Earlier today when we wrote about UrbanSpoon trying to get a piece of OpenTable’s pie, this quote from Urbanspoon VP Kara Nortman really struck me, “Two years ago, an online reservation system required a massive upfront investment,” she said, now claiming that building a similar platform is as simple as setting up an iPad/iPhone app.”
Perhaps this setup ease (and reduced customer acquisition cost) is why we have seen an outcropping of investor interest in “OpenTable for X” services lately, the most notable being DST’s $50 million investment in ZocDoc. Just yesterday I sat in on a demo for Pencil You In, a platform that pitched itself as a OpenTable for salon appointments, not the first time I’ve heard this.
Perhaps the OpenTable model has even more potential when made even more niche? After all, there are 30K restaurants in the US that take reservations, versus two million salon professionals.
Pencil You In competitor StyleSeat, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in May, now has over 75K appointments booked, representing $3.5 million in spend. StyleSeat, which allows hairstylists and salon representatives to set up simple online profiles to showcase their wares, now boasts 14K salon professionals who’ve created accounts, with 50K clients added and 1,700 promotions (deals) created.
StyleSeat CEO Melody McCloskey tells me she’s been approached by a couple of major industry players about partnerships since her Disrupt turn, “Disrupt gave us access to companies that we wouldn’t normally get access to so early in the process- we were approached by several decision makers at some of the largest companies out there. If we took traditional channels it’d take us much longer to reach those people.”
McCloskey, plans on monetizing StyleSeat through a freemium model, offering the core StyleSeat product for free and then charging a $25 fee for more advanced CRM and marketing tools. She ambitiously views the company as well-positioned to shake up (sorry, got tired of using the word disrupt) the entire beauty industry, which has annual revenues of $71 billion.
McCloskey says that the social sharing features of the site have had the most impact on its growth and calculates that the Facebook recommendations posted through the platform are worth $6.70 each. One in six recommendations shared on Facebook results in an online booking, at an average service cost of $40. She tells me that 98% of clients using StyleSeat say they’d recommend a stylist to friends.
StyleSeat currently has $700K in funding from quite the roster of white-hot investors including Chris Sacca, Jeff Clavier, Travis Kalanick, Dave Morin, Garrett Camp, Alfred Lin, Christoph Janz, Paige Craig, Joe Stump, 500 Startups and others.