What was the process that led to investment?
We first met Anni Noel-Johnson (CEO) and Andy Done (CTO), co-founders of Sproutl, through our Venture Partner and angel investor Mandeep Singh, co-founder of Ada Fund 0 portfolio company Trouva, who described them as an exceptional team. Mandeep was right; we were immediately impressed. Anni and Andy had a big vision — to build the global destination for gardens and outdoor products. Not only that, but they also knew from first-hand experience what it took to deliver on an audacious vision of this size. They had both been through the scaling journey at Farfetch where they managed large teams — Anni as the VP Trading & Strategy, Andy as the Head of Data Engineering.
Something that stood out from our first conversations was that (in addition to their pitch deck) Anni and Andy shared a short two-minute film which brought the vision for Sproutl to life. Matt and I often suggest to founders to think about creative ways to get investors excited about their businesses and this is a great example of that. The film expressed the bold movement that Sproutl is building — something that has been developed further by Hollie Newton, creative director, bestselling author on gardening, and Sproutl CCO.
Why does Sproutl fit the Ada thesis and what got us excited?
Sproutl’s aim is to build the inclusive, accessible destination for all products related to gardens for the UK. Anni first encountered the challenges and confusion of the gardening industry when she was looking to plant the first small garden she had when she moved from a flat to her first house. For a new gardener the terminology was mystifying; she needed to visit multiple shops to get the products she wanted, and very little was available online at the standards of service that she’d become used to when buying food, furniture or travel. She was convinced of the manifold benefits of gardening — from helping people gain a better understanding of the natural environment, to the mental health benefits, to the aesthetics of having plants in our environment. She felt passionately that these benefits should be simple to access for everyone. She also knew that there were thousands of fantastic garden centres and specialist retailers across the UK who in some cases didn’t sell online, and in others didn’t have the logistics established to deliver plants and garden products to customers.
The idea of Sproutl was conceived. A company that would provide the software infrastructure and logistics know-how to garden centres to enable them to better serve online customers, as well as bringing those new customers to buy from these garden centres. At the same time, Sproutl would create a simple, clear and inclusive site which invited customers to ‘plant something’ — no matter if it was their first house plant or a 10 acre plot.
At Ada we invest in founders with enormous ambitions to transform industries, across consumer, healthcare and the future of living. We particularly look for underserved or overlooked markets. Gardening is a £130bn category (Mintel) which hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years, is less than 15% transacted online and it hasn’t had a marketplace built for it yet. We love the marketplace business model for its defensibility, network effects and superior offering to both sides when it is working well. We’ve been fortunate to invest in marketplaces like Trouva and Bubble so we immediately understood the power of this model for Sproutl.
Anni and Andy have wasted no time getting started. They’ve already partnered with some of the top garden centres in the UK, launched their brand, and hired an exceptional team of more than 20 people who are supporting them to bring the Sproutl vision to life.
We are pleased to be joined by Danny Rimer and Georgia Stevenson at Index Ventures in investing in Sproutl’s seed round. Danny and Georgia’s experiences with Etsy, Farfetch and Deliveroo have already been of huge benefit to Anni, Andy and the team. Sproutl have also assembled some phenomenal angels — including Andrew Robb, COO of Farfetch, Nicole Crentsil CEO of Black Girl Fest & Ada Angel, Abadesi Osunsade, CEO of Hustle Crew & VP Global Community and Belonging at Brandwatch and April Underwood, Chief Product Officer of Slack.
Today’s announcement is just the beginning. If you’re as excited as we are by the vision for Sproutl, please visit Sproutl.com, follow them at @wearesproutl, and if you’re looking for a new role — they are hiring.