Erik Huberman, CEO of Hawke Media, follows up with Farbod Shoraka, David Daneshgar and Greg Wisstein of BloomNation after their series A funding. Based in Los Angeles, BloomNation is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and send unique floral creations by local artisans across the country.
Erik Huberman: How did BloomNation get started?
Farbod Shoraka: We started going around to the flower shops and discovering everyone had the same problem. Across the board, every flower shop we walked into, all the florists said, “I don’t know how to get online,” “I don’t know how to show off my talents,” “I hate using these other services, help!” We knew we had to get started. We don’t come from a technical background so we started a BloomNation Facebook page, started talking to florists, getting people interested in the concept itself. We had this awesome idea, but how do we get the money to get an engineer and build the product? We were sitting around on a weekend and David (who is a former professional poker player) had a friend ask if he was going to the poker tournament that day. We pooled a little bit of our money, and while Greg and I were working on a business plan in this caf√©, David was playing poker against 100 people in this tournament. The day goes on, and David is still in the tournament, up to the final table.
David Daneshgar: We’re at the final two playing Texas holdem, and I had two pair; he raised, I raised, he went all in and I called. I showed my hand, and he had a smaller pair. Seeing the cards turn our way really ignited us.
Greg Weisstein: That initial money helped us get an almost Alpha version of the site up. We could now actually walk into flower shops with a product to show them. It became almost viral from that point and we were signing up 1000+ florists over night because they were so desperate for a solution like ours. That virality amongst the florists is what attracted the attention of these great investors.
E: For people that aren’t familiar with the tech world, how do you explain the boom of funding in the tech sector, and BloomNation specifically?
Greg: The interesting thing about the tech world raising this kind of money is the hyper growth that’s possible with the Internet. It’s much more difficult for a capital-intensive product or company to see that kind of growth as quickly from raised funds. I think that’s why you see higher valuations and capital firms giving more money in tech vs. other sectors. We just closed our Series A funding of $6 million.
David: Local businesses don’t have the solution that works for them. A lot of them have small solutions: someone doing Facebook for them, or someone doing SEO. But what we’ve done is find a solution for all of their needs. We’re allowing them to be tech superstars while focusing on the floral artistry again. I think when investors see their excitement, and see what we’re doing on a local level that no one has really done before, that’s what gets venture capital interested in us, specifically.
E: How are you going to grow BloomNation with your Series A funding?
Farbod: I think from a distance, people see us a flower company, but what we really are is a tech company that is applying this technology to the floral industry. Hiring engineers is a big priority for us use of funding. We don’t want to throw data at these florists and say “here’s your Google Analytics” we want to take that complicated data and turn it into something actionable and understandable, which takes a lot of thought, care and engineering. We want to allow them to focus on the flowers and so we can give them insight into the ecommerce. Along with engineering with this Series A funding, our focus is BloomNation.com: How can the experience more delightful for consumers? How do we make it easier that you want to send more flowers? Aside from birthdays and holidays, nothing can make someone smile more than having a bouquet sent to them, so we want to eliminate the friction in that consumer experience of sending flowers. The growth so far has been great, we’ve been seeing 15-130% month over month growth. We’ve been growing really quickly, and things don’t seem like they’re slowing down.
David: The way we’re growing is pretty unique. We aren’t buying any advertising; our growth is entirely organic. Most of the new accounts of florists are through word of mouth from other florists.
E: What makes BloomNation so attractive for florists and consumers?
Greg: We’re a rev share company, so we only succeed if the florists do. The bigger floral companies lock the local florists into expensive contracts, so for us to come in without contracts, commitments, monthly fees or junk fees makes a big difference for a small business. It’s entirely success based, so when the florists sees orders, we share in that revenue. It’s a partnership, which has never happened in the flower industry before.
Farbod: The transparency we provide allows the florists to connect directly with the consumer. One reason BloomNation is so successful, is that instead of focusing on making money off the florist (like other services have done), we are consume-focused. We are thinking about how can we encourage a better product to drive more consumers. When these other services are making money off the florist, it’s taking away resources and disposable income needed to provide a good service and product. We’ve stripped that away to make everything free for the florist so they can be the most successful florist possible. We want to drive consumer growth and increase the industry size. Small companies are the backbone of America, so for us, our question is: “How can we help them compete against the big guys?” Our goal is to allow these small companies to have the same tools and access as the bigger guys, and then to have the small companies not only survive, but thrive online. That’s very important to us; it drives us. Seeing how happy the florists are makes it all worth it, because it’s human happiness.