Urban jungles, delivered. An interview with Tyler Hildebrandt, CTO of Patch, a London-based company that is changing the way that city dwellers think about plants.
Patch helps you find the best plants for your space, delivers to your door and helps you look after them.
It’s an overused word nowadays but Patch are true disruptors. By specializing in online sales of plants to young city dwellers, encouraging them to create “urban jungles”, they have brought a new model to a traditional business area and managed to acquire 25,000 customers within 2 years of launching their Saleor-powered website. Tyler Hildebrandt, Head of Engineering, talked to us about his own journey to Patch as well as some of the innovations and good business practices that have propelled the company into the top 30 of the UK’s #Startups100 ranking.
Patch and Tyler
“I came from Canada to the UK a decade ago and worked on projects in social media and healthcare before moving into e-commerce. One day, Patch posted a leaflet through the door inviting me to complete an inventory of my living space and my preferences, from which they would create my indoor urban jungle. That was the service they were offering before the e-commerce really took off. It seemed like a fun idea but I put the leaflet in a stack of papers and didn’t think about it again until 8 months later when I received an email asking if I would be interested in a Tech Lead position with them. Then it just clicked into place.
“It probably helps that I am the archetype of an ideal Patch customer. I live in the city and don’t have a garden. I also don’t own a car that I could take to the garden center, just like 46% of Londoners. I grew up enjoying plants because my mother was a keen gardener but couldn’t tell you their names.
“The fact that I was interested in the service Patch were offering made it easy to see the long-term value in joining the company. They had already chosen Saleor as the e-commerce platform when I arrived; it wasn’t my decision but it is one that I am very glad they took.”
Patch and Urban Gardeners
“We like to think of ourselves as the world’s first fun and desirable horticulture brand.
Plants are beautiful and inspiring but urbanites who are brave enough to bring them home often don’t have good knowledge of how to care for them. Beyond just providing a selection of plants, we also aspire to help customers care for those plants so that they can really enjoy them (i.e. not kill them!)”
Patch is a great example of how to engage and excite people about a product:
- Build a community Engage 70K plant fans on Instagram with a regular stream of great photos.
- Share valuable content Patch provide dozens of free plant-care tutorials and resources to the community.
- Make it fun Meet Big Ken the Kentia palm, Penny the money plant, and Charlie the elephant plant (so named because the floppy leaves resemble the ears of Tyler’s own dog).
- Continue the journey together Growing with clients is essential. Patch are working on an offering to help new plant lovers to build full allotments or gardens in the city.
Patch and the Horticulture Industry
“Our sector is a strange mix of the high-tech and the traditional. We visited growers in Holland last year and were blown away by the level of technology and sophistication that they’ve added to their centuries of experience. On the other hand, the plant industry is largely traditional: growers produce the plants and send them to garden centers, customers then purchase them on sight and load them into their cars.
“E-commerce itself is not always disruptive but the plant business faces unique challenges. Plants can be both unwieldy and delicate; they are sold like a commodity but are perishable like a foodstuff; they need to be stored but don’t retain their value if they are kept in a warehouse. Also, we present clients with a beautiful picture of a specific plant on our website or Instagram, but the product they get will be different, as each plant is unique.
“We’ve have had to overcome so many things. Traditionalists in the industry were skeptical at first, but I think they were also excited by our vision and wanted us to succeed.”
Patch and Saleor
“We have a four-person development team. Our storefront is based on Saleor and services are run in containers in AWS. We’ve built in numerous integrations to support our operations and logistics, working a lot with AWS Lambda using both Python and Go. Being able to do what we want with great flexibility and never have Saleor ‘get in the way’ is paramount — and sometimes Saleor jumps ahead of us by solving issues before we get there. We frequently check in to see how we can blend it all together to overcome our challenges.
“The community behind Saleor is a huge advantage; they are constantly improving the solution and delivering great updates. It has evolved from a simple Django setup into a nicely constructed, modern, GraphQL API-driven piece of technology.
“In a market like London, good developers earn a decent wage and they have the pick of where they work. They need engaging tasks using productive tools or they move on quickly. Saleor is a fun platform for developers that they can work with easily and efficiently. For a startup, that is a huge factor in being able to retain talent and sustain growth.”
We want to thank Tyler for the interview and the chance to talk about the remarkable success of Patch and Saleor. After adopting the platform in early 2017, Patch entered a period of sustained growth that saw sales increase consistently at 30% per month. Patch was then able to raise a seed round in August 2017 before successfully closing a series A funding in May 2018.
Find out more about Patch by visiting their website
You can also check out their incredible shots on Instagram
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