“We did some research and found out that the majority of businesses in the beauty industry operate offline, without any software at all. A full 52 percent of salons in the U.S. still manage their bookings with pen and paper,” Shedul co-founder and CEO William Zeqiri said in an interview.
One may not think of beauty as a particularly luddite enterprise, but as it turns out, in a world where one can order anything up for digital delivery (particularly if one happens to live in a city) it’s not always so easy to simply book a haircut or light dye job online.
But Shedul is actively trying to solve that particular friction but offering a “totally subscription-free platform” that allows users from any device connected to the internet to find and book a salon or spa appointment.
Think OpenTable for beauty. But also a bit beyond.
Shedul’s offering is deeper than just appointments and bookings. The cloud-based software platform is designed to do a good deal of operational heavy lifting for salons by automating areas like customer records, inventory, financial reporting and other tasks.
The point, according to COO and co-founder Nick Miller, is to iron the friction out of one of the few brick-and-mortar commerce experiences that has the power to draw footfall.
“The main pain point is the inefficient utilization of appointment schedules, which is causing low occupancy rates for businesses and loss of revenue,” Miller noted. “Our technology is helping businesses optimize their schedule with real-time online availability, and in some cases, it has increased user revenue more than 30 percent.”
Because, both Zeqiri and Miller said, as formatted today, beauty as a business is grossly ineffcient, largely due to the technological lag prominently featured industry wide. Right now, they noted, spas and salons are “losing billions of dollars” due to occupancy issues,
Shedul’s technology helps connect small businesses directly to demand, and as of today it has 40,000 merchant sign-ups in more than than 120 countries. That is impressive growth for a firm that has been out in the wild for less than two years, but Shedul is committed to not only offering a very necessary platform for the industry but also to offering said platform for free.
“Our monetization strategy is to charge a small commission fee per booking on our soon-to-be-launched consumer marketplace and keeping the main SaaS tool free,” says Zeqiri, referring to Software as a Service.
And the Dubai-based firm is committed to growth, growth that will be aided by the $6 million in Series A funding it recent brought down. The round was led by Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), and backed by Dubai’s BECO Capital and San Francisco-based Lumia Capital.
The new round follows an earlier seed round (also led by MEVP) that closed a year ago in October. Broadly speaking, the firm intends to use the funds to expand its product development and engineering teams, though they declined to offer any specifics.
“It’s critical to align on the big picture or vision with VCs, before getting into the detailed analysis [of the deal]. Being a global company, we got lots of interest from international VCs, and are proud to have San Francisco-based Lumia Capital joining the round,” Zeqiri says.
As for where the firm is growing best, despite being Middle East based, 40 percent of the firm’s users are in the U.S. The U.K. is in the two spot, with 15 percent of the platform’s users, followed by Australia’s 11 percent and Canada’s 5 percent.
“We are a global business with most users internationally, and we just happened to start the business in Dubai…. Our story is that we are serving the globe out of Dubai, rather than targeting the local market,” Zeqiri says.
And they are committed to serving that global market in a big way as 2017 marches toward its conclusion.
The firm’s goal is to “process over $1.5 billion worth of appointment bookings by the end of 2017.”
It’s a big goal, particularly for a firm just coming out of its Series A round. But it’s a service that is clearly needed, given consumers’ strong preference for digital booking and the challenges beauty and wellness have had so far in incorporating those desires.
We’ll keep you posted as to whether or not they make it.