David Daneshgar provides instruction on floral etiquette. (Courtesy of David Daneshgar)
Booth alum, NVC winner, poker champion, entrepreneur par excellence and more – David Daneshgar '12 shares with us his exciting journey that led to BloomNation.com (in partnership with Gregg Weisstein, COO and Farbod Shoraka, CEO).
Chicago Business: David, please tell us a little bit about your background and your association with Booth.
David Daneshgar: I graduated from Cal Berkeley in '03 and worked in finance for about a year. At the time when I was in Berkeley, I taught a class on the probability and statistics of gaming, which was really like a secret poker class, and decided to give professional poker a try after my short stint at working in the corporate world. I put in a lot of hard work and saw immediate results, including being ranked as high as the number two player in the world in 2006 and the winner of a world series of poker bracelet in '08. I then decided that I wanted to move on to something bigger, so I decided to apply to only the top business schools to see if I could get into any and then reevaluate my options. I got into Booth and the rest is history. It's an amazing school with a great focus in entrepreneurship and it has an extremely talented faculty.
CB: How and when did BloomNation come into being? Can you talk to us about your current operations?
DD: BloomNation was an idea that was presented to me by two of my best friends in Los Angeles - Farbod Shoraka and Gregg Weisstein. Farbod's aunt was a florist and it seemed like a highly incompetent industry that was really inefficient. We started working on it during my first summer at Booth and used the time to conduct research for validation for the business model. Our current operations are out of Los Angeles CA. Farbod is the CEO and head of product development, Gregg is COO and head of operations and I am head of sales and business development. Our company has grown to six with the addition of three technical skilled people, including Evgeny, our head of technology.
CB: How has Booth helped you in getting to where you are right now?
DD: For sure, NVC was a major help. Professor Kaplan not only helped us shape the business but opened up his resources to us which was huge in getting mentors and getting on the map for investors. It also helped us shape the way we pitched BloomNation and allowed us to do even more "real world" learning to better understand what we were really faced with. I also think that several of the other entrepreneurship-based classes were a big help. The student body was amazing and we even had my friend from Booth, Elad Kassis '12, helping us full time during the last quarter with the NVC class, which can be very time consuming but highly rewarding.
CB: What are some of the greatest challenges that you faced in bringing your venture to fruition?
DD: For us, part of the challenge is getting the florist to be more reliant on technology. For them, BloomNation is a new jump in their business but thankfully with the advent of Facebook, most of them now know how to upload photos, tag products, etc. The other major challenge that we are still facing is consumer acquisition. There are major incumbents in the online flower industry, so despite a great value proposition it is difficult to get people to start learning about your site. We have been able to tackle this by creating custom websites for individual florists that link to BloomNation, thus making them embrace and push the platform as their own.
CB: As you know, Booth is home to some of the most driven, capable and creative entrepreneurs such as yourself. What advice do you have for them as they work on their dream projects?
DD: I really do believe now that it's only a small percentage the idea and a large percentage the execution. As we see out there, there are lots of ideas that are essentially just modifications or improvements upon ideas that didn't work. Having a core team that you can work with and that knows you well is really important because you have to push each other. There are days when I feel like I can't work any harder but on those days I know they have my back and I have theirs. Then we just execute - if you told me a year ago that three non-technical co-founders could create a site like www.bloomnation.com, have more than 1000 merchants and be processing orders and getting press, I think I would have questioned if it could really go down - but in the end it's all about believing in the idea and the will to see it through no matter what ups and downs occur on the road. This team is in it to win it!
CB: What fun fact about you are your friends least likely to know?
DD: It's the fact that I am not as calm as my demeanor shows. In poker you have to be almost emotionless and not be able to give tells, so when you see me you think that I'm living a stress free life. I think that the life of a startup is rewarding but it can also be highly stressful because you have no salary, no liquidity and no structure. I seem to strive off of that given my background but even I feel the pressure even if I don't show it - but I wouldn't be living any other way.
CB: What plans do you have in store for the future?
DD: I'm really excited about where this is going. We really want to become everything to the florists and I'm excited for our next challenge – creating an amazing POS system so that we can start to be a full suite to a local florist.
Let's wish David and his team the best of luck as they surge forward full steam. And remember to visit www.bloomnation.com the next time you think of fresh flowers for your loved ones from the best selection of local florists! David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.