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3 life lessons from a hardware startup

Click & Grow blog: 3 life lessons of a hardware startup

Here at Click & Grow, we put a lot of emphasis on the learning curve. The most common question after sharing successes or failures in our team meetings is “So what can we learn from this?”. Being founded back in October 2009, we have had roughly 2555 days of successes and failures as a company. 2555 days of valuable lessons and experiences.

Watching the life of a hardware startup is like fast-tracking through life. Though it still takes years, companies mature way faster than people do, and learn the exact same lessons we are going to learn over the course of our lives. And as they say, wise men learn from their mistakes and wiser men learn from someone else's, so here they are - 3 life lessons from a hardware startup. 3 life lessons from Click & Grow for you to learn and inspire from.

1. Dreams take time

When founded, hardware startups (or any kind of startups) are like any youngster. They're hot-headed, daring, often overly optimistic, and they value speed over thoroughness. We've all been there. We probably still are to some extent. When we won the Estonian business competition Ajujaht back in 2010, we raised enough funds for launching our first product. Everything was set - we had thought the idea through, created the first prototype, and were ready to produce and launch the Smart Flowerbed (first called the “Smartpot”) in 3 months time. At least that's what we thought. In reality, we launched it in 15 months. So what happened?

Launching the Smart Flowerbed was our biggest dream. We felt like when we finally do it, everything will fall into place, and the world will be ours. We were so focused on this dream that we forgot to take the reality into account. In reality, it is impossible to go through working out the technology, designing, production testing, improving the product, more testing, production, packaging, shipping, stocking and finally launching an automated indoor gardening system in 3 months, if a life cycle of 1 plant refill is at least 3 months alone. We were just a youngster - overly optimistic, hot-headed and thriving for speed. Our actual success was simply 15, not 3 months away.

Always dream big. That's where all the great things in life are coming from. And as contradictory as it might seem, happiness is at the point where big dreams become humble and realistic.

2. By making yourself better, you make the world better

Even before Click & Grow was founded, we already knew that besides time, most people also don't have the knowledge on how to grow plants. Back then, about $30 billion worth of perfectly good house plants were thrown away each year. So our idea was perfect - with the Smart Flowerbed, we enabled people gain the knowledge on plant watering, fertilizing and growing with no effort and no mess. All our customers had to do was give the system water once a month and place it on a sunny windowsill. Basically the perfect product. But every year from September to March we received countless pictures of plants not growing. Why?

The plants simply didn't have enough light. You'd think that placing it on a well-lit windowsill would be enough, right? So did we. And so did our Norwegian customers that placed their Smart Flowerbeds by their wall-sized windows. But in winter, the plants on your windowsill receive about 1000 - 8000 lux of light, no matter how big the window is. For normal growth, any plant requires about 10 000 - 20 000 lux. And so we went back to the drawing board and created the Smart Herb Garden - a new and improved garden with the light already attached. And guess what happened - three times as many people came back to say we've made their lives easier.

Never stop growing - learn from your successes and failures. By making yourself a better and happier person, you will improve the lives of the others around you.

3. The simple things in life are what have the biggest power

So, we have come up with this great technology that enables anyone to grow plants with basically no effort and know-how. A technology that gives everyone a green thumb. We thought that for people who haven't been able to keep that basil or cactus alive for 5 minutes, this would be the most exciting part - the fact that for a couple of tens of dollars they can get a skill they had never possessed. We were wrong.

To date, we have sold about 300 000 Smart Herb Gardens, and it isn't the fortune-worth technology or the white neat-looking garden that spikes the most emotion in our customers. It's the refill turning into a delicious basil or a gorgeous strawberry. The process of seeing the little sprouts coming out from nowhere, and then turning into grown plants. As soon as our Click & Growers click their new plant refill cartridges in their Smart Herb Gardens, they check them countless times a day, to see if it's sprouting already. It's the first thing they go to when they come home - has it grown any bigger? Every day, tens of new pictures of sprouts get hashtagged #clickandgrow on Instagram. The technology, the effortlessness and the design has just enabled more people to experience something so simple yet fascinating as plant growth.

When you really break it down, it's the purest, simplest, most primitive things in life that make us the happiest, that have the biggest power. Everything that we own, everything that we create, everything that we use is just a great added bonus that brings the simple pleasures to the next level.

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