Bookn’tell is the first friend referrals engine for local service providers. Bookn’tell provides a community that allows users to find and book service providers (eg hair dressers) based on friends’ reviews rather than searching through reviews from people you don’t know. And unlike existing recommendation sites, whenever a member makes a booking for a service provider based on a friend’s recommendation, the recommender gets a 25% discount on his / her next booking with that same service provider. And businesses that join Bookn’tell are expected to generate more leads and increase loyalty and retention.
Bookn’tell was founded by Yonatan Sela WG’14 and three co-founders based in Israel – Israel Krush, Amir Pintow and Yair Finklestein – and was selected as a semi-finalist in The Wharton Business Plan Competition.
WJ: What motivated you to launch Bookn’tell?
The story of Bookn’tell started when I (Yonatan) couldn’t find a hair salon or a house cleaning service in Philly through Google or Yelp. I began asking classmates for recommendations, and shortly after had a clean house and a new haircut… At the same time Amir was planning his wedding, and ran into similar problems looking for a photographer, DJ and other professionals.
The aha moment came after my (Yonatan’s) friend moved into his apartment building, but he missed a $500 (!) reward since he didn’t submit a referral form in advance… We realized that referrals are still almost entirely offline and that the referrer (the customer) was not deriving much value from his or her recommendations. We decided why not reinvest the money directed towards customer acquisition to the customers / referrers themselves, rather than paying it to Google or Yelp ads?
We then recruited Erik as UX expert and designer and Krush as CTO (accomplished programmer and great personality fit, who we met through a mutual friend).
WJ: How has Wharton helped you get Bookn’tell off the ground?
Wharton has been instrumental in helping Bookn’tell come to fruition. OPIM614 pushed us to interview and survey users early on, and helped us develop the basic product design (though we never made it to through the voting in class – so please don’t get discouraged if that happens to your idea too). MGMT806 gave us specific deadlines to complete a full business plan, which helped us solidify longer term planning. The Wharton Business Plan Competition helped us refine our model, address specific challenges raised by the judges and test some of our assumptions with experienced investors.
Professors Kartik Hosanagar, David Bell and others helped us think through some of the marketing and sales challenges we are facing. In addition, these professors let us present Bookn’tell in classes, and this proved to be a very effective way to get the first users on board. Finally, we found the Wharton community to be an ideal environment to launch an app with, as it is a supportive and closely connected group of people where word of mouth travels fast.
WJ: How is the pilot at Penn going?
Since our iPhone pilot launch two weeks ago, we’ve gained great traction at Wharton; we’ve recruited 400 MBAs, nearly 40% of Wharton’s iPhone user base. Our user base has made recommendations for dozens of local service providers and many booked directly through the app (nearly 10% conversion rate, which is above our expectations before the pilot). We’ve also launched the pilot across Penn. We keep iterating on the product, releasing a new version of the app every week and adding more types of businesses.
We continue to spread the word about the app through fun viral videos, sweepstakes , Facebook & Twitter campaigns and more.
WJ: How do you anticipate scaling the business?
We are hoping that we can use the success of the pilot at Penn to prove the concept to investors and raise a seed round. We plan to use the seed funding for a full launch in Philly or NY later this year, followed by expansion to two additional Northeast cities before scaling the business nationally.