If there is one thing that most commentators in the Australian startup ecosystem would agree upon, it is that startups offering an ‘on-demand’ style of service – also known as the ‘Uber for X’ model – are on the increase.
One industry in particular that has been getting the on-demand treatment is the massage therapy sector, with the launch of services like Blys and Therapair into the Australian market, joining existing service 3MinuteAngels.
Joining this growing list of massage on-demand services recently is Sydney-based ZenNow, founded by Matthew Doyle and Melissa Rohlfs.
The startup officially launched into both the Sydney and Melbourne markets around two months ago after a successful soft-launch at the Wellness Festival earlier this year.
The pair have decided to focus on specific pain points within the wellness industry, the first being convenience when it comes to users booking a massage.
“I think on-demand works well for the massage industry and it’s good to see some innovation happening within that space; for us, we have been looking at the pain points in the industry and convenience is such a big thing,” said Rohlfs.
“We have designed a solution [centred around convenience] based on an app that simplifies the booking process where people can schedule themselves a massage with just a few taps on their phone.”
On-demand services in this particular sector are still in their infancy, with there being no dominant player just yet. It should be noted though that out of all industries this is also one of the sectors where innovation will likely have a knock-on effect of stronger regulation – which is a good thing.
The massage industry is a fragmented beast that has a mixed reputation, so anything that spurs on changes, such as creating a safer industry for therapists to operate their businesses in, would be a welcome change.
This is also not to mention the fact that it is still one of the few industries where the primary transaction method for services remains cash. Startups like ZenNow alleviate the awkwardness of asking for money and mean the entire process becomes electronic, making it not only easier to track business performance, but also making tax time in Australia less stressful for operators.
The primary reason behind why we have not seen a meteoric Uber-like rise in adoption across in the sector is because there is a whole education piece that needs to happen across both sides of the marketplace – users and operators -before change can really be embraced.
“Disrupting the massage industry has been a challenge as it is an industry that has not seen too much change in the last few years,” said Rohlfs.
“We are trying to educate the industry on better ways to do things and are trying to fix problems and pain points that they are experiencing.”
Some of the features that are being used to appeal to both sides of the market are ZenNow’s check in and check out system, which acts as a safety mechanism for all parties, as well as a two-way review feature that helps to ensure that clients get the best quality massage and that masseurs don’t face awful experiences.
Right now, the startup is self funded and the focus is very much on ensuring the quality of the experience and making sure that they have the business model right. That means putting a particular focus on activities like creating a scalable onboarding system for therapists that checks things like qualifications and insurance – something that is not even a legal requirement in that industry just yet.
While each of these startups iterate and get a model that works for them, one thing that this industry in particular should be happy about is that services like these are making the industry a better regulated one that poses less risk to its customers.
Featured Image: Founders, Matthew Doyle and Melissa Rohlfs | Source: Supplied.