Rep the Squad is shutting down.
The Seattle-based sports jersey rental service announced its closure on Monday. Rep the Squad CEO Brian Watkins told GeekWire that the company was unable to land more investor dollars to keep the business going.
“Despite great retention rates, very strong NPS scores, and rapidly falling acquisition costs, we were unable to secure sufficient new investors to match our ambitions for nationwide expansion,” he said in an email.
Founded last year, Rep the Squad used a Netflix-like model, charging customers $19.95 per month to receive selected jerseys in the mail, one at a time. Customers could wear a jersey, return it, and receive a different jersey. It launched last year with NFL jerseys; added NBA jerseys in November; and expanded to MLB in February.
The idea was to give sports fans flexibility when it comes to repping their favorite team or player. High-quality authentic jerseys can cost upwards of $200 — a hefty investment that can feel especially painful when a player is traded to a new team, or when your child grows out of his or her size within months.
In a phone interview with GeekWire, Watkins said the startup required lots of capital as it aimed to expand to more cities across the nation.
“It’s a capital-intensive business because you have to actually purchase assets for rental,” he said. “That’s what caused a lot of hesitation in the investor community.”
Rep the Squad had raised $2.5 million from top venture capital firms like Madrona Venture Group, Maveron, Aspect Ventures, and Curious Capital, along with current and former professional athletes like Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Russell Okung, and Edgar Martinez.
Rep The Squad was a spinout of Madrona Venture Labs, a “startup studio” Madrona Venture Group created in 2014 that lets the firm rapidly test new ideas before hiring a CEO to take it to the next level.
Watkins is a long-time Seattle entrepreneur with leadership experience at places like Nordstrom, Ritani, Blue Nile, and Wetpaint. He co-founded Rep the Squad with former Ritani colleague Alex Berg.
The 10-person company is exploring potential “strategic alternatives,” and is selling its remaining jersey inventory online.
GeekWire tested Rep the Squad in October — check out our full review here.
Sports apparel giant Fanatics rolled out a similar jersey trade-in program in January, letting fans exchange jerseys if a player leaves a team within three months, or 12 months for customers with an American Express card.
Rep The Squad was betting on a recent trend, particularly with millennials, of consumers prioritizing access over ownership, whether that’s using Uber over buying a personal car, paying a monthly Netflix fee to stream video content, or renting high-end clothing with a company like Rent the Runway or Le Tote. It also followed a sharing economy model driven by new technology allowing for peer-to-peer usage of a car, home, or other physical assets.