The Berlin Business Office, USA talked to probably one of the role models for businesses when it comes to circular economy, to Grover, which also just happen to become a unicorn. After a successful Series C round ($330M) in April 2022, the company exceeded the desired billion-dollar valuation for the first time.
Grover runs a subscription model for which people can rent out consumer electronics like computers, phones, game consoles, drones etc. for set prices. Once a customer returns a rented product, Grover refurbishes them and puts them back into circulation reducing electronic waste by doing so. The new-born unicorn continues expanding its footprint, hiring for key roles across the U.S. to help support its rapid growth.
Let´s see how they got here!
Can you tell us what ideology and philosophy made you starting a business, like Grover? Can you give us some context of the founding? How did it all start?
Grover was founded in 2015 by Michael Cassau and Thomas Antonioli. We wanted to help releasing exceptional technology to more people every day. Our concept is very simple: we lease instead of selling tech devices. As a result, people save a lot of money and consequently can afford more in normal life or alternatively can afford to possess more gadgets at the same time. Furthermore, they gain a lot of fun and they can participate in the digital world, whatever this might mean for them: editing videos and starting an own Youtube channel by leasing a powerful notebook, starting a career as influencer with a high-end camera, or just by being able to do video calls with their beloved grandparents. Whatever people might use our devices for – we believe we are doing a good thing by enabling them to do things they wouldn’t be able to do without the more powerful technology.
Photograph: 10’000 Hours/Getty Images
You are now the market-leader in e-commerce for electronic devices in Europe. How did you get there and what were the milestones of this journey? What helped you the most along the way?
We always kept the focus on what is most relevant for our customers: easy access to technology via leasing instead of buying. At the same time, we moved fast forward by entering new markets like the U.S., Spain or the Netherlands. Hiring the right people and creating a great culture is key focus for the founders until today. Three funding rounds gave us enough fuel to become market leading in several markets. Big milestones were also launching our offerings for B2B clients and our Grover Card, which offers a unique cashback option to all our clients.
You started your business in Berlin, can you tell us your experience regarding Berlin’s ecosystem and the whole startup environment? Would you be founding Grover in Berlin again?
Berlin is the hometown for Grover, and for many other successful companies, especially in the e-commerce sector. Zalando, Gorillas, Delivery Hero are three very good examples for fast growing startups that reached a unicorn valuation like Grover. We found here the perfect ecosystem for starting our company, surrounded with great talent, venture capital and the right vibes. Now that Grover is quite a big company being active in many countries, we have started to shift our focus. Besides our German heritage we are keen to also succeed in the U.S. market and have consequently opened second headquarters in Miami, Florida, recently.
Photograph: Peter Amend/Getty Images
So you just set foot in Miami, Florida. Can you tell us something about your expansion strategy? What do you expect from being present on the U.S. market? Do you see similar consumer needs in the U.S. as you see in Europe?
Grover launched its service in the U.S. back in September of 2021. Since then, we have slowly been scaling the market to bring our business to life in this critical market when it comes to e-commerce and consumer electronic consumption. We now service customers and business across the entire U.S., with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. After launching, we quickly learned that there is very much a need and demand for renting as opposed to buying consumer electronics; especially among the Millenial and Gen Z audiences. This is very much in line with what we’ve uncovered by operating in our existing EU markets, as younger audiences continue to crave convenience, affordability, and flexibility when it comes to their purchasing decisions. As far as our launch strategy in the U.S. is concerned, we set up the business so that we could offer a top-notch service that is in line with U.S. consumer sentiments and expectations with ecommerce business. We established our operations by partnering with UPS in order to move products quickly and efficiently to our customers; offering free delivery that would arrive within 2-3 business days. This was a critical component to our local strategy, as we wanted to meet the needs and expectations of the U.S. consumer. From a marketing perspective, we have focused our efforts on trying to connect with a slightly younger audience that is more environmentally conscious when it comes to their purchasing behavior. In addition to sustainability, these customers are likely to already consume other subscription-based businesses (Spotify, Netflix), or have stayed at AirBnBs while traveling as they value flexibility and convenience over outright ownership.
As far as our presence in the U.S. is concerned, we established our U.S. headquarters in Miami, Florida. This was the perfect hub for us given the recent growth of its tech ecosystem, coupled with a huge influx of global talent and capital. We continue to meet with local government officials and businesses; exploring partnership opportunities that will further establish Grover as a critical service for both individuals and businesses to better access the latest technology.
Do you have any advices/tips for emerging businesses in Berlin? What shouldn’t they miss, when they are about to start their startup journey?
The key factors for success in business are always great talent and enough money. We were fortunate to hire a lot of great talent to work at Grover in Berlin and Miami and in all our other markets. And once you made it to build a good team you must retain it with a compelling culture, which is easier said than done and is a continuous task for any founder. Beside that money is king. But startups today have one big advantage compared to us: When we started our business and hired people, we had to spend a fortune alone for buying all the notebooks and smartphones for our new team members. Today, founders can save these immense investments and just lease instead of buying via Grover. Beautiful new world.