On the up · 2 May 2018

SmartPlant: Helping the green-fingered grow through a digital garden

Scan the barcode of a plant and SmartPlant will send monthly care information on how to look after it.

Plant guidance for the experienced gardener or the horticulturally hopeless, plant care couldn’t be simpler with the SmartPlant app.

Co-founder and CEO of SmartPlant, George Williams.

SmartPlant enables anyone to scan a plant’s barcode and receive free monthly care advice for their new plant.

Business Advice caught up with co-founder and CEO George Williams to find out where it all started and the benefits of chance meetings.

How did you come up with the concept?

The original concept for plant identification was born out of a lack of personal knowledge. The current concept has been the result of our team in the US and UK identifying a global need for simple plant care and industry digitisation for an entirely new type of plant owner and tailoring the offering accordingly.

What was key in getting started?

Whilst the origins may sound serendipitous, a chance conversation with a keen and unknown Angel Investor at a dinner party was the catalyst. That chance would not have come about had I not spent time and effort formulating the original idea in my own mind, writing a business plan and having a genuine internal desire to make it happen.

What makes the business unique?

Digital innovation in plant retail is unique and SmartPlant is demystifying this disparate and traditional industry. We have built on this premise and, having handled over 400,000 plants, we have compiled data on thousands of plant inputs and created clear, simple and concise regional monthly advice for each of them. We were one of the first to offer plant identification, we are the first to deliver plant care through Alexa and with 11 commercial partners we have clearly shown ourselves as the digital leader in this space.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when launching?

Finding the right developers and stripping the product right back, not as easy as it sounds.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Our partnerships in the last year have been amazing and have provided real validation of the SmartPlant service and the appetite for it. We estimate that we have turned over 10 million plants “Smart” in our first year with this concept.

Describe your marketing technique – what strategies have you used?

Owing to our uniqueness and consumer need we do very well organically. Additionally ,we have been utilising our B2B partners to market our app, our barcode scanning technology allows SmartPlant to garner downloads from customers at retail, who can receive free care for their new plant while providing unprecedented value to our retail partners.

The app costs £3.99 at a monthly rate and £35.99 annually.

In five years’ time, I will be…

In five years’ time, we want SmartPlant to be recognised as THE digital accompaniment to any plant. Featured on both plant tags and in-store, providing real value to industry partners and consumers alike. SmartPlant is a combination of both physical and voice interaction that allows people to interact with the world around them. In turn, helping people to green up their space, no prior knowledge required.

Who are your business heroes and why?

My old man is up there, his approach to work is unbelievable. I have genuinely never met anyone who is so motivated and so loved by the people he works with. Whilst offering intelligent scepticism throughout his support, and the support of my Mum, has been flawless.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Resilience, it can only be learned when times are tough and without it, we wouldn’t be here.

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Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.