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Under Armour's Kevin Plank prepares for Valentine's Day with investment in UrbanStems

Kevin Plank didn't just buy flowers before Valentine's Day, he bought a flower company.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Kevin Plank bought a flower company, or at least more than a few bouquets' worth of one.

The Under Armour CEO is among a round of investors in UrbanStems, the web start-up that delivers bouquets for $35 and up via bike courier. The company launched last February in Washington and expanded to Manhattan in December.

The $1.5 million in seed funding from Sagamore Ventures, Plank's investment arm, and three other firms, Middleland Capital, NextGen Angels and Great Oaks Venture Capital, will allow the nine-employee flower delivery service to add new cities and boost hiring.

In the urban consumer market, "higher quality for a lower price and on-demand service is becoming the standard, not the exception," said Demian Costa, Sagamore's managing partner, in the announcement.

He said the company piqued Sagamore's interest "given our roots in the flower delivery business."

Plank, who founded the $3 billion Baltimore-based Under Armour in 1996, ran a flower delivery business each year on Valentine's Day while an undergrad at the University of Maryland College Park. The $17,000 that Plank earned eventually became seed money to start Under Armour.

Consumers who shop UrbanStems order online or through a new Apple iOS app. Bouquets are sent with free delivery and no fees within an hour or at any specified time.

The company said it sources its flowers from eco-certified farms in South America, where blooms are cut off the stem and sent to company-owned delivery hubs in less than 48 hours.

"Ordering flowers hasn't really changed in the last couple of decades besides a crude addition of phone and web to the traditional neighborhood florist," said Alex Pessala, of Middleland Capital, who will join the UrbanStems board.

The company was started by former college roommates Ajay Kori and Jeff Sheely. They said they started the business, launching during a snowstorm before Valentine's Day last year, after becoming frustrated trying to send flowers through traditional online options.


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