This week we chat with Matt Dyer, co-founder of health and beauty industry disruptor Bookwell. The platform, described by Matt and co-founder Nathan Airey as “Menulog for beauty”, offers a quick and easy way to book health and beauty appointments across the country.
ISB: You and Nathan had great success with your previous venture, EatNow, so how – and when – did the idea behind Bookwell germinate?
MD: We saw that salons and therapists spend thousands each year on marketing to fill empty appointments, and that the industry really hadn’t embraced technology as a way to solve this issue. We started talking about this and doing initial research into Bookwell’s feasibility in February 2016, and I was able to launch into it fully in September 2016 once I sold my previous business.
ISB: How has the setting up of Bookwell been funded?
MD: We were able to fund the development of the platform on the back of revenue from our previous ventures. When it came to building and launching it, we raised over $2.5 million from private investors in Australia.
ISB: And what about marketing what is a brand-new concept in its field?
MD: Before we launched the website we just hit the road. Nathan walked into salons in Melbourne and Sydney with pictures of what the product would look like and signed as many of them as he could up.
Now our website and the product itself are up and running we are doing some web marketing to persuade consumers that his is the best way to go about making their appointments. The service is now available nationally and, as there is still such an untapped market here in Australia, we are going to concentrate on our geographical spread and market share domestically for the foreseeable future.
ISB: What has been the biggest hurdle in getting the business to where it is now?
MD: The health and beauty market hasn’t adapted to technology in the same way that the food and travel industries have. Although this presents a great opportunity, it also presented us with the challenge of persuading time-poor SME owners who are suspicious of technology to make the leap.
The upside of the model, and this is especially important due to the scepticism of this industry to technological disruption, is the fact that it is relatively risk-free: the salon owners only have to pay for the bookings that are converted into completed appointments, and ultimately this has enabled us to achieve a good sign-up rate.
ISB: Finally, what lessons have you learnt that you could pass on to others with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?
MD: The best piece of advice I was given was from a venture capitalist who said that the majority of failures he’d seen were from second-time entrepreneurs – once people have been successful once they think it will be easy second time around. Previous success is no guarantee of future success.
As far as lessons go, you need to get your product or service out as soon as you can, and before you spend the earth on it, to find out if there really is a market for it. We initially launched very quickly, as soon as we had a serviceable platform – you can’t get decent feedback on a theory so we got the product out there and started getting feedback on the real thing. So, when you’re starting out give your venture your entire focus, give it your all and if it starts to get some traction then stick with it!