Tuesday, June 23, 2015

1871 Alum WHITTL Raises New Funding

Whittl slices off $3.3 million in new funding

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Hemant Kashyap, left, and Mike Zivin
Whittl is betting there is room in local commerce for more than just deals and discounts.
The Chicago-based tech company just raised another $3.3 million, led by Origin Ventures and KGC Capital, Richard Kiphart's investment fund. Other investors include OCA Ventures, Amicus Capital, GrubHub co-founder Mike Evans and Drummond Road Capital. Two years ago, the company raised $1.3 million.
Whittl, previously called MyServista, began in 2012 by offering pricing information online for spas, salons and other local merchants. But its business started to take off about 18 months ago when it began offering the ability to schedule appointments.
The company has signed up more than 1,000 merchants in Chicago and has been seeing bookings grow 20 percent month over month, says co-founder Hemant Kashyap.  Whittl started out at 1871 but moved on to larger space in River North. It has more than doubled in the past two years to 13 employees and expects to double again this year.
The funding will allow the company to expand from Chicago to as many as five cities over the next year, says CEO Mike Zivin.
"We started with pricing (information), but it's grown to much more than that,” he said. “Now it's time to take what we've learned in Chicago and expand it.”
Scheduling has become a hot area of local e-commerce, says Peter Krasilovsky, an analyst based in Ashland, Ore., at BIA Kelsey. “We all see the opportunity, but there's no one who owns that space,” he said. “The spa space is one where you have core clients and can upsell them, and they come back.”
San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Mindbody, which sells software that health and fitness clubs use to run their facilities, went public last week. 
Whittl's competitors include San Francisco-based MyTime.
Zivin said the average Whittl user comes back to merchants monthly, but Kashyap said 40 percent of bookings are made outside merchants' normal business hours. When users book an appointment, they provide a credit card to pay, although payment happens only once the customer receives service. Whittl gets an unspecified cut of the transaction.
“Signing up merchants was easy—we only make money when they get a customer,” Zivin said. “We don't discount their services. That appeals to small business. Consumer retention is what we watch. The repeat booking rate is fantastic. For them, it's utility and convenience.”
Zivin said Whittl plans to expand into other industries beyond salons and spas.

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