Entrepreneurs Matt Dyer and Nathan Airey have raised $2.6 million in seed funding to launch their new on-demand marketplace Bookwell into Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. Dubbed ‘Menulog for beauty and wellness’ by its founders, it is their second startup together.
Their first, food ordering platform EatNow, was founded in 2010 before merging with rival Menulog in 2015 to form Menulog Group, which was purchased later that same year by JustEat for $855 million.
With Bookwell, the duo is seeking to disrupt Australia’s $10 billion health, beauty and wellness market, Dyer told Dynamic Business.
“In general, the industry has been slow to adapt to technology,” he explained. “The reason, I believe, is that it is made up of so many very small businesses. Enabling these businesses to have a web presence with user reviews and online bookings will help both them and their customers.
“Through Bookwell, local businesses can list their venue and customers can book online. The benefit for venues is access to new customers and more bookings, and we also give them software to help manage their business. For customers, we are offering choice and convenience. They can find venues offering a service in their area, compare reviews and then book and pay online.”
Dyer said throughout Bookwell’s year-long pilot phase, which commenced in 2016, bookings have grown 20% per month and the feedback from participating health, beauty and wellness venues has been great. At launch, 750 venues are bookable through Bookwell. Funding from the seed round, which was led by Lux Group co-founders Adam Schwab and Jeremy Same, will be used by Dyer and Airey to expand the number of venues on the service and further improve the technology.
Regarding the technology underpinning Bookwell’s platform, Dyer said a challenge has been ensuring the software caters for different requirements amongst its venues.
“The fact that this industry has been slower than others to adapt to technology is an opportunity, yes, but it is not without its challenges,” he said. “getting venues onboard has been an easy sell but fitting in with their requirements has been much tougher. It takes time to work with venues and train them.”
Asked why he and Airey decided to reunite and why they selected Bookwell as their second startup together , Dyer said it was because they had a strong working relationship as well as relevant experience with on-demand marketplaces.
“After EatNow, I wanted – as did Nathan – to start another business, so when we became available to work on something else together we got started right away,” he said.
“If you get the co-founder bit right you can avoid a lot of hassle. We get along well professionally and socially and enjoy working together. We liked the fact that this business had a lot of transferrable skills that we had developed through building EatNow such as scaling a sales team. The right team in the right market is where a great business is created. We feel that we have a great team and we have focussed heavily on hiring people who have a passion for the industry.”