Gardening startup Neverland raises $4.7M to make every day Earth Day for the home gardener – TechCrunch

Vera Kutsenko and Hayley Leibson have incredible technical ancestors, but their latest project involves as much digging in the dirt as digging through lines of code.

The two women raised $ 4.7 million for Neverland, a home gardening startup that’s set to be a marketplace that blends mom and pop gardening stores with the explosion of amateur gardeners that has sprung up since the pandemic began.

Gardening operations were among the big winners during the pandemic, with home and lawn care and gardening sales increasing 9% in 2020, according to 200-year-old florist Breck’s.

It is this burst of business and the co-founders’ passion for home plants that led to the launch of Neverland, they said.

Using customer data, Neverland prompts users to optimize their gardens and horticultural activities based on their geographic location and the plants customers want to grow. The company is also trying to connect potential green thumb growers with companies in their area.

“The lesson we draw from is the USDA’s agricultural APIs,” said Kutsenko. “We take and translate the super-scientific terms into a language that [customers] would understand. We pull this from existing government resources and aggregate it and make it available to the people. “

Neverland is a change for the founders. Kutsenko studied computer science at Cornell, worked at Facebook on the Internet.org initiative, and led teams working on the mobile app at Uber. Meanwhile, Leibson founded LunchClub and served as the company’s chief operating officer.

Kutsenko and Leibson first connected through a tech networking group for women in San Francisco and connected over a shared love of plants. Leibson has around 24 plants in her apartment, while Kutsenko had a nursery that she tended herself.

“We really see the opportunity for Neverland to be the sustainability driven marketplace,” said Leibson. “The strength of what we do is that we can build a really consistent support network for the consumer.”

It’s a huge market. Kutsenko said that global spending on plants and gardens is around $ 52 billion, of which $ 28 billion is spent on indoor and outdoor use.

It was both the founders’ résumés and the overall size of the market that convinced investors to throw their financial weight behind the company – and it’s an impressive list of consumer-centric and sustainability-minded investors, including: Obvious Ventures, Maveron, Kimbal Musk, and Y Combinator who had Neverland in their youngest cohort. Overall, Neverland managed to raise $ 4.7 million for its marketplace and garden community.

And since everything starts with the community, the company has managed to gain a healthy fan base on Instagram even before the planned start this summer. 140,000 people already follow Neverland’s posts. And the company has signed 50 vendors in the Bay Area and beyond.

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