David Daneshgar, a world-famous poker player, was attending the University of Chicago’s business school when Farbod Shoraka, a friend from Daneshgar’s undergrad years at Berkeley, reached out to him.
Shoraka’s aunt was a florist in Irvine, California, and had been telling Shoraka how services like Teleflora and 1-800-Flowers were hurting her local business. The two friends had used those companies to send flowers before, and were always disappointed with the results.
“The photos online didn’t match up with what was delivered,” Daneshgar said. “And so we noticed in that moment there was a huge disconnect.”
Companies like 1-800-Flowers and Teleflora are wire services, not flower specialists like local florists. This might not make any difference to customers at first, but it’s an important distinction.
When someone orders flowers from a wire service, they order a stock photo of a bouquet. The order then gets sent to a local florist who fills the order. But florists have a hard time making money; wire services eat up to 50% of the profits. So for every $US60 bouquet you order, a florist only gets $US30. The florists have to do their own deliveries for wire service orders, too.
“The florists say the same thing every time: ‘if a consumer just came to me directly and found me or called me they would get much better flowers.’ They would be a customer and not an order,” Daneshgar told Business Insider. “When you’re a florist and you’re getting that 50%, even if you’re doing an amazing job, the customer’s just going to go back to 1-800-Flowers and they will route it to any florist. There’s no retention. The florist doesn’t have the incentive. “
When Daneshgar and Shoraka noticed this, it was around the same time they saw the prevalence of Etsy.
“We thought, ‘why isn’t there an Etsy for flowers?” Daneshgar said. “Why isn’t there a place where the florists can come together, put their own prices, make their own deliveries?'”
While Daneshgar’s classmates were going to Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs for internships between their first and second years of business school, Daneshgar, now-BloomNation CEO Shoraka, and Gregg Weisstein, BloomNation’s COO, decided to walk into a hundred different flower shops and ask what the florists there wanted.
“When they realised what we were doing, the conversation would turn into two and a half hours. They’d make us tea, they’d vent,” Daneshgar said. “And they’d tell us what they wanted. But they’re florists, so they could never build it. They need a group of tech savvy nerds, and that’s where we came in.”
Enter BloomNation.com, a marketplace that florists around the U.S. can join for free. Florists can upload pictures of their own products — no longer having to rely on wire services’ stock photos — and name them, too. They could also control their own inventories, so if peonies are out of stock, they can disable that option from showing.
The three entrepreneurs initially obtained BloomNation’s seed funding through an epic poker game.
The arrangements on BloomNation stay away from cliché floral designs featured on many wire services, and allow florists to create one-of-a-kind arrangements. You can type in exactly what kind of flowers you’re looking for in a specific ZIP code, and BloomNation will show you the florist who does it, and where they’re located. It will even show you how much time you have left to order from that florist before they stop offering same-day delivery.
One of the most interesting parts of BloomNation is the connection it offers between you and the person you’re ordering your flowers from. The florist now has an app on their phone, and they can take a picture of your flowers — a “BloomSnap” — and send it out to you as it’s being designed. If you have any problems with the arrangement, you can communicate it to them directly — no more disappointing flower arrangements.
And when the florist hand-delivers the flowers you’ve ordered, they will notify you, so there’s no more anxiety over when or if your recipient got the bouquet.
“Florists are kind of lost,” Daneshgar said. “Their websites suck, they don’t know how to do social media, they’re writing down orders with pen and paper.”
BloomNation offers a cloud-based system for its florists, allowing them to have their websites powered by BloomNation for no extra cost. BloomNation is also the only flower website to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment.
The flower delivery startup has raised a $1.65 million round from investors Spark Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Chicago Ventures, Mucker Capital, and CrunchFund.
The startup is looking to raise more money within the next couple months and plans to expand its team of 14 employees to 40 within the next year, Daneshgar told Business Insider. When BloomNation inevitably outgrows its current office in Santa Monica, Daneshgar says its new office will have — what else? — a poker room.
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