Today, Thursday 9th December 2021], Bird Buddy has announced closure of its $8.5 million seed investment led by London-based VC firm BACKED with General Catalyst. The investment tops off an 11 month period of exceptional growth for the Slovenian-based ‘Tech for Nature’ startup following their successful $5 million Kickstarter raise in January of this year. In this time, the company has grown from 1 to 40 employees with over 45,000 customers who have backed the world’s first smart bird feeder. Bird Buddy was recently recognised by Consumer Technology Association (CTA) as a 2022 CES Honoree.
The seed round, completed in less than five months, was led by Andre de Haes from BACKED, a founder-focused investment firm, along with Niko Bonatsos at General Catalyst (GC). Both specialise in consumer and tech sector investment and bring an unbridled wealth of experience and expertise to Bird Buddy as it scales.
Bird watching as a hobby has soared in popularity throughout the pandemic with US sales of bird feeders rising by 45% (Quartz). Launched in November 2020 and backed by Slovenia-based early-stage venture capital firm Silicon Gardens Fund II and its partners, Bird Buddy’s Kickstarter project went on to be the most funded campaign in the “Gadgets” category for the platform with nearly 24,000 backers raising over $5 million. In the past nine months, customers have nearly doubled in number and the company has grown from one to 40 employees based on either side of the Atlantic in Slovenia and the US.
Commenting on the seed round, CEO Franci Zidar said:
“It has been an exceptional year for Bird Buddy sealed with our investment round success. Our lead co-investors, Andre and Niko share our vision and passion in helping nature compete for people’s attention. Our reapplication of technology will not only bring joy to our customers, but will also allow people from all over the world to connect with nature through our network of wildlife cameras wherever they are. This investment allows us to rapidly grow awareness of Bird Buddy and the joys of birding in general as well as focus on some exciting R&D efforts.”
Andre de Haes, Co-Founder, BACKED said:
“Bird Buddy is, quite literally, the ultimate seed investment. I’ve been blown away by Franci, Ziga and Kyle's entrepreneurial creativity: they have created a stunning product that speaks profoundly to people, so much so that customers have spent tens of millions of dollars pre ordering products. We love the way they've applied gamification to bird feeding, enabling people to build up digital collections of birds which have visited them, Pokemon-Go style, and share them with family and friends. The company is a blended hardware, software and consumer subscription business: people purchase Bird Buddy devices, then use the app to collect photos and watch content from other Bird Buddy feeders around the world, and subscribe to monthly deliveries of bird seed.”
Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director, General Catalyst said:
“With the social isolation of the pandemic, many people have turned toward nature to find entertainment and peace of mind. Today, there is massive pent up demand to connect with nature, even as life starts to go back to normal. Bird Buddy’s smart bird feeder provides an entirely new way for people to engage with nature. And even with Bird Buddy being conceived and launched during the pandemic, the founders have built a highly talented remote team. At General Catalyst we believe that the Bird Buddy team’s vision and approach will help them grow their business into a global nature brand.”
Other investors include new venture capitalist firm, Chicago based Emblem55. Scott Bernstein, Venture Investor, said:
"We were astonished when we first saw the heat map of how many units BirdBuddy is selling by geography. The globe is covered, and the data is clear, people are seeking new ways to reconnect with nature. While our world is becoming increasingly digital and virtual, we ought to remind ourselves that Earth, our natural habitat, remains this incredible and exciting place that we can continue to explore."
Bird Buddy was founded by Franci Zidar, Ziga Vrtacic and Kyle Buzzard in mid 2020 with the aim of reconnecting people to nature with their smart bird feeder. Thought to be one of the first ‘Tech for Nature’ products of its kind, Bird Buddy notifies users whenever a bird stops by, sending a notification via the Bird Buddy app. The built-in technology allows users to capture unique photos and video clips of the birds while the app gamifies the experience by recognizing birds, and organizing them in a “Pokémon GO like” collection.
Bird Buddy’s Chief Product Officer, Ziga Vrtacic is leading on the app development:
“For us, our app will be like no other where you can gamify nature, whilst helping conservation efforts for birds. We want people in the heart of a city, on holiday, or anywhere to be able to enjoy the fun experienced when watching photos and live streams of our birdy friends. Collecting different species will be at the heart of the experience. There are more than 10 thousand feathery tiny little dinosaurs in the world (and only around 900 Pokemons); birds really are perfect collectables. They come in hundreds of different patterns and colors, they all sing differently ... it's just so easy to love them."
Earlier this month, Bird Buddy was revealed by CTA as a 2022 CES Honoree in three categories: Smart Home, Digital Imaging and Photography, and Software and Mobile. Head to mybirdbuddy.com to find out more about the product and how people are reconnecting with nature.