A move was to blame. As Michael Cassau (Moscow, 31 years old) unpacked boxes, countless thoughts passed through his head. How much furniture did she need to decorate the apartment, if she would still like them in two or three years, if she would use them, how much credit she would have to ask for and how long she would be paying for it… And here her head clicked. In that instant, Grover’s idea came up. A platform conceived for the rental of technology by subscription. As Cassau, its founder and CEO, explains to EL PAÍS by video call, furniture has nothing to do with a smartphone, but the concept of renting it works the same way. “Society does not want to own physical things. He prefers to pay for the experience and the value of what he uses ”, he assures.
That was 2015. Just six years later, his project outlined between cartoons has become a startup which has grown strongly in Germany, Holland and Austria; and that, since last month, operates in Spain. The model does not present great mysteries. A catalog of more than 500 technology products — 60% owned by smartphones and computers— which the user accesses through the web or the application and which are rented for one, three, six or 12 months. Even once the subscription is finished, it is possible to purchase the device or continue paying for it monthly. “Technology has to be affordable for anyone. Facilitate access, with competitive prices ”, adds Cassau.
For example, if someone wants an iPhone 12 Pro, the amount ranges from 124.90 euros for a month to 54.90 euros each month if it is rented all year round. So with any product. The longer the renting, cheaper. The monthly payment includes a policy that covers 90% of the repair costs in the event of accidental damage, such as screen breakage or technical defects. If the device is shown to be defective as standard, Grover takes full charge of providing a new one or repairing the rented one. “Once you have registered on the platform, all you have to do is indicate the shipping and payment details and place the order. In a maximum of three days you receive it at home, ”explains Cassau.
According to the latest data provided by the company, it has more than 150,000 active subscribers, employs about 200 workers and has raised financing of close to 350 million euros. The pandemic, as has happened with the vast majority of technologies, has triggered business. Compared to 2019, Grover grew 220% over the past year. Its founder and CEO understands the advantage offered by a virus capable of transferring all economic and social activity to the digital world. However, his speech also points towards circular consumption. “People throw away or stop using the devices right away. And this has a great environmental impact ”, he says.
A survey conducted by the own startup in Germany it showed that 81% of citizens have at least one unused device at home; and one in three people raises the number to five. Obviously, Cassau seeks to justify its business model, but it does not invalidate the growing problem of electronic waste. According to the United Nations Environment Program, we generate about 50 million tons of waste a year. And with the aggravation that most are hazardous materials for health and the environment, such as lead, cadmium or mercury, by not treating them with an optimal recycling system.
The pay-as-you-go fashion
Grover’s arrival in Spain is not at all accidental. Apart from the expansion plans, which Cassau limits for the moment to Western countries, the subscription models and renting they are trading higher among Spanish users. In the car market, registrations for this modality have increased in the last year by 39%, according to data provided by the Spanish Vehicle Renting Association. A noticeable trend also in the audiovisual sector. Netflix broke the four million subscriber barrier last year and Spotify increased paid users by 17% compared to 2019.
The apparent maturity of the business model has opened up more possibilities for a company like Grover. Cassau has in mind to introduce new forms of subscription. He comments that it would be interesting, especially for the most faithful, a flat rental rate. “So they could permanently change products and without changing the price. It would not matter what device they hired ”, he says. The other idea that goes around his head is to incorporate financial services within the platform. You understand that consumer loans generally involve abusive conditions, as happened during the move that originated the company. “We can facilitate some interesting financial products, but already in the long term,” he ditch.
Although Cassau does not provide concrete figures regarding how the reception of the startup in Spain, it does dare to affirm that it has been the most successful launch in its entire history. “We will invest more in this market after what we have seen in these few weeks,” he concludes. It remains to be seen if the good omens are fulfilled or if the growth in which he is immersed contributes to making the technology truly accessible to any pocket. Especially in a context in which we live digitally, with almost no option to renounce the world on-line.