Startup Spotlight: Grove LabsDecember 6, 2015
Each week we will feature different Boston area startups and the entrepreneurs that drive them. We’ll let you in on what they go through, some of their insights and how they feel about the Boston ecosystem today.
This week, we chat to Gabe Blanchet, an MIT alum, CEO & Co-founder of Grove who encourages entrepreneurs to ‘Trust your guiding force’.
GC: First off, what is Grove?
GB: Grove is a startup about locally-grown healthy fresh food. We want people to enjoy and grow food themselves. We have a product called the Grove Ecosystem, which is an intelligent indoor garden, in which people can grow their own greens. We also have an app to teach you how to garden and grow your own food as well as interact with other people.
GC: What do you do at Grove?
GB: I’m the CEO. I studied Mechanical engineering at MIT, which taught me a lot about the design process. Now that I run a business, I believe one of the most important things to get right is how to build a team, to understand what people want. You can learn this from school but also through various work experiences. We’re lucky at Grove, we’ve received a lot of mentorship from across the country and internationally in terms of business and product-related mentors.
GC: How did Grove get started?
GB: Grove started in summer 2013, out of my MIT fraternity room. I started Grove with my roommate, who is also my best friend. He built the system. Now we are a team of 20 people.
GC: What were some obstacles you had to overcome?
GB: There haven’t been too many obstacles – we are just trying to find a good way to help people and get the message out about our product in the right way to make an impact.
GC: What did you learn from your first customers?
GB: They love having an interaction with Grove daily, to be involved in the process and learning all the time. They want to be engaged with Grove more as a lifestyle rather than a one-time product.
GC: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
GB: Boston is a good place to find passionate young people ready to work with for a big idea. Wether you start a business in school or not getting mentoring is definitely helpful. We participated in Techstars, and an MIT accelerator, which has certainly given a lot of benefits, but these types of opportunities are not for everyone. If you’re a first-time founder though, it’s a great way to network.
GC: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
GB: I’m not sure, but I do have some advice for entrepreneurs out there which I had to learn first-hand: Becoming independent is key: it’s your responsibility. Once you have listened to advice, learnt and taken some on board you will have to pick your own course of action: you can’t always internalize advice.
Trust your guiding force, don’t do things just because you’re told to.
GC: What does the future hold for Grove?
GB: We want to inspire and educate people in the US and internationally to think differently about food, how to grow it and being self-sufficient. We want to build the next generation of farmers and food growers. We want to build products which reflect this goal and can educate people. We also want to focus on customers and make sure they learn from their interaction with our products and that they engage with our brand for the long term.