BloomNation, the "Etsy for flowers," scores $5.55M

by Garrett Reim
October 7, 2014
[ibimage==33530==Large==none==self==ibimage_align-center]
BloomNation, an online flower marketplace calling itself the “Etsy for Flowers,” has just raised a $5.55 million Series A round led by Ronny Conway, Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital, Chicago Ventures and Mucker Capital. The company said it has been growing 15-30 percent month-over-month and will be using the capital to roll out a wedding service, a mobile app and additional business management services for the florists who use its website.
 
If BloomNation’s funders sound familiar it's because most them are repeat investors from the company’s seed round in October 2013. Co-founder and CEO Farbod Shoraka said that the continued partnership with existing investors just made sense.
 
“It was a natural conversation where they saw that we have the formulas working, we have a rhythm; now it's about putting in a little more capital to take it to the next level,” said Shoraka. 
 
At first glance, that formula is not as obvious as it might seem. Though BloomNation might appear to be another 1-800-Flowers, the company explains their business model is built around the individual craftsmanship of local florists, rather than the top down mass-market model employed by other online flower retailers, hence the “Etsy for Flowers” tagline.
 
To that point, the company does not enforce standard flower arrangements. Florists create their own arrangements and list them on the site, which claims to have 40,000 unique flower arrangements listed. Using BloomNation’s business intelligence tools florists also respond to local customer demand. Apparently, a dozen roses hasn’t gone out of style.
 

[ibimage==33531==Original==none==self==ibimage_align-left]This latest round of capital will be used to further build out the business intelligence tools BloomNation provides to local florists. The company already launches websites for florists, provides inventory management tools and email marketing services. It wants to provide florists with more actionable tools for determining and meeting customer demand.

Additionally, the funding will be used to help those local florists meet demand and capture interest for wedding flower services. Shoraka said the site has seen a lot of people using it to gather ideas for their weddings.
 
Lastly the new funding will be used to develop a mobile app, which will allow customers to order flowers on the fly.
 
BloomNation’s growth, however, presents a problem for the startup. As competitors, like 1-800-Flowers, FTD Inc. and Teleflora, grew in size their quality suffered. BloomNation thinks its technology and the incentives that drive its platform will stem any slippage in quality. 
 
The company’s technology includes a so-called “BloomSnap” feature that florist use to take and send pictures of undelivered flowers to customers. Customers are also ordering directly from local florists and can rate them on the website, so maintaining a strong reputation is important. 
 
“Because everything is so transparent and you are ordering directly from a florist it really holds everyone to a certain standard of work and quality,” said Shoraka. “We can create a pretty good experience because they know their name is on the line.”
 
The affect on local florists has been largely positive. After years of being under pressure from larger online competitors, small shops are now finding ways to sell their artistry again.
 
Recently Shoraka said a florist had contacted him to explain the effect. “They were about to shut the doors and now they are hiring new people,” said Shoraka. “That is really what keeps us going.”
 
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