Pet care startup Rover lays off 41% of workforce due to COVID-19 impact – GeekWire

Pet care startup Rover lays off 41% of workforce due to COVID-19 impact – GeekWire

Pet care startup Rover lays off 41% of workforce due to COVID-19 impact – GeekWire

Inside Rover’s new Seattle headquarters. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Seattle-based startup Rover laid off 41% of its workforce today due to the economic impact and uncertainty from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rover CEO Aaron Easterly. (Rover Photo)

Rover put an additional 9% of staff on standby. There were 194 employees affected, including 138 at the company’s Seattle headquarters. The company has about 275 remaining employees on payroll.

With stay-at-home mandates put in place across the world, Rover’s pet sitting business has taken a big hit. The company is built around caring for pets while customers are at work or traveling.

“If people are working from home and not traveling, the impact on our community of sitters and walkers is devastating,” Rover CEO Aaron Easterly said in a statement. “To ensure our mission continues and to support pet parents and service providers through this challenging time, we’ve had to make the heart-breaking decision to say goodbye to many employees we treasure.”

Layoffs are hitting tech companies hard amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. Leafly, an online cannabis brand based in Seattle, let 91 employees go last week, while AI writing startup Textio laid off 30 people. AI marketing startup Amplero let go of 17 people and will shut down this week. Co-working startup The Riveter and clothing rental service Armoire temporarily furloughed employees.

Applications for unemployment benefits in Washington state surged 843% during the week ending March 21. There were 133,478 Washington residents who applied for the program over that time period. That’s up more than nine times higher from the week prior.

Rover’s cuts came across the company and affected all offices in Seattle, Spokane, Wash., Barcelona, London, and Berlin. Rover is extending health benefits for six months to those that were laid off and offered a longer exercise window for stock options.

Coronavirus Live Updates: The latest COVID-19 developments in Seattle and the world of tech

Standby employees will receive health benefits and their equity will continue to vest. Rover senior leaders will take a 25-to-45% cash compensation cut. Easterly is putting his salary back into the company.

“This decision is even more gut-wrenching because of the care for others displayed by our team during this crisis,” Easterly said in a statement. “I wish there were better options. I will always be thankful for each person’s contribution to Rover’s growth, and I look forward to hearing about their successes down the road.”

Founded in 2011 and born out of a Startup Weekend event, Rover is a leader in the pet care industry. The company reported $432 million in sales last year, up 30 percent, and expected that number to exceed $500 million in 2020 — though that estimate came before the COVID-19 crisis. Rover counts more than 1 million households as customers, and has 300,000 service providers.

Rover’s service providers are among the gig economy workers who have seen their income dry up and potentially vulnerable without traditional employee benefits, though they are included as part of the $2 trillion stimulus bill.

Rover just moved into a new 75,000 square-foot headquarters in Seattle.

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

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

Rover continues to offer pet-sitting services while adhering to stay-at-home and social distancing mandates.

Another pet care giant, online retailer Chewy, has actually seen its stock rise over the past month amid an economic downturn. In a recent research note about Chewy, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney noted that in 2010 consumer spend declined across entertainment, food, housing, and apparel after the financial crisis. But pet spend went up 6.2 percent — “Fluffy’s gotta eat!” Mahaney noted.

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