Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to making an appointment for your hair or any other treatment… it’s a different story: the transparent nature of many jobs shows the number of professionals. Providing these services have remained offline when it comes to dealing with customers.
But that’s changing, and today, Boulevard is one of a wave of software companies to digitize appointments, message clients and take payments for hair salons, nail salons, hair salons, facial and skin care providers and more. In the world of beauty and wellness services—it’s announcing that it’s raised $70 million in funding, a sign of a shift in demand, especially as this startup is getting into the space.
The funding, Series C, will be used to continue expanding Boulevard’s product and engineering teams and build additional tools targeting a broader set of users in the larger health and beauty sector (these product additions are typically large – most recently they added a new payment feature). This round is led by Point72 Private Investments, with participation from previous backers Toba Capital, Index Ventures, Bonfire Ventures, Box Group and VMG Partners.
Boulevard brings the total raised by the company since its inception in February 2016 to $110 million (according to Pitchbook). And although the startup did not disclose the valuation, CEO and co-founder Matt Dana said in an interview that this figure has tripled since last summer – especially now it is important to take into account the pressure on the technology sector and the financial markets in general.
To be clear, Boulevard faces a lot of competition – other big names include Zenoti, which is worth more than $1 billion at the end of 2020. Booksy, which PitchBook estimated was worth just under $540 million in November 2021, raised $70 million earlier that year. And Fresha is valued at over $640 million by the end of 2021, among others.
But at the same time, Los Angeles-based Boulevard received this funding through improved valuations. So far, the US-focused company has reported 188 percent growth in annual recurring revenue from a year ago, with more than 25,000 individuals using the platform in 2,000 salons and spas across the country. It’s also a big market — and, in Dana’s estimation, still with a lot of untapped business — Boulevard cited figures that predict personal care and beauty sales will surpass $1.4 trillion, and the spa sector will surpass $150 billion, both by 2025.
The market gap Boulevard is building to fill is one-man bands, independent salons and big chains all running into the same problem. Personal care is exactly that—private and personal—and so it’s been difficult for personal care specialists to use scheduling tools to organize it. Individual clients have different requirements, treatment may take more or less time, and specialists are not robots whose timing is predictable.
Dana and founding CTO Shane Stavropoulos previously worked together at Fullscreen as head of product and head of engineering. They were early on with that idea: Dana describes it as “creator tools for YouTube before YouTube built itself,” and says they came up with the idea for Boulevard as a joke between them. “I was teasing. [Sean’s] He was telling me he needed a haircut and saying he didn’t have time to call for an appointment. Understand that there are many misunderstandings that need not be present in the process: why Do they have to make phone calls these days?
“We started to worry about that,” Dana continued. They decided that this was what they would establish and build as a business.
Then things turn to investigative, civilian clothes. Dana, the pair of UCLA students researching, goes from living room to living room asking questions about what works and what doesn’t work in their workplace. They have built a picture of why so much is done offline. In short, it was about “product optimization,” Dana said. Specialists and their salons wanted to register properly, and salons weren’t completely offline either. About half used some software on-premise or in the cloud, but none of them did any trick for the salons or their customers.
Their solution was to give users more control over how they could build and customize appointment lengths for clients, such as specific treatments and specialties, and let each booking in turn affect how the rest of the day’s schedule looks (not unlike Google Maps and the block) under a different set of traffic conditions. A calculator used to estimate travel times for vehicle routing, Dana explained). Over time, the plan is to help each consumer (customer) build their own profiles that can be applied to any booking they make at a particular salon, and possibly elsewhere as well in a marketplace style.
The resurgence Boulevard has seen through the pandemic is another sign of interest in the market, and perhaps a sign that its customers and the industry as a whole are more recession-proof than some have thought. Dana said Boulevard’s business had an inevitable hiatus in the second quarter of 2020 as Covid-19 caught on, but “it was coming back after that quarter.” Although it is a group of workers of different shapes.
“All the businesses we work with are making 15% more revenue than pre-pandemic, despite 20% layoffs,” he said. “It was a big change.”
It will be interesting to see how and if that continues as Boulevard continues to expand internationally. But now the investors believe that they are on a solid footing in the domestic market.
“As the self-care industry continues to grow, so will technology’s role in creating seamless experiences that keep customers coming back,” said Eddie Kang, partner at Point72 Private Investments, in a statement. “Boulevard has not only designed a beautiful and visionary platform that fills a pressing need in a fast-growing industry, but has built a thoughtful and customer-centric culture proven by world-class retention. We are excited to support the Boulevard team as it continues to grow. Kang is joining the board this round.