Hugo Douglas-Deane & Thomas Panton
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Hugo Douglas-Deane & Thomas Panton

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Taking sustainable shopping mainstream.

Born out of a project tackling the festival waste crisis, Canopey knew the problem was more widespread. The Canopey team has worked in government, global NGOs, universities, and environmental charities for years; they plan to build the biggest sustainable shopping platform in the UK.

Connectd has been great for tracking our progress, growth and data. Mostly we’ve used the platform to scout for investors, and have managed to raise some of our capital from our recent raise through the platform. I’m looking forward to using the platform more, particularly with the new features.

Q&A with

Hugo Douglas-Deane & Thomas Panton

Tell me a little about your background (go as far back as you like!)

Thomas:  Canopey was founded in a field! After more than five years speaking and fundraising at festivals for Greenpeace, I got tired of seeing the rubbish heap mounting at the end of each weekend. I started Festovers, to collect and upcycle leftover festival tents and give them a new lease of life. Hugo came on board to help out.

Hugo: Festovers was successful but it focussed on dealing with the symptoms of a bigger problem: we need to buy better to begin with. Thomas and I spoke to hundreds of people – festival-goers, business-owners, friends and family. They all said the same thing – that they wanted to buy better but didn’t know where to go.

Thomas: We founded Canopey to create the home for feel-good shopping. Sustainable, vetted products all in one place, educational guides to help people make swaps, and stats to show the positive impact of every purchase. But I think what makes Canopey really special is our vision. We’re building the UK’s #1 sustainability platform, educating more people about living ‘better’ than ever before. We’re starting with shopping, making it easier and more accessible for everyone to buy better. We’re not just speaking to the ‘eco warrior’ – everyone’s invited!

Hugo: We’re a couple of months away from launch, so it’s all systems go.

Why did you join Connectd?

Thomas: As a second time founder I was painfully aware of how difficult it can be to connect investors, founders, and advisors, particularly if you’re not from the world of investment and startups. Connectd offered a place where we could trial this type of outreach while also bringing together a lot of our data and due diligence into one place for investors and advisors.

Also, from knowing Roei and some of the advisors around him, I was impressed by his vision and am excited to see where the company goes!

How has your experience been with Connectd so far?

Hugo: Connectd has been great for tracking our progress, growth and data. Mostly we’ve used the platform to scout for investors, and have managed to raise some of our capital from our recent raise through the platform. I’m looking forward to using the platform more, particularly with the new features.

How have you found working with investors on the Connectd platform?

Thomas: One of our investors from Connectd actually reached out to us after seeing us on the platform which was great.

They committed £25k to our pre-seed investment round and have already brought extra value-add to the table!

What have the biggest challenges been for you on your founder journey?

Thomas: We’re all aware of the current difficult economic situation. Tie that with the tech bubble bursting, a war on our doorstep and an energy crisis, and it’s safe to say investors are a little more risk averse at the moment.

We witnessed these changes during our round and it certainly made it more complicated navigating that landscape, but that’s just running a startup!

Hugo: Tech is complicated, and we’re uncompromising when it comes to building a brilliant product and doing more research than anyone else around. With a marketplace there are naturally a couple of considerations we have to balance, as well as several customer types.

Finally, and this is part and parcel of startup life: building everything from scratch. As soon as you have the structure to work from, life gets a lot easier.

Thomas: We also spent a lot of time doing a great deal of market research, to ensure we knew absolutely everything there is to know. This helped us a great deal when it came to answering questions from investors and VCs – that’s one of the bits of feedback we consistently get: we have the answer for everything.

What have been the biggest triumphs/wins on your founder journey?

Hugo: The sheer number of people who have got behind Canopey so far has been so inspiring and humbling. Our community is now more than 4,500+ strong and we’ve had more than 150 businesses get behind us, eager to sell on the platform. We also completed a crowdfund recently and had 350+ people get behind us to buy shares in the company’s future – I can’t tell you how validating that is.

Thomas: In the last few weeks we also found out we’re regional winners of Tech Nation’s prestigious Rising Stars Award. Being chosen as one of the stand-out startups from across the whole of the UK from such a well-respected platform was obviously great news! Getting selected for the Virgin Startup Accelerator, and being finalists for the University of East Anglia Innovation and Impact Awards, were two other great moments from the last six months.

What advice would you give to other first time founders?

Hugo: Speak to as many people as possible and listen to those that can say “Been there, done that.” Seeking out passionate, experienced people who believe in you and getting them on board as advisors was one of the first things we did, and it’s really paid off longer-term.

Thomas: Make sure to spend time building relationships, talk about what you’re starting and why you’re doing it. In the early years people are going to be far more interested in you as a founder than almost anything else, so don’t underestimate the power of storytelling!

What are your plans/next steps?  

Thomas: We’re hugely excited to be launching  early in the new year. We’re not just launching a marketplace for verified, sustainable products (that would be too easy!) – we’re unveiling our impact calculator, which gives every  customer an insight into the footprint of their basket, compared with the ‘mainstream’ options. It looks at carbon emissions, water waste and plastic waste, giving you a full picture of how much better the alternatives are for the planet.

Hugo: We’re also looking forward to realising some great partnerships including Mail Metro Media and Surfers Against Sewage, and growing our community. This traction will take us through to our Seed Round at the end of 2023 which will allow us to bring out our next features and expand to other geographies.

Which three words would you use to describe Connectd?

Expansive, helpful, connected!

Which three words would you use to describe yourself/Canopey?

Ambitious, innovative, purpose-driven.


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