BloomNation wants to become the Etsy of flowers

October 7, 2014, 4:39 PM UTC

BloomNation wants to be a different kind of online flower shop. Rather than determining designs and farming them out to local florists, the Santa Monica-based startup wants to help florists market their own unique designs in order to engender repeat customers. Basically an Etsy for florists.

The company today announced that it has raised $5.55 million in Series A funding from Ronny Conway, Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital and Chicago Ventures. So we spent a bit of time on the phone with founder and CEO Farbod Shoraka, a former bank analyst who launched BloomNation three years ago. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:

FORTUNE: At first glance, BloomNation looks like a small, niche knockoff of 1-800 Flowers (FLWS) or FTD (FTD). Why is that wrong?

Shoraka: We look like a flower delivery website, which is true to some extent. But what we’re really doing is creating a platform to help local businesses not only build, but engineer their own websites and growth them. We help them take the information being processed and hand it to them in an actionable manner. The truth is that most florists don’t really understand analytics or ecommerce very well. So if we see that 50% of their traffic is going to their birthday category but they’re only offering two birthday items, we tell them that they should create more. That’s very different from other flower startups.

You’re saying that the big guys – like 1-800 Flowers or FTD – aren’t working to help florists drive business?

They are so consumer focused, spending all of that time on ads and marketing, that it’s squeezing the little guy. They take up to 50% of order value and force the florists to make certain recipes, which strips them of creativity. We want to let florists make their own unique designs for sale, and then also learn to power their own website, improve inventory management and other things that go well beyond being a marketplace or delivery company. Basically, how do you solve the big problems of local commerce.

That sounds like you might have interest in expanding beyond the flower vertical.

We’re definitely laser-focused on flowers, because our passion is to help consumers discover handcrafted unique bouquets. With all that said, it is true that the platform is an infrastructure that could be applied to other industries.

You mentioned how some of the big flower delivery companies take 50% cuts. What do you take?

We pay out 90% to the florist.

Do you also have relationships further upstream in the supply chain?

We have been approached by the growers and wholesalers who want to know how they can work with and help florists who use our services. And, if a florist uses us, we want them to use the best ingredients, so that’s a place we may dive into.

Are florists generally tied into a single third-party ecommerce site? Some form of exclusivity?

No, they typically use several different services. Most of the others are more about lead generation and sending orders through. We’re not sending you orders, we’re sending you customers who buy your own designs directly from you.

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