Grover, the Berlin-based startup that offers “pay-as-you-go” subscriptions to the latest consumer tech as an alternative to owning products outright, has raised €37 million in funding.
The Series A round is led by Circularity Capital LLP — a VC that specialises in the so-called “circular economy” — with participation from fintech investor Coparion, Samsung NEXT, and Varengold Bank. Existing investors, including Commerzbank’s Main Incubator, also followed on.
Noteworthy, the funding consists of €12 million in equity and a new €25 million debt facility. Building an inventory of new tech products to rent is quite capital insensitive, after all.
Targeting Germany only, for now (after withdrawing from the U.K. and pausing a soft launch in the U.S.), Grover wants to be something akin to Netflix for gadgets. It offers individual tech products by monthly, three-monthly or yearly subscription, or via its newly launched “Grover Mix” subscription, which has a fixed monthly price and lets you switch item at any time.
In addition, you are afforded some upside protection, should you wish to purchase the item after renting it first. You’re given the option to buy products with 30 percent of your subscription payments to date being deducted from the recommended retail price. For longer rental periods, Grover will also warn you if you are close to reaching 130 percent of the full purchase price and prompt you to consider buying it for €1.
The startup has also been trialling a B2B product aimed at burgeoning companies, dubbed “Startups get Grover”. This I’m told came about after demand from startups who, for example, want to subscribe to a bunch of Macbooks to give to new employees, and as an alternative to deploying upfront capital.
In a call with Grover founder and CEO Michael Cassau, he told me the new capital will be used to expand the company’s market leadership in Germany and re-boot international expansion in a bid to continue a current revenue growth rate of 20 percent per month. He said the startup had taken the decision in early 2017 to focus on Germany, temporarily abandoning internationalization, after it had signed a major partnership with German e-retailer MediaMarkt. It has since also partnered with Saturn, Gravis, Conrad, and Tchibo.
This sees Grover become a checkout option, alongside other payment buttons or financing offers. That way a customer can choose to rent a tech product via their favourite online store powered by Grover. Behind the scenes, Grover actually buys the product from the retailer, having put agreements in place with regards to what products fit the Grover model and aren’t already overstocked by Grover.
Alternatively, in some instances, Grover has a “re-circulation” deal in place so that a retailer can continue offering Grover as an option even if Grover has enough inventory already, and instead take a share of future subscription income. This works particularly well for slightly older products or items that are diminishing in popularity.
In addition to growing in Germany and future international ambitions, Cassau says that the startup plans to invest in the user experience of Grover, suggesting that it has room for improvement. This will include developing “new and innovative usage models,” while he also conceded that with further scale the company can get more customer aligned in terms of the products on offer and its subscription pricing.
At some point, if Grover’s subscription model becomes compelling enough, it’s hoped that purchasing many tech products will become so unattractive as to create Netflix-level changes in consumption behaviour. Or, at least, that’s the aim. In my case, that would mean spending far less time recycling things like smartphones and music technology gear on eBay as I tread a well-trodden and perpetual upgrade path.
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