Vinicius Sala – Petlove
Nino, meaning small, is the perfect name for Vinicius Sala’s 44-pound lovable mutt.
While he can’t imagine his life without his playful, affable Nino, he still remembers a time when people considered dogs nothing more than guards. He’s delighted that perspective is changing, which is one of the reasons he joined Petlove in February 2021 as its general counsel and chief compliance officer.
He feels a deep connection to the company’s mission to transform the world into a loving place for all animals and pets.
“We’re taking tangible actions to make that a reality, such as not selling cages, because we believe no animal can be happy and healthy locked inside a confined space,” he says of Brazil’s first solely e-commerce seller of pet products. “We don’t want to make money that way.”
According to Vini, the pet industry is booming—and resilient. It was on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic and has grown during it, so much so that he’s currently helping Petlove move into a larger business and distribution center.
Busy as a (digital) bee
In 1998, Brazilian veterinarian Márcio Waldman opened a veterinary clinic and pet products store in São Paolo. Eleven years later he created the first e-commerce version of what is now, according to Vini, the largest online retailer for pets in Brazil.
Not only does it sell toys and food for a variety of pets, but it allows users to create pet profiles to customize their online shopping experience. For instance, if a dog particularly enjoys rope toys, the site will recommend those.
To house its goods, Petlove is expanding its distribution footprint from Extrema to Itapeva, a relatively quiet town about 13 miles away. The location shift means an increase of several thousand square feet. Vini handled the lease negotiations and obtained licenses and permits for the company while leading a team of seven.
“Our goal is to grow our ecosystem by 30 percent,” he says. “That ecosystem isn’t just e-commerce but also covers pet health services and other activities like pet walking, grooming and even Uber for pets.”
Of course, adding services requires capital. Vini helped raise around $150 million in the latest round in September—without any bank syndicate. Without a banker to turn to for assistance, Vini and his team worked together to complete the project on time. They crafted private placement letters, non-disclosure agreements and non-binding term sheets, and executed other investment documents like share purchase agreements.
“Raising this capital allowed Petlove to grow and engage in a new segment, particularly the realm of pet healthcare,” Vini says.
It’s raining healthy cats and dogs
When Vini joined the business, he and others at Petlove wanted to expand services, especially the health division to provide more affordable health care. Now, pet owners can chat with a vet, drop pets off at the nursery for the day while they go to work or check pets into the pet hotels while they go on vacation.
To offer such services, Petlove acquired two animal health services companies: Porta.Pet Health Plan in 2021 and Nofaro in 2022. This allowed Petlove to pursue and provide options to the over 70 million pets in Brazil.
“Porto.Pet helped us deliver health care to pets in the best way, and Nofaro, which is more present in the south of Brazil, has helped with our expansion goals,” Vini says.
He managed the team of in-house and external law firms that designed the legal strategy and agreements for the acquisitions. The team was also in charge of identifying contingencies and possible risks.
In a similar vein, Petlove also acquired VetSmart, an application that 90 percent of Brazilian vets use, according to Vini. This allows Petlove to empower and communicate with vets, who are a key stakeholder in the industry.
“We’re excited to continue growing our ecosystem, including expanding our health network and launching new features for vets in our VetSmart app,” Vini says. “If there’s a point of contact where we can make a pet’s life happier and healthier, we want to be there.”
Vini doesn’t just help the company take care of pets and their owners. In December 2021, he helped create and launch an initiative in which all 1,300 employees received an approximately $1000 equity share in the company. This, he says, reinforces the company’s ownership-like culture and provides employees, regardless of their experience and years at the company, a sense of partnership.
It’s all part of being in-house counsel, a journey Vini began in 2008 at São Bernardo Campus Law School. He continued with certifications from American University-Washington College of Law, Fundação Getúlio Vargas and Harvard Law School of Executive Education. In 2020, he earned a master’s in law from The London School of Economics and Political Science.
“It felt groundbreaking to be studying there,” he says of The London School. “I was pleasantly shocked by the contents and loved everything I learned there and the friendships I made. Life experience is even more valuable than certifications.”
He quickly realized that in law one is either a consultant advising on what’s legal or an architect building legal structures to carry out mergers and acquisitions. He liked the latter and worked with Uber, where he was a senior counsel leading a team of eight, to launch UberX from 2015 to 2018.
“As for Petlove, I found it was a wonderful opportunity because every single day I help pet parents make a better life for their pets,” Vini says. “Helping the company expand means helping provide better services and products to more pet parents across Brazil—which means happier pets across the country.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2022 Edition here.
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