Wahanda launches group buying for health and beauty offers

We first covered Wahanda, a social network for people who use spas and other “wellness” products, way, way back in 2008 and haven’t heard much from them. It turns out they’ve been busy, no bad thing.

After raising £1.5 million, in large part from Ambient Sound Investments (the fund created by the former founding engineers from Skype) Wahanda set it’s goal on effectively becoming the ‘Amazon of wellness’. In the same way Yelp built a horizontal database of venues, Wahanda has now built the world’s biggest vertical database of health and beauty spas. It now has 10,000 venues listed globally (4,600 in the UK alone), while main competitor, the US-based SpaFinder has just over 6,000. Wahanda soft launched in the US in October 2009.

Now, this is no ordinary market. In common with other internet plays aimed at the luxury market, the global spa economy is worth a lot – an estimated $60 billion, with $18 billion of that in Europe alone.

Today Wahanda will now combine this database with the fashionable but also profitable business model of group buying power with time-limited daily offers, along the lines of Groupon.

It’s “MobDeal” will offer daily deals on massages, facials, spa days, haircuts, manicures, yoga and Pilates classes, among others.

Wahanda is executing this by negotiating special volume discounts with spas, salons and studios to make one single offer a day, limited to 24hrs. Like Groupon, the deal only comes into effect if a pre-defined number of people sign up for that day’s deal. Of course, that encourages people to pimp… er, sorry, send the deal to their friends via social networks. Typically offers will have savings of 40% or more. There’s also a nice aspect: For every MobDeal purchase Wahanda will donate £1 to charity:water. You can now buy Wahanda branded vouchers at over 450 different venues across the UK and Wahanda has a content and commerce distribution deal with AOL UK.

The 12-person Wahanda is based in London’s West End and the co-founders are a former VP from LastMinute.com (Lopo Champalimaud, CEO) and former director of search at Yahoo! (Salim Mitha, COO). It counts among its board members people like Wolf Hengst, the former President of Worldwide Operations at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts; Brent Hoberman, co-founder of lastminute.com and Stefan Glaenzer, former executive chairman of Last.fm.