Real world services become much more efficient when paired with Internet-based search and booking platforms. Today, event venues, hotels, airlines, restaurants and other businesses can build their own booking applications with software from various vendors. And OpenTable has done a good job creating a bookings portal for restaurants. Skype Prime and Ether are two good services that let phone-based vendors book, charge and perform their services online.
But no one has created a distributed bookings platform that can easily be plugged into individual businesses’ websites (without any programming knowledge), as well as yellow page and other local business sites. Once this platform exists, consumers will have a much easier way of booking everyday services (think tennis lessons, dentist appointments, hairdresser appointments, massages, cooking course, etc.). The potential market is millions of daily transactions.
At least two companies are racing to be the first startup to do exactly that, and help businesses integrate their services online.
San Francisco/Australia based Genbook, founded by Rody Moore, raised $2.2 million from Neo Technology Ventures last year to build its product.
There is little information about Genbook on the site, but a press release on the funding mentioned above says they are building a “pay-per-booking” product to allow local businesses to capture online bookings in real-time. The product will be distributed through online directories and local search engines, and businesses will pay a fee per booking.
There is much more information available about Amsterdam-based Libersy. The company, which is relocating to silicon valley, has been in stealth mode for the last year and will launch a pilot beta in Europe in May. The target public launch is Q3 2007. They’ve raised $500,000 in angel funding to date.
Founder and CEO Karin Loeffen let me poke around on their development site this afternoon and gave me an overview of the service. Libersy is building a central portal for businesses to create a profile and enter relevant information about their service (category, description, pricing, keywords/tags, etc.). The design is still raw but they’ve nailed the functionality, which includes good use of Ajax to minimize page views. Once they are in the Libersy system, they can add a “book this” button to their website (see screen shot) which links to a mini-booking page. The company will also give an embeddable code to service providers and allow bookings to be made directly from their websites.
The service will also be distributed through search engines and local business directories, and via the main Libersy services portal. Users will be able to search for service providers by location and pricing. Libersy will also encourage user ratings and feedback of service providers, creating an “ebay feedback” type of system (this is also a good potential partnership for Rapleaf).
Libersy will also assist providers in taking credit card and paypal payments for services. They plan to charge a small monthly fee to providers, and/or take a cut of transactions booked through their service.
The company is preparing to close a Series A round of funding.