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From Hackathon to IPO: Pet Grooming Marketplace Rover is Seattle’s Newest Public Company

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From Hackathon to IPO: Pet Grooming Marketplace Rover is Seattle’s Newest Public Company
Aaron Easterly, Rover CEO. (Rover photo)

It started as a simple launch at a Seattle hackathon for a marketplace to facilitate matches between pet owners and caregivers.

Now, a decade later, homeless is a publicly traded company.

The Seattle-based company will begin trading on NASDAQ on Monday under the symbol ROVR, following its merger with Nebula Caravel Acquisition Corp, a publicly traded SPAC sponsored by True Wind Capital.

The SPAC deal valued Rover at $ 1.35 billion when it was announced in February. It will inject approximately $ 240 million into a business that was hit hard when the pandemic began, but has recovered thanks in part to increased pet adoption rates other increased spending on pets.

GeekWire was the first media organization to cover Rover, which was sparked by an idea from the Seattle venture capitalist Greg gottesman at a Startup Weekend event in Seattle in 2011. Rover was incubated within the Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group in its early days.

Rover now bills itself as the “World’s Largest Online Marketplace for Pet Grooming”, pairing pet owners with caregivers for lodging, daycare, walks, grooming and more. There are more than 500,000 caregivers on the platform, facilitating more than 40 million services in the US and nine other countries.

The company’s business plummeted at the start of the pandemic, as demand for pet care declined due to a lack of travel and a lack of people working from home. It cut 41% of its workforce in March 2020.

But Rover’s gross reserve volume has rebounded this year. Total reserves hit a record 421,000 in June, up from 373,000 in June 2019 (Rover uses 2019 for comparable metrics due to the pandemic affecting 2020 finances). Gross booking volume reached a record $ 56.6 million in June, up from $ 41.7 million in June 2019. Rover also had its largest month of new customer growth in June, with 99,000 new customers. Bookings.

(Click to enlarge)

“We think we are just getting started,” said the Rover CEO. Aaron Easterly he said in an interview with GeekWire. “When you look at the growth, the records in June, the acquisition of new customers, it really suggests to us how much more track we have to build this business and be an integral part of a pet owner’s care strategy.”

Easterly, a former aQuantive advertising executive, will continue to lead the company as CEO. He said going public will help Rover seek acquisitions, launch new offerings and continue to invest in technology that helps drive market adaptation mechanisms. The cash also provides insulation from “the ebbs and flows of the pandemic,” he said.

Following the acquisition of rival DogVacay in 2017, Rover has become the dominant pet care platform in the US Easterly estimated the company to be “16 to 17 times” larger than its closest competitor, probably Wag , a Silicon Valley-based company. which was previously backed by SoftBank.

Easterly said that Rover’s main competition in the US continues to be the friends, family and neighbors that pet owners have traditionally used to care for their pets when out of town.

As Rover has grown, it has also come under scrutiny for pets that have gone missing or even died under the surveillance of their caretakers. It’s a challenge faced by other project economics companies, like Uber, that use independent contractors instead of employees.

CNN Business last week it highlighted several pet owners who dealt with problems using Rover and said they did not receive adequate support from the company.

When asked about the CNN Business story, Rover provided this statement:

“Our mission is to make it possible for everyone to experience the love of a pet. As a team motivated by a shared love for pets, we are committed to helping people access quality pet care, which is why it weighs heavily on our hearts if someone has a negative experience. We work every day to improve the platform so that every Rover experience is positive. “

Easterly said that the safety of pets and humans in the Rover market is “job one.” He said the company is aware that scale carries greater potential for dissatisfied customers.

“You need to be able to look at those things and say, ‘hey, is there anything we could be doing differently? Is there anything we can learn? ‘”Easterly said.

In the investor presentation Since the beginning of this year, Rover has projected $ 97 million for revenue in 2021 and $ 201 million in 2022. Rover expects to be profitable by 2022, with $ 35 million in adjusted EBITDA. It recently raised its full-year projections in May and will report its second-quarter earnings next Monday.

Rover had raised $ 281 million in equity funding, including a $ 155 million financing round in 2018 that valued the company at a reported $ 970 million. Its private investors include A-Grade Investments, CrunchFund, Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group, Menlo Ventures, Petco, Rolling Bay Ventures, TCV, and Spark Capital.

Rover moved into a new 75,000-square-foot headquarters in Seattle just before the pandemic. Easterly said the company plans to keep the space, but employees will have more options to work from home.

Rover employs 320 people worldwide, up from 275 when it made layoffs in March 2020, including 200 at its Seattle headquarters and another 81 workers in Spokane, Washington. It is the latest Seattle-area company to test public markets this year. Others include Icosavax, a biotech company that had its IPO last week. Nautilus Biotechnology, another company that went public through a deal with SPAC, went public in June.

True Wind, the sponsor of SPAC, is a San Francisco-based private equity firm that manages more than $ 2 billion and has experience in public companies with firms like GoDaddy and NXP. It participated in its first SPAC last year, going public with the Open Lending automated lending platform in June 2020. The firm has also various other SPAC vehicles.

The SPAC mergers last year became popular alternatives to the traditional IPO process, offering a faster path to going public. Also known as “blank check” companies, SPACs typically do not have an established business and are used to raise funds through a public offering for a future merger or acquisition within a specified time frame.

The craze around SPACs cooled off this year. Part of the reason is a delay in completing the SPAC agreements due to a revised SEC approval process, The information reported. Some companies are also seeing less cash than expected because SPAC shareholders can get their money back before voting on a deal; this can also result in downgraded valuations. Aftermarket performance of SPACs fell more than 20% after reaching a peak earlier this year, according to IPOX SPAC Index.

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