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Caribou CEO discusses his company’s unicorn status, its plans going forward, and its culture

Caribou CEO Kevin Bennett sits down with Yahoo Finance Live to discuss his company's business outlook after receiving funding, car price trends, and refinancing cars.

Video Transcript

RACHELLE AKUFFO: Well, unicorns are rare, indeed, these days, especially given the pullback from venture capital funds this year. But our next guest is bucking that trend. Let's bring in Kevin Bennett, CEO of Caribou, and Yahoo Finance's own Ali Garfinkel. Thank you for joining us today. So first, I want to get some information about what went into this latest round of funding. Congratulations, by the way. And what are you hoping to do with it?

KEVIN BENNETT: Well, thank you so much. It's so great to be with you today. We're thrilled with the announcement. $115 million Series C on a $1.1 billion valuation, so really excited about what this round does for us, how it allows us to really continue to grow and build. And just to remind the audience, we're a technology platform that helps consumers refinance their auto loans and shop those insurance products. And today, with prices of everything going up-- gas, cars, insurance-- it's more important than ever before to help consumers save money. And we can really do that. And I think that's why investors were so excited, and that's why we're so excited to really double down and keep going.

ALI GARFINKEL: So, Kevin, hi, it's great to have you here. So before COVID, Caribou had 40 employees. Now you have nearly 500. And you've hit unicorn status in this really difficult moment. So tell us, what is driving Caribou's growth right now?

KEVIN BENNETT: It's an important moment. I think everyone who knows with COVID that car prices are through the roof. The price of a new car is over $45,000. Used cars are hitting records. Gas is more expensive than ever before. And so consumers are really feeling squeezed. And I think refinancing your auto loan is such an amazing way to save money and put money back in your pocket as the consumer. So that's a big, big piece of it.

One of the things that's a little bit less known is that this is a long-term trend, that the auto debt market is $1.5 trillion. That's doubled over the last 10 years. So there really is a huge opportunity to save consumers money on the largest or second largest asset they own and turn it from an asset that feels like a liability to an asset that really does work for the American consumer.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: So I have a two-part question here because you mentioned car refinancing, car loan refinancing, which a lot of people don't tend to do. But also, in terms of distinguishing yourself from what's already out there, what does Caribou do differently or better than the competition?

KEVIN BENNETT: It's a great question. So we are a technology platform. So a lot of folks, first, aren't aware they can even refinance their car. They may have heard about mortgage refinancing, but auto refinancing is not something that has traditionally been done by the American consumer at scale.

The other piece of it is, historically, it's been difficult. You may have had to go to the DMV or go to a bank branch. People are busy. And part of what we do is leverage technology and scale to make it easy. So you can go to caribou.com, check your rate. Get offers in seconds, get a firm offer of credit. And then you're off to the races. You're saving money on your auto loan, but also on your insurance as well, because we can help you save money on that.

ALI GARFINKEL: Kevin, one thing you've talked about a lot is company culture. And we're in this moment where there's a lot of tension surrounding return to office. And, you know, it's playing out at the biggest tech companies, including Apple. And I wanted to get your take on return to work and company culture as a whole.

KEVIN BENNETT: Culture is so important. It can be a true competitive advantage for companies. We've invested in it from the very beginning. And it really has helped to scale, to your point earlier, from 40 employees to 500 in a few short years. And we think that being aligned with the team members, building a culture that puts people on the team first, puts your customers first, and it's really flexible and addresses the needs of the consumer, but also the needs of the employee. And so we've been really flexible on return to work and plan to continue doing so.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And as you mentioned, you added insurance. You also have a partnership with Uber. How does that play into your longer term goals, especially since, obviously, prices won't stay elevated forever. So where does the growth go next?

KEVIN BENNETT: It's a great question. I think one of the things that most folks don't know is they can save so much money refinancing their car. And we've saved people on average over $100 a month. That's thousands of dollars. And we've actually just crossed $100 million saved for our customers. So we're really excited about that savings. And even where you can't necessarily save as much money today refinancing your home, you can still save money refinancing your car.

And we think that's a market that's going to continue to expand and grow. And we think there are additional products we can bring to market that help consumers save money on their cars and on the cost of car ownership in general. So we think it's a massive market, again, $1.5 trillion, that's just going to continue to grow and expand.