Chloe Sweden is the Founder and CEO of Plants and Perks, a service for rewarding employees with sustainable perks.
Chad talks to Chloe about supporting employees on plant-based sustainability journies by gifting free samples and high-value prizes, choosing a co-founder, and being strategic with the types of businesses they've approached.
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CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Chloe Sweden, the Founder, and CEO of Plants and Perks, a service for rewarding employees with sustainable perks. Chloe, thank you so much for joining me.
CHLOE: Thank you for having me.
CHAD: So you officially started Plants and Perks, at least according to your LinkedIn, in July of 2020. But I'm sure, like many entrepreneurs, you incubated the idea. The idea was in your head for longer than that. So, where does the idea from Plants and Perks come from? And when did you start to noodle it?
CHLOE: It's a really, really good question. I also think that the LinkedIn algorithm isn't 100% correct.
CHLOE: And it always seems to add time. I always get this sort of like, "Oh my God, you've been doing this for like two years?" I'm like, "No, I'm sure it can't be. It must be shorter than that." So Plants and Perks, Plants and Perks originally started out life as the Green Shoot Institute, which, I think, if you Google us, still there's remnants of the Green Shoot Institute that exists. That is still our company holding name. And that was kind of, I guess, the first thought of the idea.
I was at the time heading up commercial relationships at a large parenting platform in the UK. And we had started to go on our own plant-based journey, so thinking about cutting back on meat and dairy consumption. I guess that was sort of my own personal journey that started to make me, as a parent, and as a consumer, and as a senior leader within business to, start to think about things outside of myself, and my family, and my business. And really, that was kind of the spark of thinking about how we, as employers, don't really do much to support employees on the plant-based sustainability journey. That was the sort of the embryo of the idea.
And that came from the fact that I had spent 20 years of my life in advertising, marketing, and then ten years within that in talent as a former head of talent and culture really thinking about how we embed talent and how we help employees, and how culture is so important to businesses, and how we get employees really to be the face of our brands. But we don't really do much to invest in people beyond the kind of traditional benefits that exist but also in terms of training and things like that.
That was kind of where things were coming together, sort of thinking about the future of work and thinking about how people go through these huge life moments and how the businesses really support them. So that was kind of the start. I won't give the whole game away, but that was, I guess, the beginning of a kind of, hmm, there's something there. And I didn't really know what it was at the time.
But yeah, I guess it wasn't so much before I actually incorporated the company. I incorporated in September 2020. That's what it says on my Company's House printout that I have on the wall just to remind me of when that momentous day happened. But pretty quickly, from coming up with an idea, I incorporated the business and just went, this is something I have to do.
CHAD: Yeah, the feeling of this is something I have to do is something that I've felt myself and that I hear from a lot of entrepreneurs and guests of the show. You were working at Mumsnet at the time. How did you start while also having another job?
CHLOE: Not just having another job, running a large sales team, and homeschooling two children during a pandemic.
CHAD: Oh, homeschooling. Okay, yeah.
CHLOE: And my son was definitely diagnosed with having additional needs at the time as well. I guess it was all of those things that kind of came together that made me realize, I mean, I had joined Mumsnet actually to head up Mumsnet's talent function, which was all about creating a flexible working product platform for parents and those looking for flexible jobs to bring them together in a marketplace. But Mumsnet wasn't going to actually continue to invest in that product, and I moved to a more commercial role.
But I moved there to build a product. And that's what really triggered it for me. I realized in that moment when I'm homeschooling, and I'm running a large sales team, and I'm doing all of these things, that wasn't why I moved to this role. I actually moved because I'm at the point in my career where I want to build something, that I have it in me to create something, and build, and connect people, and do something bigger than myself and bigger than a day-to-day job. And so that itch was there.
I was also, as part of that role, going out and speaking to heads of HR in large enterprise organizations and talking to them about what was troubling them. And funny enough, looking after their working parents was not troubling them, but sustainability came up a lot, and general well-being came up a lot. And so that was kind of, I guess, it started the percolation. But really, I guess with most things, the idea came about in its most embryonic stage, and then I took it to market really quickly. I basically gave it a name and then just reached out on LinkedIn to anybody I knew and people I didn't know as well just literally reached out to those people.
And I spoke to one person who I won't name her or the company but probably one of the largest global companies in the world and at a very senior level. And she was actually working out of the States. And she said to me, you know, "This is new. [laughs] You need to do this. Nobody is doing this. We need this in our lives. And I haven't heard of anybody doing this in the States. You need to go and build this." And that was, I guess, the impetus to do it.
And so I worked weekends. I actually was working four days a week at Mumsnet. But my fifth day, I was working full time for Mumsnet but not being paid. And so I clawed back my fifth day where I wasn't being paid, and I worked all weekends, and I worked all evenings. And I just worked and worked, and I haven't stopped until this conversation. [laughs]
CHAD: To actually work on it, did you start to gather a team, a group of people? Who were the first people that you brought on to help you?
CHLOE: So my co-founder, Ellen, we were on the senior leadership team of a creative agency. I was the head of talent and culture. She was the head of operation. So we had worked side by side in this organization. So we kept in touch. And she had contacted me about some health issues. And we were talking about cutting back on meat and dairy as one of the things that she could look at, given my own experiences with it. And that really bonded us.
And because I am marketing, sales, creative, and she is digital, tech, product, it kind of made sense, in the beginning, to bring her on. And I just said to her like, "I'd really like you on this journey with me." And she resisted it for quite some time. [laughs] We are very different personality-wise, very, very different. I'm yes, she's no, and so in that way, we're very much yin and yang.
CHAD: Oh, but I think that that can be the perfect combination for a co-founder team. I know that I've needed that in the past for myself. Someone who balances the risk-taking with reality can be very helpful.
CHLOE: Yeah, absolutely. And I think I'm actually not a risk taker, but I am a natural optimist. And so I'll have a meeting, and I'll be like, "It's amazing. It's solved all of our problems." And she'll be just like, "No, it hasn't. What's changed? Nothing's changed. There's no contract, nothing signed," [laughs] which I think in the moment is really not helpful. [laughs] But it's really helpful as we grow the business. It really is a good balance.
I bring all of that energy and drive to get us very quickly to the next level. And she brings all of the understanding, all of the pauses, all of the rigor, all of the data, all the things that are just the complete opposite of me. So I brought her on pretty quickly. And then we had a bit of a false start around getting a CTO on board. But we knew we needed to build the product quickly. And in the end, we built the product ourselves on a no-code/low-code platform, just the two of us. And I recommend any entrepreneur to do that because you learn a lot. [laughs]
CHAD: Is that the reason...so you learning...because I think that that is super important, whether it be someone like yourself actually building the product or just being very close to it. When I've seen entrepreneurs get too far away from the product too soon, they end up regretting it later on.
CHLOE: Yeah, I think --
CHAD: Or building the wrong thing.
CHLOE: Or building the wrong thing. I do really believe in you've got to do every job in order to then understand who you need to hire and to then have an appreciation of that role. So obviously the product evolved very much and very quickly. We were very lucky that one of our first clients was Lacoste, who we launched to here in the UK with our MVP. But we also did some other paid consultancy work with Uber and with other clients as well. And then PopSockets came on in the States as well. We weren't ready to launch in the States, but they really wanted us to. So we're like, you know, let's do it. [laughs]
CHAD: I noticed those three names on your website. And I do think that social...being able to have those testimonials there with names people recognize lends a lot of credibility to the product.
CHLOE: And they were my first three clients, [laughs] genuinely my first three clients.
CHAD: So, did you seek that out, or did it just happen? How did that work out?
CHLOE: Obviously, my background is commercial sales, so it's not something that I shy away from. It was connections; it was talking to people. And we were recommended to PopSockets, which was amazing. They came on as an early investor as well, which was phenomenal. Again, having clients who love what you do so much they want to invest is brilliant because you get to have some really interesting conversations and backers in your corner.
But yeah, of course, we've been quite strategic with the types of businesses that we've approached, but we are very lucky that we are attracting the right type of businesses as well, which is lovely. I mean, talk a little bit more about what Plants and Perks does, but the way in which we have evolved the product and evolved the types of clients that we're talking to is not an accident. And I think it goes back to the conversation we were just having about building the product yourself. Really being in the weeds, I think, is really important.
Now, it's going to be a challenge to me as a founder moving forward to make sure I'm extricating myself from the weeds as time goes on, although I'm pretty happy to step away when needed. [laughs] But knowing that and being able to talk to your clients and being really clear, well, this is what this client likes; this is what's happening here; this is what's working well here, I think is really important. You've got to know your product. You've got to know your audience.
We've got two...actually, we have three clients, technically. We have clients; we have employees; we have client employers; we have employees; and we also have Perks' partners. We have sustainable...we promote sustainable products and services on our platform. So we also have partners as well as our clients. And I think you've got to know them all really well.
Now, I was a head of talent and culture, so I know the employee piece quite well because I was always advocating for the employee. I spent 20 years downsizing, so I ran client accounts. So I know how to look after clients, I guess, from that perspective and work in large organizations. I also used to literally do the marketing for PepsiCo and Wrigley's and big brands. So I can do the partner piece quite well. And I think it's really important that you've done that and you've lived through it.
And I've never built a tech product, but I did literally roll my sleeves up and get stuck in to build the MVP, which was kind of the bit that I was missing. Now, I haven't built the app; that is beyond me. [laughs] But luckily, we've got a brilliant team around us now, which we've built up since our last raise that's enabled us to get that talent in. And yeah, and it's just been an amazing team effort to get us to where we are now.
CHAD: That's great. I want to dig into more about what the product actually is. But you've already alluded a couple of times --
CHLOE: No, let's keep it mysterious.
CHAD: You've alluded a few times to the evolution. And one thing that's stuck out to me as you were talking about that is that going to the website now; it's not specifically about eating less meat and dairy. You're talking more about sustainability.
CHAD: I'm sure that's still a component of it.
CHAD: But what drove that change?
CHLOE: Oh my God, [laughs] about a two-week period where we had an existential crisis. I think this is really interesting, I think, for our journey, and I think us as founders as well. So we ideologically always believed in the reduction of meat and dairy as the number one thing you can do for personal and planetary health. That's it. Like, that was it.
We were all about eat plants, get perks. We encourage employees to cut back on their meat and dairy consumption, and we reward them with plant-based perks. That was the product. That was the concept. Tested really well. People really bought into it. People liked that they were being rewarded with perks. They absolutely understood that it is unsustainable to consume meat and dairy in the way that we are moving forward for the planet and also for personal health.
So when we're having these conversations, everyone was like, thumbs up, get it, love it, buy into it, it's all great. And then what was happening is that I kind of got to a point where I was like, we've had all these really positive conversations, but no one's biting. Everyone's sort of saying yes to me and then nothing.
I'm actually really proud of us as a team for very, very quickly going and identifying the problem and fixing it because we could have stuck to our ideological guns and gone, no, no, no, but we are all about the reduction of meat and dairy consumption as the number one thing. But no one was telling us that it was that that was the problem.
What we had to do was read between the lines because nobody would ever tell us that. But what they would say was, "Well, how would it land with a 58-year-old man working in our distribution center?" And we're like, "Really well, why?" [laughter] But I had to understand what was coming behind that question. And what was coming behind the question was I don't want to launch a benefit where I feel like we're judging somebody's life choices. Like, that's not going to wash.
So the people we were talking to were super keen on it, then when they took it up the line, they were essentially saying, "Well, this is a plant-based benefit, Plants and Perks." And I think that's where the sort of record scratched, and it didn't go any further. But no one was feeding this back to us. This we had to discover ourselves.
And so we had this kind of existential crisis where we're like, well, we've always been about sustainability, like, absolutely the reduction in meat and dairy is all because it's unsustainable for us to consume meat and dairy and fish in the way that we are. So why don't we broaden ourselves out to more? We already held sustainable products and services on our platform anyway. It was just the language; it really was. It wasn't actually as big a pivot as it sounded. It really was just softening the language.
So we don't talk about plant-based; we talk about planet-friendly. And we just kind of expanded out some of the articles and content that we contained anyway. And that unblocked everything, like genuinely overnight unblocked everything. So it became something that what we were hearing was that companies wanted to introduce a new green benefit, and now they felt that they could because there wasn't the kind of...and we always said that this is non-judgmental. This is completely supportive. These are very small changes that you could make. You don't have to sort of introduce me to it.
But now it makes sense to everybody. And I think we as a business just needed to go through that moment where we were like, is this the type of business that we want to be running? Is this the business that we want to be owning? And we were like, absolutely, because this is still...our mission actually didn't change at all. Our mission is to help a million employees live healthier, more sustainable lives. That has not changed. And so the fact that our mission hadn't changed, it was just some of the language needed to change to make it more palatable to a wider audience, that's fine. We could live with that.
CHAD: Yeah, that's great. So now, what does that actually mean in terms of what the product is? Companies sign up.
CHAD: And what do employees do?
CHLOE: Yeah, so it's a really good question. So the other sort of big moment, I guess, inflection point that we had is that we introduced a freemium model. And that, from a product perspective, was quite a big thing because I started realizing in conversations as well we were giving too much value away. And actually, some of the value that we were giving away clients didn't necessarily want. Some clients really wanted it, and some clients didn't need it.
And so we introduced three different products. So we introduced free, so we now have a completely free Plants and Perks app that any employer can take on for their employee base. And it will give them discounts of sustainable products and services. It will give them article content on how to live more sustainably, embrace more sustainable living. And it will give them planet-friendly recipes on essentially more sustainable, healthy ways to eat. And that's the core free product that we've created.
CHAD: And are you still making revenue on that through partner relationship?
CHLOE: Yeah, absolutely. So, although, you know, we're not about excess consumption. What we are about is...I think what we really realized is with Plants and Perks; we are bang smack in the middle of a cost of living crisis. And actually, what we can do is level the playing field when it comes to green and sustainable products.
There's kind of like this green tax that gets applied. And what we're trying to do is very much look at price parity. So what we talk about is it's harder than ever to make the most sensible choices when costs are spiraling all around us. And so what the reductions of planet-friendly products does is enables you to just try things that you might not have tried before because of cost, and it mitigates against that.
So we do go into relationship with partners, and they can promote their products through the platform. But there are also chances for employees to put their reviews and tell them what they think. So it isn't just set up for advertisers in that way at all. But what we found is there's an amazing thing which is that brands need to connect with a new, wider audience. They don't just want to talk to early adopters within the sustainability or plant-based space. And we are talking to every man and every woman in large-scale organizations.
So it's actually quite difficult to access those people if you're these niche brands who may not even have listings necessarily in large retailers yet. Or if you do have distribution, it's really difficult to get a sell-through. So we enable those partners to offer sampling, to offer freebies, to offer significant discounts, and to offer in-store redemptions as well. So we are offering quite a significant route to market for sustainable and plant-based products and services.
CHAD: That's great. Okay, and so what is the second tier up?
CHLOE: The second tier is plus and what that gives you is we start to give employees plant points, and you collect plant points. It's incredibly gamified. You can collect badges. Every action you do basically has a reaction. So when you read an article, you basically can answer some questions on the article, and you'll be rewarded with points. You can rate a recipe; you can like a recipe, try a recipe. You can buy a product or a service. You can also get a free...in the UK, at the moment, you'll be able to get a free meal once a week, like a free lunch through one of our partners, and loads of freebies as well.
So the value is much more significant in the plus model. That's kind of our core offering. And we talk about rewarding employees with sustainable perks. And during the time at the moment, employers are really looking for ways in which they can support their employees through the cost of living crisis. How can we give our employees free stuff, interesting stuff, whilst also helping them on the sustainability journey? And so therefore, this is something that genuinely really works for both employers and employees. So that's the plus model.
CHAD: One thing I noticed as you lay out the benefits that you get under this model, I'm surprised then by the per-employee cost. It seemed very low to me [laughs] when I saw it. Can you talk more about that?
CHLOE: Yeah, so that is a from price. And I do think I need to make it; I mean, I do say it's from, and I think I do say there's a bit of an asterisk. I do think I need to potentially change it as well. So it's good [laughs] feedback because I think quite a few people say that. So that is for large-scale employers. So we are talking to large retailers with 20,000, 30,000 40,000 employees. So that is the cost that they would pay. It is a sliding scale back from that cost. But, I mean, we've purposely priced ourselves to be reasonable. We are a mission-led company, and for any investors listening, don't worry; we are also revenue-generating.
CHLOE: But for us, it's really important that we are an affordable benefit. We're very aware of the costs on everyone. So, for sure, that price is pretty low. But we think that it represents quite good value, incredible value for the client. But it's something that makes sense for them to bring on. It should be a no-brainer; that's basically what we say. Like, it's a no-brainer. In terms of the amount of freebies that you're getting for your employee, it's certainly a no-brainer in terms of the return on investment.
On the pro version, by the way, the added value on the pro version is that it's fully ring-fenced for that organization. So it's fully branded. They get full account management. It looks like their platform, essentially. And employees can talk and access the information together. So it might be that Bob in IT in Denver has uploaded a photo of himself cycling to work, and somebody else can comment on it. Somebody else has uploaded a curry recipe in Scotland, and someone else has gone, "Well, I tried that recipe." "But, you know, how was it? How much chili did you put in it?"
So people are kind of joining together and really creating that space to talk about sustainability in a much more accessible way. So that's the pro version. And also we're then building on sustainability metrics and also sustainability reporting. So we'll be able to talk about employees' own carbon footprint and also how that scales up to the overall company's sustainability goals.
CHAD: You mentioned that the mission is to help one million employees on their sustainability journey. Can you tell me where you are [laughs] along that metric?
CHLOE: Yeah. So, look, the app launch is tomorrow, so [laughs] ask me in a couple of months. And we're really...actually; we're genuinely new.
CHAD: You've been in private beta, I guess, is the way to describe it.
CHLOE: Yeah. We're basically with the MVP. We've been helping a couple of thousand employees up until this point. We got around 25,000. About 30-plus companies join our waiting list, which was then around 25,000-30,000 employees that represented. We've just confirmed that we're going to be launching with a very large retailer in the UK as well, so that will then --
CHLOE: Thank you. That will then double, so it will be about 50,000 employees that we'll be hitting this year. And then we are in quite far down the line talks with quite a few other companies that would take us to potentially just under our target, which, by the way, the million employees is not like it's a target for 2022. It's like a...it's our ongoing mission. [laughs]
CHAD: Right, a long-term vision.
CHLOE: It's a long-term vision. So we're significantly further ahead than I thought we would be on that. I mean, look, what we've said from the start is the million is a sort of fairly arbitrary number but what it is is it's scale. So we're not here just to look after, you know, we're not here just to help very, very small companies; we can now with our free product, which is great, but it gives us that scale.
And it shows that we, as a business, want to be global, want to be talking to enterprise clients and then helping them live healthier, more sustainable lives. For us, it's both of those things. You can't just live a healthy life, and you can't just live a sustainable life. It needs to be a life of purpose. And so the mission really keeps us true to those things.
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CHAD: You mentioned you have essentially three client bases: you have the employers, the employees, and the partners, which essentially means you have a multi-sided marketplace.
CHAD: And one of the challenges of building any marketplace, especially the more sides you have, is bootstrapping it, you know, creating a momentum. The partners want to know, hey, how many people are on the platform that we're going to be bringing into? And in the early days, you don't have much to offer there. So how have you made that work?
CHLOE: Well, so firstly, we don't see ourselves as a marketplace, which we should. [laughter] We should see ourselves as a marketplace. Secondly, I learned all about building a marketplace because, in 2010, I launched a dating app before there were apps. Actually, it was a dating website...and completely on my own. It was complete madness. And I totally did not understand the power of a network.
I didn't understand the marketplace dynamic. I didn't understand that you needed buyers and you needed sellers. You needed, in this case, men seeking women and women seeking men. [laughs] You needed both sides of the equation. And you needed volume on both sides straight out of the gate. I just didn't get that. I was like, build it, and they will come. [laughs] And so I was fully burnt from that experience. So that was still ringing in my head.
So I think what was important was building up, firstly, building up our partners. So it was really, really important to build up the number of partners that we have on the platform. And for them, it's a completely low-risk strategy. It's like, come on the platform and offer discounts and people who are interested in sustainability. Like, that's really easy. We can do that.
And then for the companies, we've got everything...beyond the partners, we still have loads and loads of value. We still have value in the articles. We still have value in the gamification. We have value in the recipe. So there's still value even if there wasn't value in the perks. But what we've done is we've been able to build up both sides.
So actually, we've got over 200 brands, which represents about 45,000-plus individual discounts on the platform. And now we're building up the number of employees. Now we're able to revenue generate more off the partners because we've got the volume on the other side.
CHAD: You mentioned that you are primarily focused on the UK now. But you've had interest from the U.S. and demand that you've not rejected. What does that look like for you now? And how do you balance that going forward?
CHLOE: Yeah, I have got quite a lot of interest from the States. And it's really hard not to be pulled over there. And we see a lot of interest from there. We have to --
CHAD: Why are you holding back?
CHLOE: Because we just don't have the team size at the moment, and we need to get the...there's two things really. Well, there are a number of things. There are about 22 things. [laughter] I know I said there are two things; there are like a million reasons. We need to make sure that we've got the best product possible; that's number one. We need to test in our home market. We need to make sure that we've got the robust mechanic with the Perk's partners and with the employees. We need to get all of that working really well because the States is a completely different market because of the nature of the products and services. We're not on the ground there.
So it's easier for us to have really good relationships with partners now. There's going to be a conference on Wednesday in London, so I'm going to be meeting a lot of our partners there; super easy. It's like 20 minutes on the train for me. Harder to go to the States and make sure that we have really robust relationships with partners there; not impossible, just it would be time and effort to be able to build it in the States. I think we'd be able to find the clients actually more easily or, I guess, quicker if that makes sense because I think there's a need in the States.
And then there are just cultural nuances. So we just need to make sure that all of our content is really relevant culturally. So PopSockets, we are with PopSockets in the States, and I think they're quite fairly near you in Boulder. So we are already aware of some of those cultural nuances. And our editorial teams are quite good at making sure that we're representing that.
So, yeah, so I think it's just about making sure that we do a good job of it. The hard thing, I think, is actually launching across Europe because of the language barrier and because of the very different cultural nuances when it comes to sustainability, local government policy.
CHAD: Also, expectations around employee benefits and how they work.
CHLOE: Exactly. Expectations around employee benefits and also attitudes to food as well because obviously food is still a part of what we do, and so all of those things actually make Europe slightly harder. So I think, for us, it would be a launch to the U.S. before we would go to continental Europe, but, again, not impossible.
Interestingly, our clients massively want us to be global quickly because they are all looking for global benefits. They want to be able to homogenize their benefits offerings globally. They do not want to have one thing being offered in the UK, something being offered in the States, especially when it comes to benefits. Things like pensions, things like healthcare are so different in those countries, and they won't change. Just in terms of how many holiday days you guys have versus us, they can't make it a level playing field on many things.
So if they could have a level playing field when it comes to sustainable benefits, they would love to do that. So there is a real need driving us to go global very quickly. And, look, going right back to the conversation we had at the beginning, I'd do it tomorrow. I'd move my family to the U.S. and just start building it. But my very kind advisors are like, slow down. [laughs] Get it right in the UK.
CHAD: Well, I think that is a good indicator that you do have a marketplace business because all of the pressures around scaling are the same ones that marketplaces have.
CHLOE: Yeah. [laughs]
CHAD: And marketplace businesses very often benefit from in the early days focusing on specific markets.
CHLOE: No, you're 100% right. I think I've had an epiphany on this podcast [laughter] that I'm running a marketplace.
CHAD: I want to come back to the actual tech of the product as we wrap up here. I'm super impressed that you used a low-code platform to build the MVP yourself, and that has taken you through today. So how did you go about moving beyond that?
CHLOE: [laughs] So we always knew we'd have to ditch it, so we were very aware. And that's the beauty of doing an MVP which is you don't fall in love with it. So that was great because we knew we were going to ditch it. We didn't fall in love with it. So how did we go about it? So we've got ourselves...we got a CTO on board that Ellen had worked with before. And we've got an amazing UX-UI designer. And we've got some devs.
And we just ran at it. We just said, right, what are we taking from the MVP that we want to put into...and we knew it had to be an app really quickly. We actually weren't going to develop the app this year, but then it was sort of, you know, the demand there was all for the app. So we've gone app first. So we just said, "What's important from the MVP that we want to be taking here?"
We knew that perks was going to be the first thing that we wanted to launch with because of the cost of living crisis. And we wanted to make it really about perks, which is why I know it sounds silly when it's obvious to you that we're a marketplace. It actually isn't that obvious to us because before perks, none of those things are marketplace. All of the other products and services that we offer aren't marketplace.
CHAD: You mean the content and that kind of thing.
CHLOE: The content, the gamification. We've got a whole thing coming down the line all about how to calculate your carbon footprint. Like, none of that is marketplace. But because we've really leant heavily on the perks because we know that there's a massive need for that, I guess that's why it's a surprise to me [laughs] that we're a marketplace. But yeah, so we knew we wanted to get perks out first.
So then we built a product with perks at the heart because that was testing really well. And then yeah, and then we've just kind of literally just gone hell for leather head down. The team has been in build mode. We've been in sell mode and creation mode. And, yeah, we've just gone really, really fast. It's not in our natures to sort of go slow on these things. And we just need to be out there. People love what we're doing. And now it's the real test. Now it's literally employees now getting access to it, and that's the scary time.
CHAD: Has it been what you expected actually, you know, building custom software in terms of time, and cost, and that kind of thing? Or has it been different than what you expected?
CHLOE: Yeah, that's a good question. So I guess over the years, I've had the opportunity to build products internally in companies. You're always in a waiting list for other people that need other stuff. So in a way, it's been quicker because it's my team, and they've got nothing else to concentrate on except this.
I'm really open with what I don't know. So I'm like, okay, could I do, just out of interest, how easy is it for us to switch off that function and launch this? Is it a week? Is it a month? Is it like a year? Like, I just have no idea on timings and scale on that. So I try to work that out quite quickly.
But I think it's been quicker than I thought it might be. And if you've got an internal team, then it's cheaper. As soon as we started to look at external teams, it was prohibitively expensive and no control. And I think we knew quite early on that we wanted to build it internally.
CHAD: How has it compared to the process of using the low-code tool to get started?
CHLOE: [laughs] In a way, if I had an idea, it was up and live an hour later...[laughs] and, you know, I guess there's much more pushback now. It's like, "Do you really need that feature?" And I'm like, "Yeah, you know, just do it. What's so difficult?" So I guess I've had to put more rigor and thinking behind some of the features and functions that we now have versus just sticking it up there.
I mean, look, we were really, really frustrated with low-code. We were really frustrated with what it could do. It is so limited really in what we were trying to do, but it got us to a certain point. I'll always be forever grateful to it. [laughs] And my partner and I were able to completely tag team on it. So I would do all of the front end, and she'd do all the back end. It worked really well from that perspective.
But we've got a great team now who are really engaged in what we're trying to do and trying to achieve. I guess I want everything yesterday. So as with most things, I'm getting updates going, "This is broken, and I'm having to turn this off for the launch." And I'm like, "No, I want it there. I want it in there."
CHAD: So, on that note, why do you have a specific launch date?
CHLOE: We've got a client we're launching to next week. [laughter] So we're launching --
CHAD: So you've made a commitment to launch for a particular client, and so you need to hit that date.
CHLOE: Yeah. We are. We're launching it to...yeah, we've got quite a lot of clients, actually. We've got launches almost every day from next week. So this week is friends and family launch. So we need to get it out and get it tested. And then it goes into the hands of real-life users, which is scary and interesting.
CHAD: I wish you all the best with that. I really appreciate you taking the time.
CHLOE: Any advice?
CHAD: Well, what I was going to say is a question I often like to ask. And I'm curious, before launch, is there something that you wish you could have done differently or realized sooner? I'm sure this question might be different post-launch. The answer to this question might be different post-launch. But from where you sit today, is there something that you wish you would have done differently?
CHLOE: Oh my God. I almost want to say everything and nothing. I don't want to go, no, I don't regret anything; everything's been a learning experience, [laughs] so there's nothing I would have done differently because it's all led me to this point. But then, on the other hand, I think we've made the right decisions with the data that we've had. I think we need to...there's stuff that we need to be doing much more rigorously now moving forwards, which is making sure that we are very, very data-driven with what's coming back.
Now we're in the hands of real users in a meaningful way with the app. We need to be taking all of that feedback on and not just relying on the gut instinct with a lot of things. It needs to be much more data-driven now that we've got the data coming in. So I don't think that's a regret necessarily because I think you've got to kind of go with your gut to get a product out the door because you could be completely hamstrung by research. And that would have taken us into a whole nother territory. So I think...does that make sense? So whilst I'm not regretting but like --
CHAD: It does make sense. And you asked me for any advice that I have. And this is a very small piece of advice, but it's one thing that I've made the mistake of myself and seen many other teams do. If you want to seek metrics on something and you don't instrument it, you don't set up those metrics; then you don't have them.
CHLOE: So true.
CHAD: And you realize, oh, we should have been tracking this click, or that click, or this flow. And then you put it in place once you realize that it's not there, and you have to wait 30-60 days in order to get the data. And that time feels terrible while you're waiting for that data to accrue.
And so my general advice is to instrument basically everything. Instrument as much as possible, even if you think you're not going to need it. Track as many clicks as possible in the app so that you can really then say, oh, we didn't know we wanted to track this flow. And you already have the data where you can piece it together instead of waiting.
CHLOE: Yeah, 100%. So we were challenged by...so we're backed by sustainable ventures on the accelerator program. And we were challenged by them to make sure that we've got all of our KPI metrics in place for the product. Of course, we've just been head down building it. And actually, it was a great moment where it's kind of like, but how many points do you want your users to collect in a day? Maybe there's an upper limit that you want, which we hadn't really thought about. Well, I don't know; we just want them to collect points. Like, you know, we want them to live their best life.
And so in setting the KPIs, we've also had to set what we're measuring, but it was like two pages long. [laughs] There are so many things that we're trying to...what our KPIs are. And I think we can also...I think a learning is that maybe we need to be a little bit more focused with also what we're trying to measure and also what we were trying to see because we, again, can't focus on everything. We can't update and upgrade and iterate absolutely everything as a priority.
What's going to shift the dial the most? What's going to have the biggest impact? Yes, we can change the color of that, or we can make that button bigger. But actually, if that's not going to lead to the KPI that we're trying to measure, then actually, there's no point. So yeah, so I think that's been a learning as well. I mean, there are so many thousands, billion learnings on this whole journey. [laughs] I could write a book. I don't think anyone will read it, but I could definitely write a book. [laughter] And I don't have time to write it. If I had time to write it and if anyone wants to read it, I'll do it. [laughs]
CHAD: Okay. Well, maybe a few years from now, you can write that book.
CHAD: And, Chloe, thank you so much for joining the show and for telling us all about your journey. I really wish you and Plants and Perks the best over these important next couple of months.
CHLOE: Thank you. We're raising, by the way. We're just about to go into our seed round, so yeah.
CHAD: Seed round.
CHLOE: I know, perfect for Plants and Perks. That's the next inflection point whilst obviously also launching an app. And we don't do things by halves, so that will be the next learning journey.
CHAD: If folks want to find out more, to follow along with you, to get in touch with the company, where are all the different places that they can do that?
CHLOE: Don't look at the website because we're in the process of updating that. [laughter] And, frankly, now I'm going to change the pricing after this conversation. [laughs] But yeah, no, don't do that. Just email me; it's the easiest way. Or find me on LinkedIn; LinkedIn is probably the number one way. Or email email@example.com. I love; literally, I love hearing feedback: negative, positive, anything. I love having conversations. I love doing partnerships. I love helping people on their journeys; just reach out.
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If you have questions or comments, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find me on Twitter @cpytel. This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore.
Thanks so much for listening, and see you next time.
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