How we landed on LandscapeMate

May 10, 2023

First, we decided to focus on the ecological restoration/sustainable landscaping space. More on that another time.

Then we went looking for product ideas by having exploratory conversations with folks in the industry. It’s interesting how this Mom Test-esque philosophy—learn about people’s problems before building—differs from 12 startups in 12 months, a more product-first quantity-based strategy. I guess we’re taking a hybrid-ish approach, but I digress.

While we did talk to ~6 people from our existing network, we also wanted to be more intentional about learning from folks with a variety of roles and backgrounds. So we sent 22 cold emails, resulting in 12 conversations with popular authors, landscape designers, community organizers, grad students, and independent hobbyists.

We quickly learned that plant people are just, like, the best? Everyone was so kind and eager to help outsiders like us. One of the phone calls even resulted in a private tour of a green burial site outside of Philly, which in turn led to our attending the NDAL Symposium. Queue the brain blasts.

Connor conducted the “interviews” and recorded each one on Loom for reference later. I use quotes because there was no script or agenda other than genuinely connecting and learning about people’s problems. He prompted discussion with open-ended questions like “What’s the hardest part of your job?” and “Why aren’t more people doing these projects?” and “How do you think about technology?”

In classic Connor fashion, he gleaned many insights and ideas from these conversations (plus the conference and the books he was reading). He synthesized this qualitative data into a table of problems, potential solutions, and reasons for and against working on them.

Five ideas stuck out the most: two marketplaces, a social network, a fun design tool, and one SaaS-y product. I quickly sketched out each idea to help us pick one.

After a ~1hr discussion, we decided to try the SaaS product first. It’s the most likely to meet all of our criteria—must be in climate tech, use our product-making skills, and make sense for us to charge for Day 1. Right now, we don’t want to cold-start a marketplace and/or gamble on virality. Plus, even if this specific permutation of the SaaS idea doesn’t work, we’ll at least be talking to businesses with budgets. Hopefully, other similar ideas will arise.

So, what’s LandscapeMate?

Landscaping companies that do ecological restoration projects have a unique challenge—the sites need responsive management in order to ensure the intended outcomes are achieved. There’s no set schedule for when an invasive will show up or a drought will come or a species will fail to establish. Sustainable landscapers need to check their sites regularly in order to catch issues early, but they can’t afford to send crews around without a specific work plan.

Enter LandscapeMate—a tool that enables landscapers to automatically collect site photos. Twice a month, it texts site owners asking them to share a photo of the site. They simply text a photo back and LandscapeMate adds it to the site’s record, which landscapers can view from a desktop or tablet. With LandscapeMate, landscapers can remotely keep an eye on their sites over time in order to catch and solve issues early. With more successful projects comes more biodiversity. A win for people and the planet.

So the journey begins...

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