Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to getting your hair appointment or other treatment… that’s another story: the bespoke nature of much of the work has meant that a large proportion of the professionals providing these services have remained offline when it comes to interfacing with clients.
But that is changing, and today, Boulevard – one of the waves of software companies that is building a path to digitize appointments, message customers and accept payments for hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, service providers facial and skincare services, and others in the world of beauty and wellness services – announces that it has raised $70 million in funding, a signal of shifting demand and of the traction that this particular startup is getting in the space.
The funding, a Series C, will be used to continue to grow Boulevard’s product and engineering teams and to create more tools targeting an ever-expanding set of users in the broader wellness and health sector. beauty (those product additions are usually big – he recently added a brand new checkout feature). This round is led by Point72 Private Investments, with participation from former backers Toba Capital, Index Ventures, Bonfire Ventures, BoxGroup and VMG Partners.
This brings the total raised by the company to approximately $110 million (per PitchBook data) since the creation of Boulevard in February 2016; and while the startup won’t disclose its valuation, CEO and co-founder Matt Danna said in an interview that the figure has tripled since last summer — particularly notable, given the current pressures in the tech industry and financial markets in general.
To be clear, Boulevard faces plenty of competition — other big names include Zenoti, which at the end of 2020 was valued at over $1 billion; Booksy, who PitchBook estimates were valued at just under $540 million in November 2021 after also raising $70 million earlier that year; and Fresha, which was valued at over $640 million at the end of 2021, among many others.
But at the same time, Los Angeles-based Boulevard got that injection of funding at an increased valuation because it’s been on a roll. Focusing on the United States to date, the company said it saw 188% growth in annual recurring revenue from a year ago, with more than 25,000 people in 2,000 salons and spas around the world. countries now using its platform. It’s also a huge market – and by Danna’s estimates, with plenty of untapped business still – with Boulevard citing figures that forecast personal care and beauty sales topping $1.4 trillion, and the spa exceeding $150 billion, both by 2025.
The gap in the market that Boulevard is filling is that one-person groups, independent salons, and large chains are all struggling with the same problem. Personal care is exactly that – personal and individualized – and so it has been difficult for personal care specialists to use planning tools to organize it. Individual clients have different requirements, treatments can take longer or shorter, and specialists are not robots whose time management can be predicted.
Danna and her co-founder, CTO Sean Stavropoulos, previously worked together at Fullscreen as Head of Product and Head of Engineering, respectively. They were at the start of this idea: Danna describes it as “creative tools for YouTube before YouTube built them itself”, and he said they got the idea for Boulevard from a joke between them. “I was making fun of [Sean’s] hair and saying he needed a haircut, and he was telling me he didn’t have time to make an appointment on the phone,” he said. They realized there was a lot of friction in the process that didn’t need to be there: Why Did they need to make a phone call these days?
“We started obsessing over it,” Danna continued. They decided that would be what they were going to tackle and build as a business.
Things then took an investigative turn, in civilian clothes. The couple posed as UCLA students doing research, Danna said, going from salon to salon asking questions about what worked and what didn’t work with planning at their workplace. They built a picture of why so much was still done offline. In short, it was about “maximizing yield,” Danna said. The specialists and their salons wanted to be perfectly booked, and the salons weren’t completely offline either. About half used on-premises or cloud-based software, but none did the trick for either salons or their clients.
Their solution was to give users more control over how to create and customize appointment times for clients, based on specific treatments and specialists, and for each booking to in turn affect the appearance of the rest of the day’s schedule (much like Google Maps and the constraint solver used to help estimate the travel time for the vehicles route in a particular set of traffic conditions, Danna explained). Over time, the plan will also include helping individual consumers (customers) create their own profiles that can be applied to all bookings they make with a particular lounge, and perhaps potentially elsewhere as well, in style of the market.
The rebound Boulevard has seen in the pandemic is another sign of demand in the market, and perhaps a signal that its customers and the industry in general are more resilient to the recession than some might have assumed. Danna said Boulevard’s business took an inevitable break in the second quarter of 2020 as COVID-19 took hold, but “it was bouncing back in a quarter of a time,” he said. Although it is with a set of differently shaped workers.
“Across all the companies we work with, they are making 15% more revenue than before the pandemic, although they have lost 20% of staff,” he said. “It was a big overhaul”
It will be interesting to see how and if this continues to unfold as Boulevard considers international expansion. But for now, it’s a startup that its investors say is firmly entrenched in its home market.
“As the personal care industry continues to grow, technology will also play a role in creating seamless experiences that will keep customers coming back,” Eddie Kang, partner at Point72 Private Investments, said in a statement. “Not only have Boulevard designed a sleek and visionary platform that addresses a pressing need in a rapidly growing industry, they have also built a thoughtful, customer-centric culture validated by world-class retention. We are delighted to support the Boulevard team as it continues to grow. Kang joins the board with this round.