UK’s Bloom & Wild raises $102M to seed its flower delivery service across Europe

Bloom & Wild, a London-based startup that takes an updated and online approach to the very traditional business of ordering and delivering flowers, has seen business blossom in the last year. And today, it is announcing a big round of funding to help it double down on the opportunity ahead.

The company has raised £75 million ($102 million), a Series D that it plans to use to continue expanding across Europe (in addition to the UK, it operates today in Ireland, France, Germany and Austria) as it also continues to build out the business through technology, hiring new talent, thinking up more ideas and new partnerships, such as a new deal with supermarket giant Sainsbury’s to spearhead a new brick-and-mortar push.

“We’ve been extremely fortunate to have been able to continue trading when we know how tough the past nine months or so has been for many,” said Aron Gelbard, Bloom & Wild’s co-founder & CEO, in an emailed interview. “It’s been a real joy & privilege to help keep our customers connected with their loved ones when we’ve all been missing being able to see our friends & family. We’ve certainly seen strong sales during periods of national restrictions across our markets, but sales have held strong during periods of relatively limited restrictions as we’ve retained new customers and converted many of our new recipients too.”

The funding is being led by General Catalyst, with Index Ventures, Novator, Latitude Ventures, D4 Ventures (established by Hanzade Dogan), and existing investors such as Burda Principal Investments also participating.

Bloom & Wild is not disclosing its valuation, but rumors of the round that were floating last week (per Sky News) pegged sources that said the valuation was around $500 million.

The startup’s funding round, in any case, comes on the heels of some very strong growth. Revenues for the company were up 160% in 2020, with some 4 million deliveries of flowers in that period — more than had ever been made in the lifetime of the company previously, it said. That helped push the company into the black, its first profitable year.

Founded in 2014, Bloom & Wild had only raised around $35 million before this, according to PitchBook, which estimated its pre-money valuation at just $88 million following its last round in 2018. In that context, $500 million represents a massive jump.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “How can people think about flowers at a time like this? We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, for crying out loud.”

And indeed, that is so. But it seems that there is a special place for flower-based gifts, whether for other people or just for ourselves, that are appreciated especially when times are hard.

And while we’ve also seen people move quickly past that extra toilet paper, face masks and other practical purchases to click buy on many not-totally-essential indulgences — from fancy food and drinks through to nicer furniture since they’re spending so much time at home — I’d argue flowers have a unique position in the indulgence/gifting pantheon.

In the midst of a health pandemic that has severely curtailed how people can interact with each other in person, getting flowers from a person can take on a new and sometimes deeper meaning. The physical presence — the colors, the smells, the rustle of life — they convey can be a proxy for the human interaction that we’re missing.

“We’re privileged to have played our part in keeping people connected in this difficult period, and I’m proud of our growing team for scaling our operations whilst maintaining the signature thought and care we put into every order,” said Gelbard in a statement. “With this new backing from General Catalyst and Index we start 2021 with renewed energy to pursue our vision of becoming the world’s leading and most loved flower company.”

If you’ve ever ordered flowers for someone or for yourself, you know there is no shortage of options for doing so. In the UK alone there are some 7,500 florists according to the British Florist Association, and that’s not counting thousands more online-only retailers (like Bloom & Wild) or the many services that knit these together into wider delivery networks such as Interflora or FTD.

FTD has been something of a consolidator here: in 2018 it acquired a US flower delivery startup called BloomThat (which likened itself to an Uber for flowers).

While some people still prefer to shop for tangible things like flowers in person, a lot of that has moved into the virtual world over the years — especially for those ordering flowers to be delivered to someone — making it in some ways much easier to launch and grow online-only flower businesses.

Bloom & Wild’s product approach is to sell flowers as bouquets, and to give people the option of making the smaller of those bouquets extremely easy to deliver, by designing a box that fits through the typical UK mail slot (either in your front door or elsewhere).

The bouquets it sells, meanwhile, are Instagrammably eye-catching, created for the kind of person who might discover them on that social network (where it has around 250,000 followers), and targeted at our modern predicament. (For example, the bouquet pictured above is called “The Ezra“. Its description: “This cocktail of vibrant oranges and soft lilacs reminds us of holidays in the sun. And the people we’d spend them with. Missing your travel buddy? Send them this instant day-brightener.”)

There are options for ordering flowers for offices — although these are probably not getting ordered as much these days — and to build subscriptions, as you might with any other D2C product you order online. And once Bloom & Wild gets to know you and what you like, that will inform how and which flowers on the service are presented to you. Over time it’s moved into more than flowers — it sold Christmas trees this season, and offers a few gifts alongside its bouquets — and it is gradually building out a brick-and-mortar presence, too.

But most of all, it seems the company has seen a surge of interest not just because of the efficiency and targeting of its service, but because it has gotten the product right — specifically delivering flowers that people like.

Gelbard points out that the company has “the most direct supply chain in the flower industry, sourcing directly from growers. This means our customers get excellent value and their flowers last longer, arriving in bud and regularly blooming for up to ten days or more.”

He also notes that the company has built a “bespoke technology and data science platform” focused on a quick and easy ordering experience on app or web. Lastly, “in a traditionally commoditized industry reliant on paid search, we’ve taken an innovative approach to product and brand development,” he notes, pointing to the “letterbox flower” invention.

“Bloom & Wild has infused the traditional flower giving experience with predictive analytics and technology to deliver a fresher, less-travelled bouquet to the people you care most about,” said Adam Valkin, MD, General Catalyst, in a statement. “What’s most impressive about Aron and his team has been their duality of focus since launch. They’re bringing industry-leading efficiency to the intricate supply chain challenges of flower delivery while simultaneously building a beloved experience that connects with consumers in a remarkably authentic way.”

Martin Mignot, partner at Index Ventures added: “Bloom & Wild team have reinvented every aspect of flower delivery and gifting, challenging the status quo at every stage. Through relentless execution, Aron and his team have created a delightful experience for customers, becoming the fastest growing flower business in Europe. We’re thrilled to partner with them as they scale internationally.”