Shedul’s smart, sensible software Shedul’s smart, sensible software

Shedul isn’t just driving innovation in software scheduling, it’s also changing the endgame for salons across the region. We catch up with its zestful team to take a closer look…

Only a few young entrepreneurs have sought to revolutionise the spa and salon industry. William Zeqiri of Shedul.com is one of them. Shedul.com is the world’s first subscription free booking platform for the beauty and wellness industry. The software takes the hassle out of running a business by automating all key processes such as managing appointment bookings, point-of- sale, customer records, human resources, inventory, financial reporting etc. The platform is cloud-based built with latest technologies.

William’s move to create this niche solution was motivated by a desire to address a genuine problem faced by business owners.

“We’re solving a critical pain point for small businesses by redefining how they engage with customers through technology. We have salons, who make 80 per cent of their bookings online. Our integrated technology is helping businesses optimise their schedule with real-time online availability and in some cases, it has increased users’ revenue more than 30 per cent,” he says highlighting the impact his software is having on companies operating in the sector.

Forging meaningful partnerships for growth
Over the past year or so, the burgeoning business has followed a strategic approach towards its growth and development. Its biggest breakthrough has come in the form of its recent funding round. Shedul’s most recent funding round of US$6 million Series A closed in June 2017. The round was led by Dubai-based MEVP and backed by Dubai’s BECO Capital and San Francisco-based Lumia Capital.

“Shedul.com has made best-in- class software accessible to the massive beauty industry, which still largely operates offline. We are extremely impressed with the company’s growth trajectory and are delighted to invest in the team," remarked Chris Rogers, Partner at Lumia Capital. Meanwhile, Walid Mansour, Managing Partner at MEVP, remarked: “Shedul.com is a truly global success story, the growth they achieved in two years is remarkable. We’re upbeat about the company’s massive potential and are thrilled to have led the Series A round.”

The new round of funding follows an earlier seed round also led by MEVP. The company now plans to use the funds to scale its operation, hire new engineers and build a two-sided marketplace product offering. “I think the investors noticed our ability to solve a real-world problem with an innovative product. We demonstrated traction and growth in terms of users. And most importantly, we articulated a clear monetisation strategy,” explains William as he revels in the success of achieving this monumental milestone.

Beyond this funding milestone, the company has also accrued success in other areas. For instance, the platform has signed up over 40K merchants in 120 countries in less than two years.

It has been used to make millions of bookings each month and is enjoying an overall average growth of 35 per cent month-on-month. The platform is well on track to process over US$1.5 billion worth of appointment bookings by the end of 2017.

“We are being branded as the fastest-growing platform in the beauty industry globally. Most businesses that use our platform are based in the US. Here is the breakdown of key markets: 40 per cent the US, 15 per cent UK, 11 per cent Australia, Canada seven per cent, MENA five per cent. Our growth is almost entirely organic through word-of- mouth. Good free software spreads quickly. Our users are the best ambassadors of our brand and are raving about our platform in the industry community. We have a top 5/5 user rating on Capterra.com. We believe that if users require training on how to use our system, we have not done a good job building it,” adds William.

The shortcomings of life as an SME
When asked about the challenges that Shedul’s team faced in getting to where it is today, William says: “The biggest operational challenge for a fast-growing business like ours is scaling the team. Finding good talent and experienced software engineers is always challenging. The size of the engineering team dictates the pace of how fast we can deliver new innovative features to our user base. Moving fast is really important for technology companies.”

To solve these challenges, he’s opened an office in Warsaw, Poland, where he can attract top talent. “You need to think outside the box and make the hard decisions, even if you have to establish an office in another country. Our engineering team has completely revamped the recruitment approach. For example, engineering candidates have a four-stage interview process, including a two-hour technical exam at our offices. The technical exam has been important to identify quality candidates with practical experience solving real technical challenges. It has been carefully crafted to ensure we hire the best. Only 10 per cent of all candidates we interview pass this stage. As a result, we’ve tripled our headcount in the last five months and delivered some key productivity features on our platform.”

Hiring aside, William and his team are also focusing on other areas of the business that can enhance productivity – and ultimately yield higher revenues. “We believe that company culture plays a big role in productivity. Employees need to be aligned to the vision and believe they’re making a big difference to our user community. We proactively reward productive employees that solve big challenges. We are very transparent with our internal communications. There are always things we can improve on as we grow. We need to keep working on our company culture to ensure we provide an environment where innovation thrives. If we focus on hiring the best talent we can overcome all challenges,” says a pragmatic William.

Four years from now

As he looks to the future, William’s focus is on pushing his concept’s technological boundaries. After all, that is the backbone of this offering.

“We’re constantly adopting the latest technologies to make us more productive and efficient. As a start-up, our resources are limited and we’re always prioritising initiatives that add the most value. We’ve implemented new and bleeding edge programming languages that give us a competitive advantage on our product with improved user-experience, faster deployments of new features with minimum overhead.”

With his business entering an exciting phase of growth, what does William regard as the next step? “We already operate in more than 120 countries around the world. Our focus will be additional product offering. For example, very soon we’re launching a two-sided marketplace product. This is a consumer-booking platform (like Airbnb, booking.com etc.), where clients can book appointments directly with businesses. The way people interact with software services will fundamentally change. The advent of AI, machine learning and augmented reality will have a big impact in the beauty and wellness industry. Businesses will offload more of their admin operations to platforms like ours and focus on what they do best. The way consumers engage with business providers will be redefined through technology,” he concludes.

Rushika Bhatia Editor

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.

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