Putting an End to the Dark Ages of Local Businesses

Posted on Oct 3, 2013 | 60 comments

Putting an End to the Dark Ages of Local Businesses

It’s stunning to me how quickly we take for granted certain conveniences in our lives that go from Eureka to minimum expectation.

Take OpenTable.

In the old days we used to call a restaurant to book. The hostess worked from 4-10pm so you had to call during these hours. Between 7-10 she was busy seating guests so had to put your on hold. After hours there was the answering machine. She entered you reservation by writing in a time slot in a paper calendar and you were in. As long as they didn’t lose the book or make a mistake.

It sounds crazy, right? Of course you now book when you want and even choose your restaurant based on availability at the time / day you want and you can book on your mobile phone at 2am or 8pm.

Yet for everything else we’re still in the dark ages and people have accepted that. Haircuts, nails, massages, trainers, chiropractors, dentists – you name it.

I’m certain those days are done.

But it’s not as easy as you think to be “the OpenTable of X.” For starters OpenTable had an advantage in that the restaurants back then needed an IT system to help with table management (the restaurant layout, table configurations, etc.) and there was certainly less competition from everybody pitching local merchant solutions.

That is what we set out to solve at MyTime. [and of course I use “we” loosely as the hard work of course was the entire MyTime team sans me]

Today they announced the mobile version of their product – I’d be grateful if you would download it and give it a spin.

It got quite good reviews in the media: TechCrunch, LifeHacker & PandoDaily and many others.

And today it was listed in the Best Apps of the Week by Apple.

The team has put in a huge effort to get to this day – and I hope they’re sleeping well tonight.

We spent a year (2012-2013) building a merchant acquisition machine and all of the systems to support bookings, calendar integrations, location services, etc. and then took the lid off of the product by announcing the company – I wrote about that here.

We then spent much of 2013 proving out the merchant model in one city – Los Angeles. We built “book it now” functionality in LA and then San Francisco.

When all of that was built we knew the next major step was to figure out how to go national on a cost-effective basis and – of course – how to make this available on your mobile phone.

The team methodically worked on how to build a database of national vendors by business type, location, product type, hours, etc. We now have 2 million merchants listed across 70 vendor types. Across all major cities you can now request an appointment and it will be booked automatically for you on MyTime.

MyTime Wins Launch

And this week they unveiled V1 of the MyTime Mobile app. I am stunned at the speed at which the team cranked out this application while at the same time building out an entire suite of merchant solutions to help them better manage customers.

As some people have pointed out, “Not every local merchant has a computer at their place of work.” Ah, but that’s exactly the point. With smart phones everybody does. And of course our solutions will be designed to work with merchants through their smart phones alerting them through notifications when they have books or cancellations or even allowing them to push out a 50% off notice to nearby customers when they’re not busy.

If you want to get a quick sense of the app there’s a short screen cast here that make it obvious what it does.

They unveiled the app the the Launch conference and unanimously won 1st prize by all 10 judges. I sort of feel it was unfair to allow somebody as experienced as Ethan to even compete since he had at his last company won TechCrunch 50 and the Business Insider startup competition in the same year by launching RedBeacon (he was the founder & CEO).

It was made live today in the App Store – it’s free so give it a test drive. I’d love to get some feedback. The more people that use the product the more it is designed to improve the utility to everybody as we convert “request an appointment” services to “book it now” city-by-city, vendor-by-vendor.

MyTime AppLocal business are complicated to build and require capital and know how. It’s a major challenge but when successful they are surprisingly hard to unseat. We have an entire dev team dedicated solely to calendar integrations, for example. This is critical as you need to be able to show realtime inventory ultimately to succeed – reading / writing to calendars isn’t good enough.

And the nirvana services for both consumer & merchant alike is being able to automate things like appointment reminders or even auto-rebookings (haircut every 6 weeks), message notification (haircut tomorrow, don’t forget), etc.

We’re betting that MyTime can bring you the advantages of OpenTable to every other type of service business.

I’d be delighted if you gave it a try. Let me know below what you think of the concept or the product.

Top Photo Credit.

  • Amir Homayoun Rafizadeh

    Great article Mark, You might want to check out PrettyQuick in Chicago. They are the opentable of spa and hair salons.

  • http://www.rluxemburg.com/ rlux

    Well, good luck, but until there’s an Android version I’ll be looking at other options.

  • http://www.papriika.com/ Guy Lepage

    Was referring to the world actually but yeah.. I still make mine by calling in as some restaurants don’t use OpenTable. It will definitely get there though.. Can’t wait. :)

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com/ awaldstein

    Some, not that many.

    Question though Mark though is that Open Table was able to get the vendors to float for I think 30 days and that float is the key to the business.

    Is this one doing the same?

  • CMKelly

    Great clarification, Mark! This is a point that’s hard to explain with the constant drumbeat about “minimum viable product.” MyTime’s MVP required more than a splash page to actually be useful. Would it be fair to say the MVP was building out the infrastructure in LA?

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com paramendra

    About time for MyTime. :)

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/ethanranderson Ethan Anderson

    @cmkelly yes, the infrastructure to support complex businesses with multiple locations, employees, and variations of their services (and integrate them all into 20+ calendar platforms) took a tremendous effort from the team, and that’s why we waited to launch mobile apps.

  • http://www.pingup.com/ markslater

    its API.

  • http://www.pingup.com/ markslater

    we tried that a year ago…..see you in the market!

  • http://www.EyeOnJewels.com/ Darius Vasefi

    I think this is a great product/service and seems the team has done a fine job building the backend and the app.

    The demographic that can benefit are the same ones that built Open Table, Groupon, living social, square, etc. etc. so there is no shortage of customers and users and benefits are real on both sides. I’d pay close attention to making search relevant and intelligent and the experience not too cluttered which often happen as companies evolve and are under pressure to grow. (quality vs. quantity)

    Would also be great if I could pro-actively be notified when an appointment opens up for a service I need. For example getting my car serviced today vs. waiting for next week.

    And as a user I’d prefer to have one app that handles as many appointments as possible rather than one for restaurants, another for automotive, etc.