Zeel Brings On-Demand Massages to Your Home, Office, Hotel, or All Three
New York is one of the most stressful cities to live in, so it’s no surprise that the very first Massage On Demand® company, Zeel, was started here in NYC in 2010. However, Zeel’s same-day booking platform has proven so effective and popular that 11,000 licensed massage therapists have joined its network that spans across 100 U.S. cities (accounting for 70% of the U.S.). In addition to the at-home experience, Zeel also offers its massage-booking platform to hotels/spas and is building a growing B2B offering, enabling companies to offer scheduled chair massages at the workplace. AlleyWatch sat down with founder and CEO Samer Hamadeh, a serial entrepreneur (sold Vault.com in 2007), to learn more about how Zeel is changing the way businesses and individuals approach wellness. Tell us about the product or service that Zeel offers. Zeel is the Massage On Demand® company, and the very first company to connect customers with same-day, in-home massage therapists. Zeel offers on-demand, at-home massages in as little as an hour, 365 days a year, with start times as early as 8:00 am and as late as 10:30 pm. Zeel is also home to Zeel Spa®, the on-demand staffing solution for spas; Zeel Concierge, which enables hotels to provide in-room massage bookings for guests; and Zeel@Work, which brings chair massage, yoga classes, mindfulness classes (called Zen Performance®), and assisted stretch to companies, events, and workplaces. In-Home: With over 11,000 licensed massage therapists in its network, Zeel delivers on-demand, at-home massages to customers across the country. Booking is all done via the Zeel app and online at our website. Customers simply open the Zeel app, or go online, and select the time and place for their massage, preferred massage type (Swedish, deep tissue, sports, prenatal, or sleep; and single, couples, or back-to-back), length of massage (60- 75- or 90-minutes), and gender preference. Therapists then arrive with a massage table and music to transform your home into a 5-star spa. In-Office: Companies can use Zeel’s self-serve booking tool to bring chair massage to the office or interface with a Zeel account executive to book a larger, recurring contract consisting of 1-on-1 chair massage, yoga classes, mindfulness (classes and 1-on-1), and 1-on-1 assisted stretching. In-Spa/Hotel: Hotel GMs and spa managers use the Zeel Spa enterprise software tool to book therapists on-demand for an hour or for block projects of 3-8 hours. How is Zeel different? What sets Zeel apart from any other player in massage is an unwavering commitment to trust and safety, consisting of its consumer ID check and its rigorous therapist vetting process. All therapists are licensed in their state of practice, insured, experienced, and vetted by the Zeel team. Due to this protocol, Zeel accepts less than 50% of therapist applicants. What market does Zeel target and how big is it? Zeel is currently available in 100 US cities and covers over 70% of the population of the US. The company’s key demographics include the top 6.9% of HHI, predominantly ranging from 35-55 years old. Our female to male ratio is 50/50. What is the business model? Zeel charges a client rate per massage hour for home, work, and spa/hotel by zip code that is competitive with or cheaper than massage outlets in that zip code. Zeel then pays its providers an hourly rate that averages 60-70% of the client rate, keeping an average of 33% as Zeel’s take rate or net revenue. Therapists on the Zeel platform receive an automatic 18% tip. What inspired the start of Zeel? My wife had our two boys in a short period of time and I had just hit forty. We’re both very active (life-long athletes), but we still found ourselves searching for ways to optimize our fitness level and heal our aches and pains. Initially we launched as a platform for alternative wellness solutions – like massage, yoga, Pilates, and acupuncture; however, we quickly recognized a gap in the market for massages on-demand. We launched the app shortly thereafter, but we never expected that we would be impacting an entire industry and the financial well-being of thousands of therapists who work within that industry (85% of them are women). How has your experience in the food space impacted Zeel? In early 2008, I joined the board (and made an angel investment) of Dotmenu, the campus food delivery service acquired by GrubHub in August 2012. Through my experience at Dotmenu, I saw the beauty of home delivery and envisioned the opportunity for combining wellness services with the GPS-based tech being used by Uber and the other early ride-sharing services. What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months? We’re very focused on raising a Series C and blowing out our B2B offering, which is really changing the way US corporations think about benefits and employee wellness. We’re basically saying, “give your employees moments of rest and relaxation in-office and at-home and you will accrue a significant increase in employee productivity and a reduction in absenteeism.” We’re very focused on raising a Series C and blowing out our B2B offering, which is really changing the way US corporations think about benefits and employee wellness. We’re basically saying, “give your employees moments of rest and relaxation in-office and at-home and you will accrue a significant increase in employee productivity and a reduction in absenteeism.” We’ve had employers already tell us that indeed, they’re seeing these very effects already. A few HR managers half-joke that everyone shows up on Zeel wellness days to get a chair massage, attend a yoga class, or participate in group mindfulness. What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got? I’ve always struggled with the counsel around work/life balance. I’ve been a CEO since I was in my mid-twenties, and more than two decades later, I’ve learned that most entrepreneurs are not going to be able to work and play in equal parts. We’re driven by our vision and this vision emboldens us to work around the clock for our investors, customers, providers, and teams. This work ethic doesn’t mean I don’t ever take a vacation; it just means I’ll be sitting at the pool with a laptop, cell phone, and stack of papers, or I’ll play a short round of golf when the office is less busy and then get right back to work. I’ve generated some pretty decent ideas fishing in the lake or hitting golf balls with my sons. If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why? Most politicians. I’d like to remind them that many of us have made our life’s work out of helping regular New Yorkers get employed and ideally, financially stable. Why did you launch in New York? I’m not going to quote John Lennon here, but as a long-time New Yorker, I think there’s an energy here that just can’t be replicated. Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after-work drink? We have a small bar in the living room of our apartment. It’s a gathering place for all kinds of discussions, debates, and the occasional televised Stanford sporting event. I started a company that delivers the spa to the home, so clearly, I prefer things at home.