Gardening is as much superstition as science for many fledgling growers. One is either blessed
with a green thumb or cursed to suffer the wilted leaves that signal yet another gardening
Sprout it, a startup founded by Columbus entrepreneurs Matt Armstead and Sarah Bush, takes the
mystery out of gardening with an app that tracks and advises gardeners throughout the growth cycles
of more than 60 plants.
The free, Web-based Sprout it app was developed through a three-year sponsorship agreement with
Marysville-based Scotts Miracle-Gro. In addition to pre-seed capital, Scotts provided Armstead and
Bush with industry expertise and guidance in developing the app.
“It was really refreshing how their approach was so organically based on simplifying gardening,”
Patti Ziegler, vice president of global marketing and communications for Scotts Miracle-Gro, said
of Sprout it’s creators.
Armstead discussed Sprout it’s genesis with
Columbus CEO magazine.
Q: Where did the idea for Sprout it begin?
A: One of the co-founders, Sarah Bush, is an avid gardener and designer. She created the idea
for an iPad app for one of her classes at Ohio State. She was passionate about the idea and had it
fairly well thought through in terms of the functionality, user experience and branding.
Q: When you first heard the concept, what set it apart from the hundreds of other startup ideas
that you’ve seen?
A: The original concept, an iPad app that might fetch a few bucks per download, just wasn’t a
big enough opportunity. Rather, I was most excited by the potential to create the smartest
gardening app we could and where that could take us long-term. Individually (as an angel investor
and entrepreneur), and as a partner in Founders Factory, I was doing due diligence on the concept
and presented it to a variety of past and present senior folks at Scotts Miracle-Gro to get their
take on the app. Once they saw it and provided positive feedback and how we could partner, I knew
we had something and it could be a very big opportunity.
Q: How and when did Sprout it’s sponsorship with Miracle-Gro develop?
A: The conversations started in late fall 2011. It took over a year to ensure we had the right
terms in place and we were aligned on expectations and the structure of the relationship. We remain
completely independent from Miracle-Gro, but the relationship is invaluable to us. They provide
great expertise, credibility, visibility and obviously financial support, and they give us complete
autonomy to build the app
in the best interest of the gardener.
Q: After partnering with Miracle-Gro, how long did the app take to design?
A: For the most part, the design work for our MVP (minimal viable product) was already done when
we inked the deal with Miracle-Gro. The actual build of the initial beta release took about five
months, and we had a very tight timeline in order to officially launch the Web-based app for the
first day of spring 2013.
Q: Was the app designed with novice gardeners in mind?
A: Very much so. A major goal for us is to make it easy and enjoyable for new gardeners to
learn, be inspired and to start a garden. Our inspiration garden section (Get Inspired) makes that
very attainable, be it a cocktail garden or a salsa garden.
Q: What new features or components do you anticipate adding?
A: We have some of the most exciting possibilities ahead of us in terms of integrating our app
with other apps and devices and some very cutting-edge problem-solving capabilities that will
really make this app invaluable. Outside of that, new platforms like iPhone and Android are coming
soon and a robust journaling feature is in the works.
Q: Where are Sprout it’s 10,000 registered users concentrated?
A: Major cities, like Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, New York, Atlanta and Seattle is where we
see good concentration. From there, we hear from our users they are gardening on balconies,
rooftops and other less-traditional gardens.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about this business venture?
A: I’ve been fortunate to be a founder in several tech startups throughout the Midwest over the
years. This one is probably the most closely aligned to my personal goals and passions at this
stage in my life — more specifically, living a clean, healthy lifestyle and having a direct impact
on others benefiting from our passion for a better lifestyle and enjoying gardening as part of
Q: What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
A: I think our biggest challenges are ahead of us. To really be successful, we need to execute
on our long-term vision, and that takes scaling the business at all levels. Growing a top-notch
team, constantly improving and enhancing the technology, and raising a fair amount of money are
some of the bigger challenges, but ones I get very excited about taking head-on.