Inside Rover’s pet friendly Seattle HQ: People and dogs stretch out as company aims for more growth

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Rover’s new headquarters has already gone to the dogs — and about 375 people, as the pet-sitting startup has just taken over five floors of the 8th + Olive building in downtown Seattle and sets its sights on more growth in 2020.

Rover has come a long way since being born out of a Startup Weekend event in 2011. The pet-sitting company reported $432 million in sales last year, up 30 percent, and expects that number to exceed $500 million in 2020. Rover counts more than 1 million households as customers, and has 300,000 service providers.

On the heels of a $155 million funding round in 2018 that valued the company at a reported $970 million, Rover has accelerated its expansion in Europe, entered Latin America, and added services for cats.

A service is booked on Rover every three seconds. Meanwhile, competitors such as SoftBank-backed Wag have reportedly struggled.

“We’ve never been in a stronger position competitively,” said Rover CEO Aaron Easterly.

And now they’ve got a larger new headquarters space to fit a growing Seattle workforce. On several floors of the new downtown building, employees look out at sweeping views of the city — and in at a host of human and pet perks.

“One of the challenges of working at Rover is not only learning your co-workers’ names but also the dogs’ names,” said Dave Rosenbaum, a public relations manager with the 9-year-old company.

There are about 40 dogs a day in the office. They lounge at the feet of employees or in cafe-style booths where people are tapping away on laptops. They come to meetings and they frolic in common areas. During GeekWire’s visit we saw a dog lying on a desk beneath a computer monitor and another standing on his hind legs to get a better look over a sliding cubicle wall.

There’s a play area inside for dogs to stretch their legs and do their business, and a new outdoor area that rings the building like an artificial turf jogging track.

There are reportedly two walks of shame at Rover. One by the dog who makes a mess on the office carpet and one for the dog owner who has to go fetch one of the available Rug Doctor machines to clean it up.

The artwork is all related to dogs and cats. There are little dog raincoats on hooks and there’s a snack station with biscuits for dogs and candy for humans. The names of meeting rooms of various sizes and shapes all play off of an animal theme. On one floor the rooms are named for dog breeds and on another they are movie titles that are twisted into animal puns: “Catatouille” and “Prince of Purrsia” and “Dude, Where’s My Cat?”

“I work hard so my dog can have a better life,” reads a framed print in the “Dalmation” meeting room.

If the pet theme wasn’t so prevalent, Rover’s new digs would look like those of any other growing Seattle startup. There’s a large eating and seating area with plenty of free food and drink. Taco Tuesdays are apparently a thing in this gathering space, which affords views out toward Elliott Bay.

The company’s core values are displayed prominently on walls, there is a walk-up tech support counter, there a soundproof pods, and meeting rooms are wired for easy video conferencing with employees in other parts of the world — Rover employs 500 total.

But look closer at a map of Seattle in the main elevator lobby and you’ll see that the green portions are to designate dog parks. And a wall of Polaroid pictures in the main gathering space isn’t employees — it’s their dogs. Frank, Brandy, Cooper, Kiwi, Finney, Gus and so on have all posed for a company headshot.

Rover’s core overnight care service business continues to grow and still makes up a majority of its revenue, but the company is also expanding daytime service offerings such as dog walking, grooming, or drop-in visits.

Easterly expects the “pet economy” to continue growing. In 2018, U.S. consumers spent $72.6 billion on their pets, up from $69.5 billion, according to the American Pet Products Association.

“The fundamental dynamics that have caused Rover to grow today aren’t turning around anytime soon,” Easterly said.

Even with a recession looming, Rover might be in good shape. In a recent research note about Chewy, a leading online pet product retailer, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney noted that in 2010 consumer spend declined across entertainment, food, housing, and apparel. Pet spend went up 6.2 percent — “Fluffy’s gotta eat!” Mahaney noted.

Other potential threats to the business include horror stories that similar marketplace startups deal with. Easterly said Rover has had a “huge emphasis on trust and safety and it’s always been our focus.”

“We understand that dogs are part of people’s families,” he said. “Living and breathing that in our DNA makes us fundamentally different than other players.”

New legislation such as California’s Assembly Bill 5 that extends employee classification status to independent contractors could also impact Rover’s bottom line. But Easterly said that for a majority of Rover service providers, “this is not intended to be a full-time job.”

“As long as we get to tell our story, we feel confident that most legislatures will want a solution such as Rover to exist,” he added.

Rover has raised $341 million, which includes $281 million in equity and $60 million in debt capacity. The company’s backers include A-Grade Investments, CrunchFund, Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group, Menlo Ventures, Petco, Rolling Bay Ventures, TCV, and Spark Capital.

Easterly said the company doesn’t expect to need more capital this year and declined to comment on a potential IPO. Rover, which acquired U.S. rival DogVacay in March 2017, is still unprofitable.

The Seattle-based company has additional offices in Spokane, Wash.; Barcelona; London; and Berlin.

Source: Geek Wire

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