Tokyo-based startup Coubic, which launched a cloud-based solution earlier this month, has raised 50 million yen (approximately $500,000) from DCM and GREE Ventures last week. Their app helps companies and retailers receive booking requests from their customers, as well as manage their schedules on any device.
Some might say that using a simple web form would be an adequate way to collect booking requests from your customers. So how can Coubic can add value here? We had a chance to visit their new office in Shibuya to speak with the company’s co-founder and CEO Hiroshi Kuraoka to find out more.
Over the last few years, many startups have launched cloud-based services to serve business’ back office operations. Some of them include:
- Freee, Money Forward (accounting)
- BizNote Expense by CrowdCast (expense reimbursement)
- MakeLeaps, Misoca (invoicing)
What’s unique about these services is that users don’t require technical expertise, and time-consuming work can be done even on tablets or smartphones. So what about front office operations? When companies or retailers set up an online form to receive appointment requests from customers, they typically use a web form and sort received requests using a tool like Excel, and import them to SalesForce or other enterprise systems for customer relationship management. As for marketing, it’s also difficult to find an easy-to-use solution.
So there isn’t really any stand-out cloud service that lets businesses complete all their front office operations. This space is a so-called red ocean because there are many ways to address the problem, but many of solutions are not technically easy to implement. So the company has developed a solution that focuses on appointment reception.
Their users include a variety of business, including hair salons, yoga studios, cooking schools, lawyers, and accountants. Customers can book appointments on your Coubic page, typically linked from your own web site. If you have the Coubic iOS app on your mobile, you will receive a push notification when a customer requests an appointment. When you launched the app, you can make a follow-up call to the customer and add the appointment to Google Calendar. Kuraoka explained:
The app’s user interface delivers a responsive web design to customers, so that they can book appointments on smartphones or tablets as well as via desktop browser. The dashboard for businesses is also available on mobile. You can complete every task on mobile, from setting up a reception page to managing appointments.
Their dashboard lets you view appointments, with each appointment associated with the profile of the customer that made it. So you can easily learn how many times a customer has visited your shop, or how many months have passed since the last visit. In other words, it becomes a CRM (customer relationship management) asset.
Back office operations are essential for any companies regardless of scale. Front office operations can help make make your business more profitable, but things will work even without them.
Compared to cloud-based back office services like accounting SaaS, our service is less essential for business and so we can’t charge so much. That’s why we have to take a big share of the market. Appointment booking is needed everywhere in the world. […] So I think global expansion would be relatively easy.
With that in mind, their platform was already available in English and Korean as well as Japanese at the time of launch. They are exploring the possibility of global expansion beginning with Asian countries.
In this space, we’ve already seen BookFresh a service acquired by mobile payments processor Square back in February. But I think Coubic has no direct competitors even in the global arena. The funds from DCM and GREE Ventures could certainly help with their global business expansion.