Joanna Coles Adds Business Roles by Joining a Tech Rental Startup

Equipment rental startup Grover has tapped former magazine executive Joanna Coles to chair its board of directors, as it plans a rapid expansion of its consumer electronics subscription service powered by a new fundraising of $330 million.

Coles, who spent 12 years at publisher Hearst and was the former editor of women’s magazine Cosmopolitan, recently made the transition to a new career in negotiation and corporate governance. She runs several special purpose acquisition companies – or Spacs – and now sits on the board of several companies, including social media group Snap and speaker maker Sonos.

Her move to Berlin-based Grover was revealed alongside news that she had raised $110m in equity and $220m in debt from investors including Energy Impact Partners, Fasanara Capital and Korelya. Capital, focused on sustainability.

Grover offers laptops and cell phones with flexible monthly subscriptions, which he says will extend the life of everyday technology as the products are refurbished and leased to other customers after the contract ends.

But competition in the industry is fierce, and a growing number of retailers are experimenting with subscription-based services to build longer-lasting relationships with consumers. According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on plans to extend its monthly subscription model for iCloud or Apple Music storage to hardware such as the iPhone.

Coles said Grover and Apple were “great partners,” but added, “Most people in the world don’t actually use Apple…there’s a company called Microsoft and there’s also [Alphabet-owned] Android.”

“Grover is very optimistic about its multi-brand strategy,” she said.

Coles became the focus of corporate attention after becoming the managing director of four Spacs – Northern Star Acquisition Co I, II, III and IV – but had little success in entity deals.

A $4.7 billion acquisition for Apex Clearing, a group seeking to cash in on the amateur investing boom, fell apart after it failed to obtain clearance from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. United despite eight months of trying.

The only one of Coles’ blank check companies to successfully complete a merger did so with a dog toy subscription service called Bark, which calls itself “the world’s leading brand for dogs.” Bark’s share price has fallen nearly in half over the past six months.

The other three Spacs are still looking for acquisition targets and have until early next year to find them. Coles would not comment on his record with the blank check companies.

Grover, which has 450 employees, said the new funds would be used to increase subscribers in existing markets such as Spain, the United States and Germany. Annual recurring revenue has more than doubled to 140 million euros in 2021, according to Grover, which is so far only profitable in its home country.

Michael Cassau, founder and chief executive of Grover, called tech leasing a “global societal shift” and said the company he founded in 2015 was in a “leadership position”.

Additional reporting by Philip Stafford in London

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