Celebrating the Rover Journey

At Madrona, our investment strategy is “day one for the long run.” What we love most is partnering with entrepreneurs from the very beginning through every step in their journey. We cannot think of a better illustration than our journey with Aaron Easterly and the Rover team.

The seed of the idea for Rover was Greg Gottesman’s when he was a managing director at Madrona and a board member of the local nonprofit Startup Weekend. Greg was brainstorming company ideas to pitch at an upcoming event and conceived of “A Place for Rover” (an Airbnb for pets) to address a pain point he experienced as a new dog owner.

Greg pitched A Place for Rover at the next Startup Weekend event. The pitch won best startup idea, and Greg convinced team member Phil Kimmey to drop out of school to work full-time on building the initial product.

Aaron Easterly RoverThus, Rover was born inside the walls of Madrona. Soon to join as co-founder and CEO was Aaron Easterly, an expert marketplace builder and pet parent who was an executive in residence at Madrona at the time. When Aaron heard about the Rover incubation project, he fell in love, joined the team, and they were off to the races.

The story of Rover, like other incredible technology companies, was not all up and to the right. Building and scaling digital marketplaces that deliver great customer experiences is hard — even harder when making them great and profitable businesses. The Rover team achieved both. It’s said that every great tech startup has a near-death experience on the way to success, and Rover was no exception. Most notably, Rover’s business was (temporarily) decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic when no one was leaving their homes for work or travel — the two primary reasons pet parents turn to Rover.

Rover adeptly navigated through challenging decisions during the pandemic, enabling the company to thrive on the other side. The tailwinds from a Covid-driven acceleration in pet adoption propelled Rover’s business and created a clear path to profitability, making the company a great candidate for the public markets. And Rover really hit its stride as a public company, a leg of the journey too few companies have the opportunity to experience.

Rover is also a great example of our approach to investing at Madrona. Principal David Rosenthal partnered with Greg during the incubation and early growth of the company. Managing Director Scott Jacobson, a former marketplace builder and operator, worked closely with Greg and David informally in the early years and in a board role beginning in 2017. When we say we’re there for the long run, that includes life as a public company. Scott has served as a director on Rover’s board since de-SPAC, including as the sole investor director on the transaction committee that helped the company ultimately enter its next phase with Blackstone.

It is with immense pride in the Rover team and all that they have accomplished, as well as a healthy dose of melancholy, that we celebrate the closing of Blackstone’s acquisition of the company as Madrona’s journey with Rover comes to an end. With Rover’s mission to make it possible for everyone to experience the unconditional love of a pet, it is in many ways still early in the journey for the company. And we look forward to seeing the incredible things you do for pet parents the world over in the years to come.