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Rover, a company that matches pet owners with dog walkers and sitters, was nearly decimated by the pandemic as people kept their fur babies at home. Now, the business is recovering as people who took in “pandemic puppies” during quarantine are booking services for the first time.

“Our business is highly correlated to the influx of new pet owners,” Aaron Easterly, CEO of Rover, tells Insider.

The startup booked $30.4 million in sales from services this March, up 67% from the same month last year, Insider has learned. The last week of March alone had “significantly more new bookings” than any week in 2020, the company said.

Rover has plans to go public through a merger with Nebula Caravel Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, backed by True Wind Capital. The deal values Rover at $1.35 billion, and could close sometime in May, according to Easterly.

Fifteen months ago, Rover was set to have its best year yet. Bookings were up. It had a new headquarters on the top floor of a refurbished bread factory, with gates on cubicles so employees could bring their dogs to work. The startup planned to pull in half a billion dollars with an expansion into new markets and businesses like grooming.

Then overnight, business nearly evaporated. The country’s first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in the Seattle area, less than 300 miles from Rover’s headquarters. The lockdown orders and social distancing guidelines meant many people were no longer traveling or going into an office, and they were at home to care for their pets.

The company’s revenues were slashed in half during the pandemic from $95 million in 2019 to $49 million last year, according to a regulatory filing.

“We had a period of negative net sales,” Easterly said. “I’d never thought I’d see that.”

Like so many others, the company made a difficult choice to downsize in order to survive. Rover laid off 41% of its workforce, or about 200 employees, while its executives took pay cuts and Easterly went without a salary.

The layoffs, Easterly said, gave the remaining employees a new sense of vigor around the company’s mission. “Our employees very much wanted to make good on the promise to those employees we had to say goodbye to,” he said.

The company is now riding the surge of new pet ownership. The demand for pet adoptions was so high during …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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The pandemic nearly crushed dog-walking startup Rover. Now it’s going public at a $1.35 billion valuation.

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