In the online reservation space, you probably know about OpenTable. The restaurant reservation service’s IPO in a time of drought for IPOs, made big headlines. Now imagine OpenTable for just about everything besides restaurants. That’s BookFresh.
Who might need such a service? A lot more services and individuals than you may realize. While most services have some sort of scheduling system, many aren’t optimized, and can’t adapt on the fly to openings/changes. Massage therapists, dentists, doctors are all perfect examples of who could use such a system, founder Ryan Donahue tells us. He notes that health and beauty has been a particularly hot area.
He knows that because the service has actually been around for a little while, but it was formerly know as HourTown. But BookFresh is a much better name for the service because, “appointments are much like produce items in a grocery store, it’s a perishable thing,” Donahue says.
And a name change isn’t all that in-store for users. BookFresh wants to be the main platform for all online appointment booking on the web. As such, they’ve created APIs to let developers of sites take advantage of their tools. But you don’t have to be a developer to implement the service, anyone can do it with a simple line of code added to their site. This is important because a lot of people BookFresh is targeting are one-person or small operations, that probably don’t have a web development team.
Donahue likens the idea of BookFresh as an appointment platform to PayPal as a payment platform. (And he should know, he used to work at PayPal — incidentally with Jeffrey Jordan, the CEO of OpenTable.) He notes that just like a lot of sites out there don’t want to go through the hassle of building their own payment system, they also don’t want to have to make an online booking system. Sure, it’s not as complex, but it’s still a hassle — and might as well be impossible for little shops/services.
And BookFresh offers some nice things with its platform. One is the ability for businesses that use it to get calls when a customer is requesting an appointment time. From your phone, you can opt to accept or decline the request. That’s perfect for someone like a plumber, who may be always on the go and not able to get to a computer to confirm appointments. And the offers easy integration with Google Calendar and iCal to place appointments in your own personal calendars automatically when you accept them.
Alongside the name change, BookFresh is announcing a partnership with Webs.com, one of the largest sites for building free websites out there. A lot of small business owners are already using it, and now they’ll have one click access to install BookFresh if they choose to.
In terms of monetization, the service is free for the end user, but businesses/individuals who wish to use it will pay a month fee that starts at $19.95. If larger sites choose to sign-on, there are other deals such as revenue sharing that can take place.
In terms of competition, there is Appointment-plus, but their service forces you back to their servers to handle everything. BookFresh’s platform allows users to stay on the page they are already on to set everything up, Donahue says.
One service that BookFresh won’t be competing with is OpenTable. They have no interest in getting into the restaurant space, Donahue says.