REVIEW: The ‘Green Thumb’ of Organic Gardening

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In 18 months, Smart Gardener attracted over 1MM unique visitors to their website. Their gardening app is the most popular in the U.S. and rated #2 worldwide.

Founded in January 2012, Smart Gardener makes it easy to plan, plant, grow, and harvest your own organic vegetable garden.  You become your own food garden expert. It’s the first technology-enabled service for the home and community-based DIY (Do-It-Yourself) food movement.

PRODUCT/SERVICE: Smart Gardener’s online tools break down gardening into four steps: the layout of the garden, plant selection, customized garden plan, and weekly to-do list. Users choose from more than 3000 organic varieties and find the right plants suitable for their garden’s growing conditions. The full-service option, Smart Gardener Backyard, adds complete on-site garden planning, planting, weekly maintenance, and support services to residential consumers, schools, restaurants, and communities.

VALUE PROPOSITION: Smart Gardener offers the following value propositions: 1. Users can grow and eat healthy, organic, local food free of pesticides and hybrid feed. 2. Smart Gardener’s technology-enabled service makes it easy to create and maintain an organic vegetable garden. You become your own food garden expert. 3. Smart Gardener provides a free, basic service.

MARKET SIZE: According to an article in the Wall Street Journal on February 2013, home gardening is a $250 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone. Since 2008, the number of U.S. households growing food has increased from 36MM to 52MM. The demand for local and organic food continues to explode both here and abroad.

REVENUE MODEL: Smart Gardener offers a free, basic service. They charge extra for optional upgrades and extensions. They’re called Smart Add Ons which range in price from $3.00 to $9.99. In addition, they’re getting ready to launch an annual subscription for $19.99.          

MANAGEMENT TEAM: Carl Alguire, CEO, is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience leading startups and former executive VP of Peapod. Kristee Rosendahl, founder & CPO (Chief Product Officer), pioneered the field of “User Experience” as a co-founder of the Apple Human interface. Surendra Singhi, CTO, is founder/CEO of Kreeti Technologies.  Andrew Buerline, CFO, is a former investment banker and fund manager. Elizabeth Holland, CMO, is a former Managing Director at McKesson. Frank Tozer, advisor, is the author of four books on organic gardening and garden expert.

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: Smart Gardener has the following competitive advantages: 1. They are the first technology-enabled service to market for growing organic food. 2. They offer highly customized gardening solutions including the selection of plants from over 3000 varieties. 3. They provide a tracking system which monitors the performance of different plants and gardening techniques. Gardening is more art than science. You learn what to plant and when. Major competitors include GrowVeg of the UK, GardenPuzzle, YardShare,, and MyPlantID.

PROOF OF CONCEPT: Smart Gardener is attracting users and generating revenue. According to the app rating site AppAppeal , the Smart Gardener app is the most popular gardening app in the U.S., rated #2 worldwide, and “the ultimate to-do-list application for gardeners.”                            

CUSTOMERS/USERS: Smart Gardener has customers in 21 countries. To date, they have 160K registered users and have attracted over 1MM unique visitors to their website.

STRATEGIC PARTNERS: Smart Gardener has strategic partnerships with Storey Publishing, Irrigation Direct, and the National Gardening Association.

FUNDING: The founders invested $500K and, in addition, raised $150K in seed money from three investors including Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Currently, they are seeking to close their Series A round for $2.25MM.

SUMMARY: In only 18 months, Smart Gardener has attracted over 1MM unique visitors to their website, registered 160,000 users, formed three strategic partnerships, and generated revenue. The main question is whether Smart Gardener can accelerate revenue and go viral or settle into a nice, lifestyle business. ❒

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