Ezybook's star is on the rise, having done more than half a million online bookings and scored tech honours.
Ezybook founders Ben Fernandez and Wayne Rudd describe their investment in their business as ‘sweat labour’ – and that’s certainly how it started. A keen badminton player, Fernandez noticed his club had a real need for an online booking system to avoid double-booked courts and make life easier.
After it took off for the club in January 2009, the pair realised it was time to take it wider than just within the club. In May that year it went live, and now they’ve done more than 500,000 bookings.
The business has been so successful, says Fernandez, because it’s solving a real problem a lot of businesses struggle with – dealing with client bookings. And now everyone wants to be able to book online, but not everyone can afford to build their own booking platform.
“We’ve seen a growing trend in booking behaviour with more and more people wanting to make bookings outside of normal business hours, and wanting to do everything online,” Fernandez says.
There’s also the capacity for reducing ‘no shows’ via email and text message reminders, which in turn helps businesses’ costs.
It’s been hard yakka, says Fernandez, with a few ‘trial and error’ sales efforts.
“We’ve found that the most successful approach has been direct sales – in fact, that accounts for about 75 percent of our client base. As our client base and the number of users of Ezybook have grown we’ve also seen a steady increase in the rate of organic growth.”
The pair are also focusing on customer segments where they experienced early success, and are looking at building on that to enter international markets. Ezybook recently launched in Australia, a market that is a focus for 2012.
To date they’ve been the sole shareholders and have been able to fund the development themselves: “Being a cloud-based internet service our overheads are very low so the main investment has been ‘sweat labour’ put in by both Wayne and me. Our current plan is to fund future growth ourselves through the growing income of the business.”
Adaptability is key, though. They’ve tweaked their financial model several times since launching. Ezybook runs on a transactional pricing model: there’s no setup cost, no fixed term, but business pay a per-booking charge and a fee per text message reminder.
“The more bookings they have, the more they pay. Because of our financial model we have the same driver as our clients – get them more bookings and we earn more – a real win-win.”
For the first two years running the business, they both had day jobs, but since late 2010 both Fernandez and Rudd (Fernandez pictured) have been full-time in the Ezybook engine room. “We’ve never really looked back since going full-time,” Fernandez says.
Aside from reaching the milestone of their 500,000th booking, they also scored honours in last year’s Bright Ideas Challenge, winning the ICT category, and were finalists in Enterprise North Shore’s Business Excellence Awards in 2010 in the Excellence in Technology category.
It isn’t all sunshine and cork-popping though – they’ve had some cliffhanger moments, such as in the aftermath of the first Christchurch earthquake, when they expected their service would go down. (Ezybook’s cloud-based service net24.co.nz is located in Christchurch.)
“Of course, we freaked out, assuming our service would go down, and that our phones would be ringing hot with unhappy customers. The amazing thing is that with all the earthquakes we didn’t experience a single outage! There was one week when Ezybook was running on diesel, but this was all handled without our customers noticing a single thing.
“In fact, during the almost three years our service has been live, we’ve had 99.976 percent up-time for our clients – something we’re really proud of.”