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Rover CEO on how the pet services company differs from other gig economy platforms

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Aaron Easterly, Rover cofounder and CEO, joins Yahoo Finance’s Live on the company’s market debut to discuss how the pandemic has impacted business, and how it distinguishes itself from other companies’ part of the gig economy’.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

- Pet care platform Rover is no longer just an app. The company is making its market debut today on the NASDAQ after merging with a SPAC. The ticker symbol ROVR. Joining us now to discuss Rover is CEO Aaron Easterly. Aaron, good to see you here. Congrats on the debut here. Want to jump right into guidance here. We've seen the economy roar back. A lot more people are taking vacations. Are you still tracking to your 2021 guidance here of 3.9 million bookings and about 97 million in sales?

AARON EASTERLY: We originally put together a projection as part of the SPAC process and the S4. We actually upped our guidance above and beyond that projection for 2021 because of the strength that we are seeing in the year. So we're really excited about the progress to date.

- Have you been able to find workers to support that better than expected growth?

AARON EASTERLY: Yes. We're activating and bringing on service providers. Some of our service providers that were active during the pandemic have come back. But Rover's unique. People can have a dog in their home and go about the rest of their life. They can be a stay-at-home parent. They can be a software engineer. So doing Rover doesn't necessarily preclude you from doing other work that generates income, as well, which is unique and different than a lot of companies.

- And Aaron, I'm curious how much the pet boom during the pandemic has reshaped the way that you guys are thinking about the business. Obviously, those initial projections were looking for, let's say, a return to work in '22, and then obviously that's going to create increased demand. But I mean, are you guys seeing folks who are working at home still hiring a Rover walker? And how does just the boom in the number of pets out there change the way you think about some of your opportunities?

AARON EASTERLY: The first is the opportunity is just bigger. The annual growth rate in pet adoptions roughly quadrupled during the pandemic. So there are a lot of new pet parents that are going to be trying to find care solutions for the first time. We also gained market share during the pandemic, which gives us an opportunity to be aggressive, which is why we wanted to raise the capital.

With regards to the services, we've seen some interesting stuff in the data. We set a record earlier this year for daycare, which was weird for us, given the lack of return to work that was taking place in April or March or May. And so we actually are seeing examples where pet parents don't want to be away from their pets for eight hours without a human being checking in on them. So we think, overall, the pandemic has made us even closer to our furry friends.

- Now, Aaron, you guys talked about an area that you guys-- that you are testing, which is grooming. My parents, recent pet parents, cannot find a groomer inside of basically six weeks here in the tri-state area. Have you started to expand that? And how are you thinking about building that specific network? Because that's certainly been a choke point, let's say, within the pet supply space.

AARON EASTERLY: So true. So our mission as Rover is we want to make it possible for everyone to experience the unconditional love of a pet in their life. And one of the biggest reasons that people don't is actually concern over the logistics of care. What happens when I travel out of town? What happens when I go into work? I live in an apartment. I don't have a yard.

Taking your dog to a groomer is not easy. Oftentimes, they operate weekdays, 9:30 to 4:30. So we want to make that easier. And we have actually started our broader rollout across the US. Not quite nationwide yet, but we're excited about that. And we think there's an opportunity to make the grooming experience a little bit more modern and a little bit more convenient for today's pet parent.

- What you're seeing on the screen is a lot of the good boys and girls of the Yahoo Finance team. A lot of puppy and kitty owners here on the team. Aaron, I do want to ask you, there has been some reports of Rover and your competitor, Wag, having some difficulty caring for pets, and people being tepid or scared to leave pets in your possession. How do you address those concerns?

AARON EASTERLY: Ultimately, word of mouth and our reputations are our greatest asset. But as an animal lover, like we all are at Rover, there is anxiety accompanied with leaving your child with someone new. We actually recommend that people do meet and greets. We are not like Uber, we're not like DoorDash. You don't push a button, someone gets assigned. People actually choose who they want to use to care for their pet. And about 90% of the time for our first-time customers, they actually go and meet with them in advance. Making sure it's a choice you feel comfortable with is one of the best things you can do.

But over time, we see that the percentage of people that have great experiences-- over 95% of our stays are reviewed five stars, and word of mouth is actually our biggest source of customer acquisition. So the reputational dynamic becomes easier over time, as most people have phenomenal experiences with Rover. But if you're a pet parent and you have anxiety about your pet being away from you, you're not alone. We get it, and I do, too.

- How do you screen? If I were to come and work for you, how do you-- how would you screen me and do a background check on me?

AARON EASTERLY: Yeah, so when you sign up to be a sitter or service provider on Rover, whether it's a dogwalker or a boarding provider or daycare provider, you create a profile that includes photos, where you live. You can submit references, testimonials from people whose pets you've cared for before. You then go through a background check, as well. The background check is intended to screen people with a criminal history that would be inappropriate for Rover.

After that, you then go through a technology review, where our technology looks at the traits of the profile, and determines whether or not we think that person's likely to be successful. And then after that, you go through a human review. And only after all that do you get put on the site or the app. And we constantly review, based on feedback from customers, whether they're meet and greets or actual stays, to determine the appropriateness of people remaining on the platform. Trust and safety is job one for us.

- Aaron, how many pets do you own?

AARON EASTERLY: I own one incredibly high-energy Pomsky. So she looks like a little itty bitty Husky, but with the tenacity of a big one.

- Well said. Definitely well said. We'll leave it there. Rover CEO Aaron Easterly, good luck on your public company journey. We'll talk to you soon.

AARON EASTERLY: Well, thank you very much. Thanks for having me on.