Tritium Partners-backed RVshare, much like most travel businesses, suffered losses as customers cancelled bookings over coronavirus concerns.
But the rental company has since seen a rebound in business as travelers eager to salvage their summer vacations have found comfort in taking their homes with them on the road.
RVshare is part of PE Hub’s database of companies that are fighting covid-19 by overhauling operations to sustain, survive and, in some cases, thrive.
Here’s how the online rental company, which scored up to $50 million in committed capital from Tritium in 2018, has navigated through the public health crisis.
RVshare saw a tremendous level of cancellations when covid-19 accelerated early this year, said Jon Gray, CEO of RVshare, a marketplace connecting RV owners with renters.
The Akron, Ohio, company furloughed one-third of its workers, downsized staff by 10 percent, renegotiated contracts and moved to a delayed payment set-up with vendors to alleviate pressures.
Besides cutting costs, RVshare launched a new initiative mid-March. The company began renting out vehicles to doctors, immuno-compromised individuals, hospitals and utility companies involved in critical infrastructure work. RVshare refers to these as “relief bookings.”
“People would essentially get an RV and put it in their property,” said Philip Siegel, managing partner at Tritium. “They would see their family for a bit and then sleep in the RV.”
“We continue to do relief bookings until today [but] the focus of the biz has flipped back,” Gray said. Today, relief bookings make up only 2-3 percent of overall bookings.
When Texas governor Greg Abbott announced the opening of state parks on April 17, “we saw an immediate return to bookings,” Gray said.
The loosening of restrictions helped allay some covid fears, fueling a rebound in business.
But it was Tritium’s promise to keep the rental service from running dry that prepared RVshare for the spike in demand, according to Gray. Thanks to its backers, RVshare could temporarily operate on a loss, he said.
RVshare had drawn only $20 million from Tritium’s $50 million commitment when the crisis hit. That allowed the company to obtain another $13.5 million in equity from the same pot after covid-19 escalated.
Without this assurance, RVshare would have been forced to downsize further, as well as cut marketing costs and put a halt to investment in projects.
Private equity has faced backlash through the pandemic with critics alleging that firms are cashing in on the misfortune of virus-plagued businesses. But the financial wherewithal and expertise of these firms have also come to the rescue of portfolio companies. RVshare, for its part, needed capital to pivot operations and survive.
“Cancellations drained a lot of cash from the balance sheets,” Siegel said. The investment made sure “the company was ready to go back to where it needed to be.”
Staying the course
As summer rolled in, Americans planning vacations sought to do so in a socially distant manner. In July, bookings nearly tripled compared with the same month a year ago, Gray said.
Cast in the light of covid, traveling by RV is considered safer than overnight stays in hotels. “You are bringing along your own kitchen, bathroom wherever you go,” Gray explained. Leisure RV bookings on the platform were almost zero until mid-April, he said.
To ensure safety, RVshare asks all RV owners to disinfect vehicles between bookings and adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Renters are also encouraged to clean before returning the vehicles they rent.
The company has also partnered with IKEA’s TaskRabbit – a freelance labor marketplace – to help RV owners with cleaning.
The online recreational rental service doesn’t physically check the vehicles themselves. Rather, the costs of cleaning services are borne out of pocket.
That said, RV owners make 75 percent or more on each booking that’s made through the RVshare platform.
With signs of a second wave hitting some US states, there is a looming fear that customers will retreat into the dark covid-19 hole.
“If the country locks down again we’ll get hit again,” Siegel said. “But now we are confident that there’s a permanent interest and confidence in travelling like this,” he added.
With hopes of new customers that offer long-term growth prospects, RVshare this year expects to produce five times the revenue it generated in 2017 – a year before the company was acquired.
For more of PE Hub’s coronavirus coverage, click here
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Action Item: check out the full database of PE-backed companies that have pivoted operations amid covid-19. The information has been supplied by the PE firms, compiled and edited by PE Hub for clarity.
Download the database here.
|No||Name||Portfolio Company||Doing what?|
|1||Artemis Capital Partners||BioDot||Working 7 days a week to manufacture fluid dispensing systems for labs that assemble antibody or serological tests.|
|2||Tecum Capital Partners and Validor Capital||BICO||Steelworkers at BICO worked extra hours to help a supplier of ventilators ramp up production.|
|3||Lincolnshire management||Powerhouse||Powerhouse now installs barriers that act as separators for retail workers. The company is also disinfecting spaces. Both these tasks are additions to its pre-covid businsses.|
|4||MPK Equity Partners||Restoration 1||Restoration 1 fixes fire, water and mold damage but is now providing disinfecting services - thanks to the PPE that it typically uses for its general services.|
|5||Adjuvant Capital||Codagenix||Partnered with the Serum Institute of India to rapidly co-develop a live-attenuated vaccine against the coronavirus.|
|6||ArchiMed||Diesse Diagnostica Senese||Developing a blood test for covid-19 detection.|
|7||EQT / TA Associates||Aldevron||Aldevron's technology is being used in 30 different covid programs right now.|
|8||Consonance Capital||Bako Diagnostics||Bako repurposed its technology expertise in PCR, developing and launching a covid-19 test in a matter of weeks. The company is also working on developing a serology test to develop antibodies, a proxy for covid immunity.|
|9||Falfurrias Capital Partners||Sauer Brands (Richmond Plant)||The company has been making spices, seasonings and extracts for 133 years but got FDA approval to start making hand sanitizer. It’s strictly for employees and also local first responders in Richmond, to whom Sauer Brands is donating the sanitizer.|
|10||Bain Capital||Canada Goose||The Canada Goose Response Program repurposed all eight Canadian manufacturing facilities and engaged 600 employees to work toward the goal of delivering 1.6 million pieces of medical grade PPE at cost to frontline healthcare workers across the country.|
|11||Pine Island and Bain Capital and Compass Partners||Precinmac||The Trimaster Division of Precinmac in Guelph, Ontario, is manufacturing over 800,000 units of a vital component in ventilators. The components are being distributed to key customers who have repurposed their facilities to ramp up production of these life-saving devices.|
|12||Bain Capital||QuVa||QuVa tripled the production of critical sedation, blood pressure support and anesthesia medications to aid the treatment of patients in ICU at over 1,500 hospitals across the US. The company is also reimbursing all childcare expenses for dedicated staff who are working to produce these high-demand pharmaceuticals.|
|13||Bain Capital||Apex Tool Group||Apex Tool Group’s industrial designers used 3-D printing to make hundreds of face shields for healthcare heroes and distributed them via community partners.|
|14||Bain Capital||Michael's||Michael's donated $1 million worth of fabric – enough to make about 750,000 pieces – to organizations making protective masks for first responders, hospitals and essential workers.|
|15||Bain Capital||Dynavax||Dynavax is developing CpG 1018 as a broad vaccine adjuvant platform. With that as the goal, the company has embarked on a strategy to establish multiple research collaborations aimed at demonstrating the capability of CpG 1018 to enhance the immune response to a variety of vaccine antigens.|
|16||Bain Capital||Varsity Brands||Varsity Brands adapted its graduation-cap-and-gown manufacturing facilities to quickly deliver critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to essential business customers globally.|
|17||Bain Capital||Affinavix||Affinivax is supporting the development of next-generation vaccines by accelerating the use of its patented Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS) technology, which enables high-affinity binding of polysaccharides and proteins to uniquely induce a broad and protective B- and T-cell immune response to vaccines.|
|18||Bain Capital||Rent the Runway||Rent the Runway repurposed its garment repairs team and local NYC factory partners to produce 80,000+ washable and reusable non-medical face masks for the general public.|
|19||Bain Capital||Diversey||Diversey increased product supply by 8x to meet the unprecedented surge in demand for disinfectants and sanitizers.|
|20||Bain Capital||HealthDrive||HealthDrive’s behavioral health providers volunteered to facilitate a telehealth therapy service to any partner, provider or staff member at the company, ensuring that mental health is a priority.|
|21||Bain Capital||Homebase||Homebase is providing healthcare teams with premium time tracking and scheduling software for free for three months. Healthcare teams at covid-19 screening centers and response centers are using Homebase.|
|22||Bain Capital||Cloud Guru||Cloud Guru has launched a program to provide 1,000 individuals who have lost employment due to covid-19 with a free one-year subscription to its cloud skills education program.|
|23||Bain Capital||IQVIA||The company launched the covid Active Research Experience (CARE) Project, an information-gathering portal, which to date has produced more than 50 reports to help inform the scientific community and the greater community at large about disease prevalence, symptom progression and treatment outcomes.|
|24||Bain Capital||CentralSquare||Provided select software products such as online citizen reporting tools free of charge to public safety agencies to assist with emergency response throughout the pandemic.|
|25||Bain Capital (and other investors RA Capital Management, Perceptive Advisors, Rock Springs Capital, Adage Capital Management, T. Rowe Price, Redmile Group and Omega Funds)||Atea Pharmaceuticals||Atea is developing a drug for treatment of adult patients hospitalized with moderate covid-19 with one or more risk factors|
|26||Apollo||CareerBuilder||CareerBuilder has launched a Crisis Support Center to help impacted Americans find jobs.|
|27||Apollo||Tegra||Typically known for developing sports and athletic apparel, Tegra has reprioritized operations and is pivoting its manufacturing to make face masks amid the ongoing spread of covid-19.|
|28||Apollo||University of Phoenix||University of Phoenix is offering free, credit-bearing online courses and “tool kits” for k-12 teachers who are adapting to online learning environments.|
|29||Apollo||McGraw Hill Education||McGraw Hill Education is offering free access to online higher-ed coursework and training professors and students to digital learning platforms and is providing free K-12 digital products and access to ALEKs learning platform.|
|30||Apollo||Intrado||Intrado has partnered with Cisco to provide free virtual learning software and services for K-12 schools in the US.|
|31||Compass Diversified Holdings||Sterno||Sterno shifted its priorities at two of its plants. Rather than producing insulated food bags and ethanol chafing fuel, they are now producing cotton masks and hand sanitizer.|
|32||Blackstone||SERVPRO||Employees at SERVPRO, a cleanup and restoration company, have been involved in a number of relief efforts. These include assembling care packages for US Army personnel deployed to New York City to build a covid-19 hospital, providing meals to US Army Fort Campbell Troops managing the Jacob Javits Medical Center, and franchises across the country. They are answering requests for first responder vehicle cleanings at no charge.|
|33||Blackstone||Bridger Aerospace||Bridger Aerospace provided its aerial transportation resources to airlift emergency supplies and deliver blood drive services to treat patients in Bozeman, Montana, hospitals.|
|34||Blackstone||Sema4||Sema4 is joining the fight against covid-19 by offering rapid testing to support healthcare providers in Connecticut and New York.|
|35||L Catterton||ClassPass||ClassPass has launched a new feature that enables fitness and wellness providers to offer live-streamed classes, sessions and appointments through the ClassPass app and website. The company will donate 100% of the proceeds from these purchases through June 1, 2020 directly to its partners who are unable to host in-person classes and appointments due to covid-19.|
|36||Veritas Capital||Athenahealth||Developed new interactive covid-19 dashboard, to be used by covid-19 Healtchare coalition and Athenahealth customers. Dashboard tracks lab test orders and identifies concentrations of high-risk patients, via data from its providers across 50 states and 100 million patients. Also, launched 24-hour incident response team to stay in sync with the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization.|
|37||Veritas Capital||Cotiviti||Launched publicly available outbreak tracker which identifies future geographic areas that may see heightened infection outbreaks, helping the healthcare industry shift its response from reactive to proactive.|
|38||Veritas Capital||OnSolve||OnSolve, a provider of SaaS-based mass notification, put together a crisis communication kit for covid-19, offering best practices for communicating sample coronavirus message templates and ways to manage employee expectations.|
|39||Veritas Capital||Cambium||Cambium now provides free access to K-12 curriculum organizations to support educational challenges created out of covid-19.|
|40||Cerberus Capital||Kellermeyer Bergensons Services||KBS, a provider of commercial contract cleaning, has leased its own trucks to move necessary chemicals and PPE directly from its manufacturer to its warehouse, and redirected its hospitality staff to work on coronavirus cleanup instead.|
|41||Cerberus Capital||ABC Technologies||ABC, an automotive supplier, is developing ventilator components to support production efforts in the United States and Canada. It started shipments of components within just three weeks. It has also been working with several organizations and companies to produce face masks and protective face shields.|
|42||Cerberus Capital||Albertsons Companies||Albertsons, the second-largest supermarket chain in North America partnered with major hospitality businesses to provide part-time jobs to furloughed employees. Partners include Hilton, Marriott International, MGM Resorts. Like other supermarkets it has been working around the clock to keep products on shelves and keep stores clean and open.|
|43||Great Hill Partners||CustomInk||CustomInk, the online custom apparel retailer, quickly pivoted and repurposed their manufacturing so they could provide desperately needed face masks at bulk rates.|
|44||Advantech Capital and Vivo Capital||Sinovac R&D||Sinovac Biotech, a leading provider of biopharmaceutical products in China, is developing an inactivated vaccine against covid-19 named CoronaVac. The Phase II clinical trial commenced in May.|
|45||Sole Source Capital||Supply Chain Services||SCS produced large amounts of RFID labels for coronavirus testing devices. The Medical Contract Manufacturer reached out in early March when the spread of the virus worsened and the need for tests grew exponentially. These labels are important for medical professionals to accurately track patient tests and keep accurate data. Unfortunately the inlays the manufacturer uses for orders are sourced out of China and were not going to be filled until July. SCS also helped the manufacturer by reaching out to their inlay suppliers and pulled together to locate the wet inlays needed. SCS also helped a grocery store to do online ordering and store pickup similar to Instacart by creating a hardware kit. The combination of a handheld scanner and mobile printer let the grocery employees fulfill online orders without going through the high-traffic checkout lanes.|
|46||Eurazeo Brands||The Bandier team||The activewear company is keeping its community connected with daily, virtual at-home exercise sessions,|
|47||Eurazeo Brands||NEST||The manufacturer and marketer of luxury fragrances is working to develop antibacterial products for consumers.|
|48||Edison Partners||Suuchi||A supply-chain management software provider for the clothing manufacturing industry converted to making masks and PPE.
|49||Blackford Capital||Mopec||Scaled production and started creating CDC-compliant body bags. It developed Guardian Racks, which is a collapsible morgue storage rack system. This was created in response to the wooden shelves being built in New York to hold bodies in refrigerated trailers.|
|50||Clinical Ink||NovaQuest||Clinical Ink helped expedite the study of a treatment for "cytokine storm," the immunological reaction associated with severe cases of covid-19.|
|51||Tritium Partners||RVShare||The peer-to-peer RV rentals in the US has seen a massive growth in bookings due to the pandemic as domestic family trips have become the dominant form of travel.|
|52||New Mountain Capital||Zep Inc.||The cleaning company's sales were trending down until covid but now they are scrambling to meet demand. They have some retail business, but the bulk is heavy duty cleaning chemicals for industrial (mfg,automotive), F&B (meat/dairy processing plants) and institutional (hospitals, schools), so will likely see sustained growth in post-COVID world.|
|53||VSS||Coretelligent||The managed IT services firm witnessed an increase in demand from clients – many of whom, new to the virtual environment, required more than the day-to-day IT support services. The company migrated its onsite field team to meet this demand.|
|54||CORE Industrial Partners||Fathom||In the early covid months – when conversations around ventilator shortages had just begun – Fathom, a 3-D printing company signed two large ventilator projects under the Defense Production Act. To increase production and reduce time to market, Fathom also created a new multi-cavity tool to build covid test cartridges, which saw an incredible spike in demand.|