AVA Technologies Inc. – 6 October
AVA Technologies Inc.
AVA Technologies Inc. (AVA) helps anyone, anywhere get growing. They invented AVA Byte, the “Nespresso for gardening” – a smart indoor garden to empower apartment-dwellers to grow delicious, organic food right at home, all year round, faster than soil.
In the sector of indoor smart gardens, AVA’s top competitors are Aerogarden and Click & Grow. Incorporated in 2002, Aerogarden is the oldest player, being majority-owned by Scotts Miracle-Gro. While they grow plants well, they are slow movers in tech innovation and have not yet launched a truly connected garden with sensors, cameras, or a connected app. Click & Grow on the other hand is a very cheaply priced product which resonates to the quality of the product. It runs on a timer and grows very small plants, but has a higher rate of failure.
AVA Byte is the only indoor countertop garden that runs on a smart operating system. AgOS allows them to leapfrog any other gardening system by consistently offering the most value-added, interactive experience. Byte is the only garden equipped with an HD camera, self-adjusting lighting/watering, 5 environmental sensors, and Alexa/Google voice skills.
Above all, AVA invested the most in designing the branded experience itself. AVA believes that because its target market consists of self-professed plant killers, they are getting a product like this to educate themselves, have fun, and experience the magic of thriving plants harvested by their own fingertips.
With interest from 45 countries, 850 backers, and $135,000 USD, AVA’s Indiegogo campaign was nearly 400% funded. Working directly with Google and Amazon teams, they have developed the first-ever voice-activated gardening skills for their patent-pending garden that provides them a huge advantage with retailers like BestBuy. They are currently working on various initiatives including a real estate development project, an international partnership, working with young educators, and a outer-space project.
The biggest hurdle to overcome in the following year is to ensure that they have enough inventory to keep up with the demand, which is a great challenge to fulfill within limited capacities. They plan on overcoming it by a combination of purchase order financing, equity financing, as well as delving into creative ways to get advanced financing for production (crowdfunding campaigns for their new innovations).
AVA is comprised of a team of 15 full-time and 3 part-time employees and is continually growing. Their executive team consists of co-founders Chase and Val, and CTO Chiragh. Chase was a fine-dining chef turned award-winning industrial designer that helped to bring AVA’s concepts to life. Chiragh sold his first AI company at 23 to a Fortune 500 company and joined AVA shortly after to lead hardware and software. Their advisors are experts in consumer electronics companies and have $425M USD in combined exits along with $1.7B USD of funding raised.
Chase Ando, Co-founder – Award-winning designer, ex-chef at high-end restaurants, and current industrial designer, Chase, has always loved food and had an eye for human-centric design. Prior to AVA, Chase has worked on multiple technology product designs such as Xcellerate – a wireless charging station, and Edison – a compact renewable and portable energy source, amongst other sustainable energy solutions.
Valerie Song, CEO/Co-founder – Coming from a background of restaurant sales and brand management at consumer goods companies, Valerie has always loved launching, marketing, selling, and consuming food products. While working in brand management and sales at blue-chip consumer product companies, she found a passion for brand building. She launched, marketed, and sold products from organic granola to craft bee.
Chirgah Dewan, CTO – After founding a company of his own at just 19 years of age only to sell it to a massive company a few years later, Chiragh was inspired by Tony Stark to recreate Ironman’s Jarvis. AiroCorp was a company dedicated to developing a fully functional natural language processing system with learning capabilities and advanced vocal/hand gesture recognition. He has also been interviewed by Grant Imahara from Mythbusters, and gave a TEDx speech on “Skynet vs Jarvis: Extinction or Immortality.”
In pursuit of growing with their amass successes and achievements, AVA is currently raising a Seed Round of $3M USD. They have closed $250K USD in bank, have $1.25M USD in verbal commitments, and are looking to close the rest. AVA has an Eligible Business Corporation status for eligible angel investors to receive tax credits back for their investments, and the company is also able to find matching non-dilutive capital for every equity dollar. The Seed Round financing will be allocated towards various aspects including marketing to grow revenue, cost reduction to increase margins and scalability, new innovation development to keep customers engaged, partnerships to secure large roll-out in real estate developments, and lastly, to grow the team.
Previously, AVA raised a cumulative of $2.3M USD across friends and family and pre-seed round, and found $1.5M USD in non-dilutive loans & grants to match. Their crowdfunding campaign was 100% funded on Day 1, and 400% funded in total. A huge feat this year was shipping their product through COVID-19. Revenues are officially at $150K USD, but commitments included 6,000 units in LOI, starting with roughly $200K USD this year.
With new funding on board, AVA is looking to expand on additional sales & marketing staff to scale North American sales and expand into international markets. They’re also looking to grow their technical team, support team, and logistics team so that they can keep up with demand, launch new innovations, and provide assistance to any customers who would like some growing support. From an operational perspective, AVA is seeking growth in partnership channels to be able to quickly scale to higher volumes of inventory, in addition to faster turnaround times to launch new products to market.
AVA’s business model is similar to Nespresso/razor and blades. They have a lower margin device, but a very high margin consumable. AVA Byte, their smart indoor gardening device, has an MSRP of $399 USD, and the pod packs have an MSRP of $24.99 USD or $99 USD for an annual subscription (5 pod packs per year, sent out automatically every 2 months). AVA offers financing for their indoor gardening device at 0% so customers can pay off Byte and pod packs at $45 USD/month for year 1 and $10 USD/month going forward, making it a great alternative to spending the same amount for packaged produce at the grocery store.
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