For Toronto-based Eden, an expansion to the United States came at the right time.
Eden, an app that connects users with snow removal and lawn care providers, announced late last year that it would be launching in five US cities. It hit the ground just as some of its newest markets were hit by a snow storm.
Ben Zlotnick, the company’s CEO, says the snow that has blanketed cities like Chicago and Boston this winter has been great news.
“It was literally off the charts, it was our largest week by far,” Zlotnick said of expansion week.
For well over a year, Eden has been operating in Toronto. That experience, Zlotnick says, helped get the company ready to go international.
“Over the summer months it worked well, we were doing jobs on a daily basis, but it was really about building out the playbook,” he said. “It was around understanding our customers, it was around the contractors and educating them in, ultimately, a new way of doing business.”
It’s a business Zlotnick knows something about. He’s been the owner of Aden Earthworks, a contracting company that does snow removal and landscaping, since 2003. He says that experience and industry knowledge gives Eden a competitive advantage.
Zlotnick is also the founder of INcubes, a private startup incubator in Toronto.
The decision to expand was carefully considered, Zlotnick says. Initially, he says, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to expand the business to more Canadian cities or go international.
“We looked at many different variables,” he says.
Everything from the exchange rate, to the prevalence of suburban areas, where people drive to work and have lawns, was considered.
It was “a whole analysis on, really, the entire North American market in general,” he says.
Eventually five cities were picked: Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. All five have relatively similar climates to Toronto, with four distinct seasons and snowy winters.
They also have similar, or lower, population densities and have surrounding suburbs—meaning lots of lawns and driveways.
Zlotnick says he didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. But the company’s next wave of expansion could see it move into southern markets that don’t get any snow or denser cities like New York.
“We’ve got a list of 25 cities that we are hoping to expand to in the next little while,” Zlotnick says.
First, the company has to sign up contractors.
“Our first goal, before anything, is about building up the supply channel,” Zlotnick says.
While Zlotnick says he’d eventually like to expand outside of North America, that’s a little further down the road.
“We’re still looking at expanding further into the U.S. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be expanding further out in the Canadian space, we’re going to look at all opportunities,” he says.
And, he says, there are still a lot of opportunities for contractors.
“Grass always grows and where it snows, it always falls, and that’s not going away,” he says.