed the study for the company.

“It’s a great tool,” said Don Rainey, general partner of Grotech Ventures in an interview.  “As you’d reasonably expect, when you ask a pet owner about their pet and how they look after them, any evaluation is more about the human than the animal.”

“Introduces much more equity into the process,” said Rainey.  “You’re not shaming a particular breed of animal.”

“If a multifamily manager is only evaluating based on breed, it’s an unfair process,” he added.  “This is a far better way to go about resolving the problem.”

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Here’s how it works, for each party to the transaction.

For renters applying to property managed by a user of Pet Screening, they’ll receive as a part of the application process a link to the pet screening application, and be routed through a brief questionnaire, even if the applicant doesn’t have a pet.

“It’s a legal record,” said Bradford. “So the applicant understands the rules.”

For applicants with pets, they’ll pay a $20 pet screening fee for their first pet, and $15 for any additional pet, answering questions about the pet’s medical and care history.

Once submitted, a property manager or landlord receives the tenant’s application materials, and the Pet Screening software provides a risk assessment for each pet that underwent screening, which allows the property manager or the property owner to better assess a tenant for approval.

Landlords and managers do not pay for the service.  The company generates all of its revenue through the pet application fee, said Bradford, and is similar to the application fee that a tenant would pay in order to demonstrate creditworthiness, through their FICO score, and receive a background check to bolster their application for tenancy, though often less expensive.

“We stop the bad actors who are trying to pass their animals as emotional support animals or service animals,” he added, noting that in the company’s history, 60% of the requests for reasonable accommodations that the company has received from those claiming an emotional support animal, did not meet the fair housing requirements.

That means that each of those animals, which would have been living on site at a property, would be considered pets, and thus, a manager or property owner could assess the corresponding pet fees.  That represents $40 million in lost revenue, industry wide, based on the company’s data and research, said Bradford.

A member of the company personally reviews each application filed for a request for reasonable accommodation, he noted.  “We’re not punitive,” he said.  “We give pit bulls and German Shepherds a chance.”

 

 

 

 

 

 



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