Get to know BARK’s CEO (that’s Canine Enrichment Officer, obviously) Matt Meeker with 7 tidbits about his life, his vision for BARK and how his dog Hugo is his ultimate inspiration.
1. He never left.
If you didn’t know already, Matt’s one of BARK’s three co-founders (the other two are Carly Strife and Henrik Werdelin). Not only that, he was actually BARK’s CEO for 9 years, starting from 2011. And even when he transitioned out of that position, he remained involved in the company in his other role as BARK’s Executive Chairman. Now that he’s back, he’s excited and re-energized by the possibilities BARK has.
2. He’s inspired by his late dog Hugo
Hugo was a huge part of why Matt founded BARK in the first place. Having a Great Dane, he ran into the problem of most pet toys, treats and other accessories falling into general “one size fits all” categories that just wouldn’t be good for a large dog. So he started BarkBox as an attempt to fill that gap, with the understanding all dogs are individuals with different needs.
What many people also don’t know is the reason Matt stepped away and then came back to BARK as CEO is also connected to Hugo. A big impetus for Matt transitioning to Executive Chairman was to spend more time with Hugo in the later days of his life. Hugo sadly passed away last year, and Matt had originally thought when that day came he’d want to have distance between himself and the company Hugo inspired. What he found was the opposite: ”I have been and remain deeply personally connected to BARK’s mission, especially as I see it as a large part of Hugo and his legacy. Sadly, he passed recently, and I always felt that when that day came, I’d want to be as far away from BARK as possible. It’s just the opposite. I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to honor him and his legacy, to ensure it’s still here and strong one-hundred years from now. I’m passionate about BARK fulfilling our mission and making ALL dogs happy, as Hugo would expect of us.”
3. His ultimate goal is for you to think ”BARK” when you think “dog” or “dogs” or “doge” or even …. “doggo.”
Even though Matt would never use the word “doggo” you get the picture. He knows that there’s a ton of ways BARK can grow: “With 2 million active subs and nearly 70 million dog households in the U.S., there is a lot of runway ahead and I have a lot of exciting things I want to work on to really capitalize on that opportunity.” What would some of those priorities be, you may ask?
4. His priorities for the coming year are: 1) Food, 2) Be BARK, 3) Be Profitable
Even though BARK grew its top line 42% through the first 3 quarters of fiscal year ‘22, Matt and the team feel that’s just beginning to scratch the surface in newer categories like Food and Health. One strategy BARK will use to grow and also solidify BARK as THE dog company is by offering best-in-class products across Play, Food, Health, and Home. By continuing to scale the Play category (e.g. toys and treats), Matt wants BARK to complement that quickly growing category in other areas like Food and Health. Fortunately, our 2 million subscribers and a strong balance sheet present unique opportunities for investing in organic and inorganic growth. In addition to that, he’s focused on becoming EBITDA profitable in the near future. It’s something he’s done before with the company, and he’s confident at doing it again.
5. He’s really excited about BARK & Food
BARK actually soft-launched in the food category last year, and the team intends to begin marketing it towards the end of this quarter. Food is a big opportunity for BARK (a $35+ billion one if you need a number) and the company is just in the early stages of this area. Obviously, this takes time to do well and it’s a priority for Matt (and the company) to rally all of BARK’s resources behind making food a big success.
6. He learned a lot through the BARK SPAC
This is better said in his own words: “The SPAC was just a mechanism for raising money and becoming a public company, which we are now. We passed on several SPAC opportunities before ultimately deciding on Northern Star. We saw tremendous value in partnering with Joanna Coles and Jon Ledecky and we are happy we made that decision. Obviously, the capital markets view of SPACs has changed, however, we are confident that if we continue to execute, the market will begin to view us less as a ‘SPAC company’ and more as a public issuer. We’re growing the top line at a healthy clip, have maintained healthy gross margins of nearly 60%, and have managed the macro supply chain headwinds really well. In our view, these are all indicators of the fundamental strength of our business and management team.”
7. He used to be in the Navy.
This doesn’t have a ton to do with BARK, we just like to share his old Navy pics of newly adult Meeker so they float around on the internet. He even has a whole PROFILE in Veterans Advantage where he talks about his life before BARK (yes, that existed much to our shock). Look below to see the young, naval Meeks.
You can follow Matt on Twitter (where he posts about BARK, business + dogs) or LinkedIn (where he posts about…well, mainly the same things he posts about on Twitter).