We’re Launching Plantola in Ontario First (and why startups should stay close to home)

Before someone corrects me, Plantola is actually available to anyone with an iPhone and a Canadian iTunes Account.  That said, the app has some built in features, like the list of independent nurseries and garden centers, that is currently limited to Ontario only.

The fact that it is the middle of March, and Spring has yet to arrive in most of the province makes this decision even more perplexing given that we are a gardening-related app …. or is it?

Validate First

We are big believers in the Lean approach to product development.  Before we invest too much time and energy building out the platform, we want to know if we are on the right track.  Have we found product market fit?  Limiting the geographic scope of the product is one way to cut down on the number of features required in the first iteration of the product, which reduces complexity and development time.

Conserve Valuable Resources

We have bootstrapped development of Plantola partially out of necessity and partially out of a desire to experience the process of bringing a product to market. Doing things yourself can be cheaper financially, but it is not without cost.  It takes more time to do things you are not familiar with, and you end up making more mistakes.  That said, when you have more time than you do money, Bootstrapping product development is the logical choice. Staying close to home (both founders live in Southwestern Ontario) has saved time and money.  Customer development is just one example. Because we are focused on the “Local” market, meeting with a user our potential customer is the cost of a tank of gas rather than a plane ticket.

Make Smaller Mistakes

The total addressable market for Plantola is much larger in the United States than Ontario, or Canada for that matter.  Why not go where the fish are?  In a word … Risk. The product, while functional, is still very much an MVP.  There will no doubt be several bumps along the road, especially since this is the first mobile app we have developed.  Far better to learn those lessons in a small pond that is less competitive, and more forgiving than the open ocean.  You have more chance to recover from your mistakes.  Culturally, Canadians and Americans are more similar than they are different.  We speak the same language, eat the same food and watch the same television shows. Lessons learned in Canada often translate well across the border in the United States.

Home Town Advantage

We grew up in Ontario.  Our social support network is here. We have also made valuable connections with several local technology and business incubators like ThreeFortyNineCommunitech and Innovation Guelph. Being part of the culture makes it easier to establish connections with people that share a similar background.  This includes users, customers, investors, advisers and the media.

First stop Ontario, next stop ……….. stay tuned!


Download the Plantola iPhone app

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