Treeapp, a startup co-founded by three LBS Masters in Management alumni, launched in April to immediate acclaim. We speak to founders Jules Buker (MiM2018), Godefroy Harito (MiM2018) and Leo Ng (MiM2018) about its launch and early success.
It was an idea that was first discussed in 2019 and that came into fruition on 22 April – Earth Day – 2020. Three LBS Masters in Management (MiM) students wanted to make sustainable thinking a reality and enable people from all walks of life to participate in re-greening the planet. What they came up with was a new app designed to allow anyone to plant a tree for free, every day, in less than a minute.
So how did they do it? Treeapp is a platform that enables brands to pay for reforestation projects around the world through the marketing of their products. The planting is performed by global NGO partners, who make sure every tree planted benefits endemic species and local communities.
To many, it was clearly an appealing proposition. Treeapp generated more than 1,000 downloads in the first two weeks after launch and already has more than 10,000 users. It was listed as one of the six hottest apps on the UK app store in May and reached the second spot in June.
So far, more than 20 brand partners have signed up to use Treeapp to promote their brands and products while funding the planting of trees, and more than 50,000 trees have been planted since April.
“We want this platform to be a place for anyone to have an environmental, social and economic impact in the areas that need it most,” says Jules Buker, Treeapp’s co-founder and commercial director. “Users appreciate that the app is free to use and they can calculate, track and offset their carbon footprint. Businesses working with Treeapp can simultaneously offset their carbon footprint while promoting their brand to a target audience. They can showcase their products and services as well as design surveys to get insights – all by planting trees.
“We work with a team of PhD experts in ecology and reforestation who help us find the right tree-planting partners. Their expertise in tropical forestry is a great asset that allows us to confidently determine what type of projects we should work with. We’re now able to plant across 12 countries in numerous planting sites, which has a substantial environmental, social and economic impact. We also focus on regions with extreme poverty, and ensure local communities are hired and trained to the best practices.”
The journey so far: the value of LBS support
Treeapp’s three co-founders – Jules Buker, Godefroy Harito and Leo Ng – met while studying the Masters in Management (MiM) at LBS. “LBS has always been very important to Treeapp,” says Godefroy Harito, Treeapp’s co-founder and product director. “The school’s resources have been extremely valuable: easy access to faculty and staff enabled us to get great advice very early on. The amazing facilities enabled us to work in one of the greatest spaces in London, to organise meetings and exchange ideas. And the LBS community helped spread the word and promote the app across different networks.
“We’re grateful to count Professor Ioannis Ioannou as one of Treeapp’s advisors. His expertise on sustainable impact as well as his connections have been a great example of what the LBS community can achieve. We also worked closely with Professor Keith Willey, who spent time with us very early on to refine our proposition. We are fortunate enough to have him advise us to this day.”
Having originally meant to launch in April, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Treeapp’s scheduled release, with lockdown ramifications forcing the team to cancel panel talks and launch parties. Keen to maintain momentum, they leveraged the expertise of their marketing team, brand ambassadors and the LBS community to execute a successful online-only launch.
A small team with big ambitions
Powered by a team of just 15 people, Treeapp has already achieved big things. And it has even greater ambitions: its founders want to plant one million trees every day by 2022.
Another important goal is to become the go-to platform for enabling individuals and businesses to deliver environmental and social impact. The team is constantly looking to improve the app and introduce new features that allow users to interact with one another, learn more about business and planting partners, and plant trees in more countries.
Jules, Godefroy and Leo are also keen to expand internationally over the next 12 months and make global tree planting a possibility for everyone. The ultimate goal? “To improve the world we live in, and the one we leave for future generations,” says Godefroy.