A Q&A with BookingBug co-founder and CEO Glenn Shoosmith. The London-based startup, which offers a multi-channel client scheduling solution for small- and medium-sized businesses and larger enterprises alike, last week announced the closing of $1 million in new funding from Deep Ventures. It was founded in 2009 by Shoosmith and Gregory Bockenstette, and previously raised $350,000 in Angel funding back in 2011.
SUB: Please describe BookingBug and your primary innovation.
Shoosmith: BookingBug provides advanced multi-channel appointment booking technology. Or, put simply, it is a platform that enables organizations of all shapes and sizes to market and sell their services through multiple channels, spanning online, mobile, in-branch, and call center.
Whether a business takes bookings by the hour, day, or week, or runs events, classes, or courses, BookingBug provides the tools to simply and securely manage online and multi-channel bookings from end-to-end.
BookingBug also provides a series of advanced add-on features to help businesses manage, retain, and upsell existing customers, attract new ones, run marketing campaigns and promotions, and analyze and use their customer booking data effectively.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Shoosmith: BookingBug has been built from the ground-up to work for all types of businesses that offer services. Our clients span solo traders and SMEs, such as salons, cookery schools, personal trainers, and plumbers—all the way through to governments and multinational enterprises such as high street retailers, banks, and mobile operators.
Shoosmith: On the SME front, our biggest competitor is actually still pen and paper, or maybe Google Calendar. Whereas the buying and selling of goods online has become the expected norm over the past ten years, the selling and booking of services online is still comparatively new and lots of local service businesses are only just finding their feet in the online world. We compete against some niche vertical-specific online booking systems that tend to have relatively basic functionality, and there are also a handful of other online booking systems out there. We see a lot of our new users have tried other online scheduling software that simply didn’t do what they needed it to or wasn’t flexible enough to meet their needs.
On the enterprise front, the story is a bit different. We find that initially companies tend to explore the possibility of either building a solution internally, or having a system custom built for them. The challenge they face when going down that route is usually the lengthy timescales and high costs associated with a custom-build project. This means they quickly rule it out as a viable option, seek out alternatives and find us. As BookingBug’s technology is already built, we can roll out a full-feature, customized online booking solution at a lower cost in a fraction of the time. The flexible nature of our technology means we offer full API integration with other technologies, platforms and systems so the BookingBug platform fits seamlessly into an organization’s processes.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $1 million in new funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise more funding?
Shoosmith: When we started out in 2009, we saw our technology being primarily adopted by smaller- and mid-sized businesses, and we now have thousands of SME users in the UK, U.S., Europe, and beyond. However, over the past 18 months, we’ve also been approached by lots of larger enterprises and public sector organizations scoping out online and multi-channel appointment booking systems. As such, this is a really exciting time for BookingBug, and we’re scaling quickly to meet that demand.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Shoosmith: We’re investing in the team, ensuring that we can meet the huge demand we’re seeing from potential enterprise clients—whilst not losing focus on our SME clients, of course. We’re hiring across almost all our departments, including business development, sales, marketing, technology, and customer support. It’s really important that we also keep investing in developing our technology too, to ensure that we stay the best possible solution for appointment booking out there.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for BookingBug? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Shoosmith: Back in 2008 when I was working at an investment bank, I was searching online trying to find a squash court near my home. It was virtually impossible to find any information at all on Google, and when I did finally find details of a court, when I turned up that evening to play, it turned out it had actually closed down months ago. It was incredibly frustrating, and I knew there had to be another way. Why was it so easy to search for and buy goods online, but not services? So I went home and started coding, and carried on in my spare time until BookingBug was born.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Shoosmith: We get asked this a lot. My co-founder Greg and I were trying to come up with something that was related to the core of the business, but also was catchy with a bit of personality. We went through countless potential options but none of them felt quite right. It was actually my wife Angela who suggested ‘BookingBug,’ and we knew immediately that it was the one; and the .com was available, which of course is a bonus when you’ve got big plans internationally.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Shoosmith: We have no plans to, no.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Shoosmith: Getting over the perception that what we do is uncool. When we first launched BookingBug, lots of social networks, apps and mobile was getting the lion’s share of media and investor attention, and we were getting feedback that we just weren’t cool enough to be getting similar attention. Luckily for us, however, that tide has turned quite drastically. When it became apparent that so many of these trendy consumer apps were failing to monetize, enterprise SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] startups like us suddenly started looking like much more attractive as [an] investment opportunity.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Shoosmith: We’ve been generating SaaS revenue since the beginning—that’s the beauty of having a B2B product that people see real value in and are willing to pay for. Our thousands of SME clients are signed up to monthly SaaS plans, with many of our enterprise clients signed up to multi-year contracts.
SUB: What are your goals for BookingBug over the next year or so?
Shoosmith: We’re heading into 2014 with really big plans for growth. 2013 saw us begin work with lots of new clients in the retail, telco, and banking sectors, which we plan to build on in the UK, U.S., and European markets through this year and beyond. We’re also working on some big developments on the technology front, which we’ll be announcing over the next couple of months—so watch this space.