Startups

Flower-delivery startup UrbanStems raises $1.5M seed round, plans expansion

How the same-day flower service all started with a long-distance relationship.

UrbanStems DC City Manager Nate Schubert laces up flowers at a distribution center near Dupont Circle. (Photo by Lalita Clozel)

UrbanStems, the D.C.-based flower delivery service that expanded to New York last December, announced it raised $1.5 million in seed funding.
The investors include New York-based Middleland Capital, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Ventures and the D.C.-based funds NextGen Angels and Great Oaks Venture Capital.

This industry is in dire need of an ecommerce brand that can scale quickly and efficiently.

With the funding, the company hopes to expand to more cities in the U.S., UrbanStems cofounder Jeff Sheely said in a press release yesterday. This week, UrbanStems is also launching an iOS app.
“Ordering flowers hasn’t really changed in the last couple of decades besides a crude addition of phone and web to the traditional neighborhood florist,” said Middleland Capital’s Alex Pessala, who will join the company’s board of directors. “This industry is in dire need of an ecommerce brand that can scale quickly and efficiently, while providing a much needed improvement to customer experience.”
UrbanStems launched only last year — and it all started with a long-distance relationship. Cofounder Ajay Kori was living in New York, and his girlfriend was living, alas, in Philadelphia.
Gent as he was, “he sent a lot of flowers,” Sheely told Technical.ly DC. But, “they always turned out badly.” Not only were they “super expensive,” their quality was often subpar. “Sometimes, they would never make it,” he added.
With a plan to change how things are done in the flower delivery business, said Sheely, “we decided to create a flower company.” They launched one day before Valentine’s Day 2014.
When you order flowers ($35 and up) through UrbanStems, the flowers, sourced from eco-certified South American farms, get dispatched to the recipient’s home in D.C. or New York via bike courier.
Flash

A bike courier heads out on an UrbanStems delivery. (Photo by Lalita Clozel)


The flower arrives within 48 hours of being cut off its stem. And for transparency, a photo of the bouquet is taken right outside the building and sent to the purchaser.
“We want to prove to people that what you see on the website is exactly what you get,” said Sheely.
UrbanStems, which was bootstrapped until this investment, has a full-time staff of nine, including cofounders Kori, Sheely, Scott Simpson, Chetan Shenoy and Jereme Holiman. They work from WeWork Wonder Bread Factory.

Companies: UrbanStems / NextGen Angels / WeWork
People: Kevin Plank
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