Jul 25, 2022 - Business

Five questions with Spruce CEO Steven Pho

Photo illustration of two talk bubbles, with Spruce CEO, Steven Pho, on the right.
Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Courtesy of Spruce

Steven Pho recently took the reins of Austin-based Spruce this month, moving from board member to CEO of the apartment housekeeping startup that’s seen rapid growth in recent months.

State of play: Spruce secured $26 million in Series B funding, company officials announced earlier this month.

  • The company has raised $40 million to date and offers its apartment housekeeping services to roughly 2,300 properties in 18 markets – most recently launching in Twin Cities and Jacksonville.

Pho, a local entrepreneur and investor who previously led Favor Delivery and RetailMeNot, chatted with us about the future of Spruce and his thoughts on Austin’s growing startup ecosystem.

What are your plans for growth, especially on the heels of this new funding round?

“We would love to get the unit count from 600,000 to 1.5 million. That’s going to be including five or six more states that we have our eye on.”
“Another area of expansion ... is short-term rentals.”

Do you have plans to increase employee headcount and property count locally?

“We're going to continue to expand our presence in Texas, of course. … We have 80 employees with 60% of that here in Austin, and we'll continue to very strategically hire in product engineering, sales or marketing — hopefully a lot of it here in Austin.”

You’ve been in Austin for 11 years. What was the startup ecosystem like when you first got here?

“A lot of recruiting we did in 2011 at RetailMeNot were for people like myself from San Francisco, from New York, from Chicago.”
“There were very few really high paying tech jobs at the time.”

How has the startup scene changed since then?

"You have exits from HomeAway, BizarreVoice, RetailMeNot. I think that’s really been the key to a lot of what you’re seeing right now. … Starting in 2015 or so you’re starting to see more B Stage companies in Austin.”
I think it's a great place to live. It's a great place to now draw talent — a talent that we didn't have before.”

Austin’s VC deals have dipped and there are signs of a recession. Are you concerned about those trends?

“I think you have to prepare for that. We feel very fortunate that we're able to get our capital raise done at this time. I think we were definitely very cognizant of the capital that we've raised, and we will be very prudent now with how we spend it. But we're going to continue to focus on growing the business in the right way strategically.”
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