WeGrow, a cannabis home grow app was acquired by Agtech Leader, VividGro, a manufacturer of high-quality LED grow lighting products.
WeGrow was founded in December 2015, with a mission to create a community to foster interaction and empower home cultivators. The community has been able to bring novice growers together to measure, share and discover craft cannabis.
In April 2017, they launched their chatbot-based technology, Elle, the WeGrow Growbot™, that dramatically increased the learning process of growing cannabis through personalized data and conversations. Within the past few years, the app has been downloaded by over 20,000 users on the iTunes store. The app and its companion real-time educational modules guide the novice user through the germination, vegetative, flowering, and harvesting stages of growing cannabis.
The acquisition helps propel Vividgro from being not only a provider of LED lighting solutions but now to becoming an integrated AgTech company that can provide crop-agnostic hardware and software solutions to indoor growers of all sizes.
We had the opportunity of speaking with Mason and his team about this transition and opportunity this brings for WeGrow’s technology and community.
DCN: First off, congratulations on the acquisition, what does this acquisition look like for the founding team of WeGrow?
WeGrow: Thanks so much! The core of our team has been building and shipping products together for about two years. Each of us coming from backgrounds that allow us to have a deep understanding of how to make people care via technology. This is just the beginning for this talented team.
We launched our first bot together in April 2017 and the contextual nature of our first product, WeGrow, gave us a firm foothold and solid reputation within the booming cannabis industry. We found a perfect partner in VividGro, and they will advance our vision for WeGrow while expanding into every aspect of horticulture from cannabis to tomatoes.
The acquisition has allowed the swivl team to focus on what we do best, creating engaging technology. We’ve garnered interest from cannabis companies and other industries to streamline their customer engagement, employee onboarding, and user experience efforts. WeGrow has become the first paying client of the swivl platform.
DCN: I understand that it was agreed not to disclose the acquisition amount, is there anything you can share about the acquisition?
WeGrow: Wegrow’s acquisition by VividGro has enabled us to further invest in our proprietary automation technology and engagement algorithms. We’re really excited about what the future holds for the swivl team. Keep an eye out for what we’re up to next at tryswivl.com
DCN: You have had experience raising capital and now have gone through an acquisition, can you give some insight into what it was like going through each process?
Mason: The most significant learning lesson was really understanding how long an acquisition actually takes to finalize and the cost that goes behind it with attorney fees. When you think of an exit event you think overall it would be a quick and easy process, however, that is far from the truth.
This experience was very similar to raising money. First, you need to build a relationship, form trust, and go through a whole due diligence process. During this process, everything is analyzed and reviewed within the company, from your why, the core of the company, the team members, and the overall business model.
Another learning lesson during this process, mainly as a first-time founder, was the letting go factor. As many founders can relate, this business is something you are madly in love, and you will have to go through this process of realizing you now have to give it away. To be honest, that was a fascinating process.
DCN: How did you know that now was the right time even to begin the discussions of acquisition?
WeGrow: Well, as an entrepreneur, I’m always thinking about how to return value to shareholders. Early on, there were different ideas and discussions on how it would go. Our team had discussions with investors around the potential of taking the company public or selling to a large horticultural company looking to establish themselves as leaders in the space – which was always the most likely scenario.
It’s not really something I expected to happen in a year and a half or 2 years, but we were always looking to sell to someone in the general horticultural realm.
VividGro’s acquisition is an obvious move for the lighting company as it aims to move away from being purely an equipment provider toward becoming a leader in the AgTech space. Beyond the vast array of content, VividGro can now offer to customers, WeGrow provides the company a great jumping off point for a broader platform play, tied together through a chatbot and engagement mechanics powered by swivl.
DCN: When looking at this acquisition what were critical factors for you and the founding team?
WeGrow: The acquisition has two key factors, 1) We will maintain a strong relationship with VividGro’s team – as WeGrow will license swivl’s engagement technology. 2) As our client, we will expand the functionality of WeGrow’s chatbot platform, expand its reach to the Android market, and extend its functionality to power licensed cannabis cultivators worldwide.
DCN: Our older audience is familiar with WeGrow, however for our newer audience, can you please share more about your WeGrow’s chatbot technology?
WeGrow: WeGrow is an educational platform for all things gardening. Users learn by having conversations with our smart bot Elle, almost like having a master grower in your pocket. The technology then uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and a deep library of content to give gardeners proactive, contextual information about everything from how to achieve the right pH level to how photosynthesis works.
Within less than one year of releasing the product, there have already been over 20,000 downloads in the iTunes store, can you give any insight into what you and your team have learned through the interaction between your customers and the AI technology?
WeGrow: Our users have been thrilled with the contextual nature of the growing information and the friendly environment of Elle. It has eliminated hours of research for growers who are looking to find answers to grow questions and obtain grow information from seed to harvest.
The chatbot-driven engagement platform has proven to appeal to the millennial segment. To date, WeGrow gardeners have had more than 500,000 interactions with Elle, validating how a smart, friendly conversational agent can successfully engage any user by providing relevant information on a timely basis.
“This app has flipped the Google search on its head,” said one user. “This is the luxury of convenience,” said another.
Using machine learning and AI, the chatbot helps even the most uninformed grower cultivate their own plants at home in an enjoyable and informative way.
DCN: Following the acquisition, what else does WeGrow have in store for 2018?
WeGrow: We aren’t shying away from partnering with companies in the rapidly growing cannabis industry. We will continue with WeGrow (through VividGro) as a partner, expanding upon the technology and penetrate the horticulture market from home gardeners to commercial cultivators.
We will also continue to advance the engagement platform through its proprietary swivl technology by designing and experimenting with uniquely branded smart bots in other verticals, securing partnerships in Horticulture, Fashion, HR, Automated Retail, and Compliance. The sky is the limit!
DCN: Thank you all again for sharing this experience and journey with the viewers at DCN. Is there anything you would like to share that we haven’t covered before we let you go?
WeGrow: Start talking to Hoover today at www.tryswivl.com to learn more about what team swivl is working on!
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