Business lessons from my lawn startup that failed to grow

You did what?

Yeah, lawns. We helped people with lawns (est. half of all Australians) get great results. The key insight is that no one knows what they should do with their lawn. And so with our tailored lawn subscriptions based on climate, soil, and satellite imagery we could send exactly what customers’ grass needs, when they need it.

Source: supplied

And did it work?

Yeah, well — sort of. I mean the fertiliser worked. And it should have done, we got it developed by literally the world’s leading expert on site-specific fertiliser recommendation. This stuff was science in a bottle.

Yard product review

Source: supplied.

Sort of?

yeah. A great fertiliser does not a brilliant startup make.

So what didn’t work out?

The ultimate cause of mortality was the #1 startup killer. We ran out of cash.

  • 91 investors contacted; and
  • 31 first meetings with investors.

Why couldn’t we raise more money?

I’m glad you asked. Here’s a summary of the main feedback themes from investors:

small market

VCs don’t get out of bed for revenues of under $100 million in five years. Lower outcomes don’t “meet their fund dynamics” as each investment needs the potential to return the fund. This was compounded by Yarda having a retail business model, which is harder to expand internationally (and thus expand your market) than something less physical like SaaS.

not defensible

Direct-to-consumer went through a boom in the 2010s with companies like Casper, AllBirds and Dollar Shave Club scaling rapidly. Unfortunately, the 2020s have been less kind to the model with one solitary $1 billion+ exit. The D2C darlings were unable to maintain their early advantage as new competitors entered the market and established companies went online.

Founder product fit/customer understanding

Would I die for this startup? Do I live and breathe lawn? Honestly I chose this business as I loved the model, rather than lawns being my passion. I don’t even have a lawn.

Ohhh nasty. But what did you get right?

The most positive feedback was for about the team. Phil (CMO) and Blake (founder’s associate) were highlighted as the right people to have along for the ride. I’m incredibly grateful to have worked with these two and for them to dedicate themselves to Yarda.

Why were you raising money in the first place?

Great point Alasdair, I’m glad you asked.

So why didn’t you pivot?

We weren’t fast enough. If I could open a portal to day one Founder Alasdair and shout something before it closed it would be “FAIL FASTER”.

This article was first published on Medium.

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