Practically Green Gets $750K from CommonAngels and Others, Feedback from Consumers and Partners
Boston-based Practically Green, an Internet startup that has been called “Foursquare for green living,” has raised $750,000 in its first round of financing.
Lexington, MA-based CommonAngels led the seed round, and about 25 individual investors participated, including John Landry of Lead Dog Ventures, Stephen McDonnell of Applegate Farms, Tom Matlack of The Good Men Project, Gail Greenwald of the Clean Energy Venture Group, Maia Heymann from CommonAngels, Jean Hammond from Golden Seeds, and Jim and Julie Matheson (Jim is from Flagship Ventures). The news was reported earlier today by Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe.
Practically Green is the brainchild of founder and CEO Susan Hunt Stevens and co-founder Jason Butler. Stevens is a veteran of online media and consumer marketing, having held senior executive positions at the New York Times and Boston Globe (where she ran Boston.com). Butler is a product and technology guru from Boston.com, Abuzz, and Amazon.com. The executive team also includes Sarah Finnie Robinson, formerly of iVillage. As part of the financing deal, investors Chris Sheehan and John Landry from CommonAngels have joined Practically Green’s board of directors. [Disclosure: Stevens and Sheehan are members of Xconomy’s board of directors, and CommonAngels is an investor in Xconomy.]
The idea behind Stevens’s startup is to help consumers make decisions that help them live greener lifestyles—things like which energy-efficient appliances to buy, what organic food to prepare, or which green landscaping service to use. The company currently has six full-time employees and three part-timers. It launched an open beta website at the end of June, and has learned a lot about the market since then, Stevens says.
“People are excited personally about it,” she says. “A lot of companies are interested in what we’re doing. Companies are also interested in partnering with us from a sponsor standpoint.” Back in July, Stevens told me the site would make money through lead generation and affiliate marketing—basically, consumers buying green products (everything from skin care to food to paper products) that are listed on the site and recommended by others.
In September, the website had about 8,000 unique visitors from all over the U.S. That number could increase dramatically very soon, as Stevens says the startup will announce its first major media partnership tomorrow—and it’s a big one.
I asked about lessons learned so far. “Like everyone with a Web product, you always go back and say, we wish we’d built it and gotten it out sooner and gotten customer feedback earlier,” Stevens says. “Half of what we built, people liked it but they didn’t need it.” As an example, she says the website used to let people rate actions (like adding insulation to your roof or installing an energy-saving dishwasher) as well as products and services. But that led to having too many ratings on a page. So the site now focuses on recommending services. “People are looking to us to tell if services [such as landscaping] are really green,” she says.
The startup’s financing is the latest example of CommonAngels’ new seed-stage approach, whereby it is focusing on making smaller, faster investments in earlier-stage startups. In the past few weeks, CommonAngels has announced similar-sized investments in Ayeah Games and Blaze Software, and it has more in the pipeline. The angel group is also an investor in home energy management firm Powerhouse Dynamics, based in Newton, MA.
Practically Green’s advisory board is an interesting mix of green thinkers and product makers. It includes McDonnell, Eric Hudson of Preserve Products, Jeffrey and Sheila Hollender from Seventh Generation, and authors Andrew Winston and Dominique Browning.