Timely

Appointment booking for service businesses.

timelyHere are the top six pieces of advice I give to startups: Love your problem. Know your market inside-out. Delight your customers. Start by picking one thing, and do it really well. Be global from day one. Don’t settle for less than the best cofounders, employees, investors, and advisors.

Timely never needed this advice – they just went hell for leather from the start.

Timely provides really simple cloud-based appointment booking aimed personal service businesses like hairdressers, massage therapists, and personal trainers. Customers’ clients can book and manage their own appointments online.  It surrounds this basic calendar functionality with great features like pre-appointment reminders, point-of-sale billing, and integration with popular accounting systems like Xero and Quickbooks Online.

They make money by charging users a monthly subscription. At $19/month in NZ, it’s great value. Users claim that it pays for itself on the first day of use. Like previous Startup of the Week Debtor Daddy, the key value for users is in freeing up their time to focus on charging clients for doing the work they love, rather than on tedious administration of their businesses.

Timely now has customers in over 70 countries, but they’re concentrating on three key geographies: Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. They have over 4,000 customers and are growing by roughly 10% month-on-month with a very low churn rate. Their growth strategy is based on inbound marketing, working with trade associations and partner networks. But they’re getting a lot of business coming through the door by reputation, social, and SEO/SEM which is great. There’s a lot of competition in this space, but once a customer is in, they’re hooked. What makes Timely stand out is dead-easy user experience.

What’s the secret to success? Know your market inside-out. Delight your customers. Start by picking one thing, and do it really well. Be global from day one. Don’t settle for less than the best cofounders, employees, investors, and advisors.

Ryan, Will, and Andrew
Ryan, Will, and Andrew

Timely’s CEO Ryan Baker has been round the block a few times with his cofounder Andrew Schofield. Their previous venture, BookIt, provided booking and payment services for the travel industry, and was acquired by TradeMe in 2010. The third cofounder, Will Berger, also worked on BookIt after it was acquired by TradeMe and became TravelBug. Their team is a “who’s who” of the Dunedin entrepreneurial scene, and the stellar lineup is rounded out with directors MOD (the artist formerly known as Michael O’Donnell) and Rowan Simpson, along with legal counsel Sacha Judd. Timely sets the benchmark for team quality.

I asked Ryan what their biggest challenge is as a startup and he told me without hesitation that it is overcoming obscurity. “There’s a big global market out there and we know our customers love us. The challenge is reaching them. If your readers are looking for ways to help NZ startups, get them to recommend us to their friends in NZ and overseas. Next time you’re getting your hair or nails done ask the stylist if they’ve
heard of Timely.”

Although the nucleus of the team is in Dunedin, the rest of the 27-strong team are spread out across New Zealand and around the globe. They don’t have a formal office, but instead all work from home (or anywhere) using a “remote first” philosophy. Great tools like Slack, Hangouts, gdrive, 15Five, Trello, and Help Scout encourage constant communication and team cohesion, but the real trick is creating and maintaining a culture where everyone feels they are playing in a team, and have an impact on the success of their business.

The “remote first” nature of Timely’s business culture resonates with their target market, many of whom are small businesspeople juggling work-life balance.  As more New Zealand startups expand globally, and more people generally adopt portfolio careers, I suspect this fully networked business model will become much more common.

Timely are always looking for good people to join their team, and the good news is that you don’t have to be based in Dunedin to join this great group of people making life easier for small business owners around the world.

Ooooby

Hacking the food supply chain, Out Of Our Own Back Yards.

It’s estimated that on average, food items in the US travel 2400km to get from their point of origin to your table1. This results in huge quantities of carbon being belched into the atmosphere through transportation, waste resulting from excess packaging and spoilage, and food that is less fresh and tasty.

oooobyOoooby makes it easy to create local fresh food marketplaces that source food from local growers, and deliver to local consumers. From humble beginnings on Waiheke Island, Ooooby now powers food networks in Auckland, Waikato, Matakana, Sydney, and Fresno California, and they’re just in process of setting up shop in the UK.  Across the globe, Ooooby is pumping over $3m in annualised recurring revenue (ARR).

Ooooby is a mission-driven business, whose purpose is to make local food convenient, affordable, and fair. They want to rebuild local food economies, because they believe that many of the world’s most pressing social and economic problems are caused or exacerbated by the way we produce and consume food. They also believe that in order to be impactful and help create a sustainable food system, they must first create a sustainable business.

petePete Russell does not fit your stereotype of a social entrepreneur. Prior to Ooooby, he cofounded and built up Australian specialist food importer and distributor Source Food, built it up to A$10m, and then had an epiphany – the world would be much better served by local foods, purchased in an “online farmers market”. Local food that’s as convenient to purchase as industrial food would be better for local farmers, local consumers, and the environment. Pete is joined on the Ooooby board by CTO Davy van de Vusse who has architected their core systems.

Their revenue model is to clip the ticket by 8% on all food purchase transactions that go through the platform, to cover software development, administration, and national marketing. They’ve been invited to set up shop in all of the cities where they’re active, so platform marketing costs have been minimal. And they have a steady stream of inquiries internationally from groups of local farmers wanting to transform their own local food economies.

The platform can scale quickly, and can support a virtually unlimited number of local food hubs.

Ooooby raised $285k in a PledgeMe campaign earlier this year, but they are looking for another $500k or so in the next year, so that they can rebuild the food economies in over 20 cities worldwide by the end of 2017.

If you’d like to get Ooooby going in your town, or are interested in supporting local food, do get in touch with Pete and join the movement.

Disclosure: One of the trusts of which I’m a trustee made a small investment in Ooooby in their crowdfunding campaign.

Special note: I’ve just posted an item on my main blog which may be of interest: Convince me to invest in your startup, in which I cover how angel investors like me evaluate investment opportunities.