IrishCentral recently interviewed David Kidder, author of The Startup Playbook. During the conversation Kidder mentioned an up and coming Irish entrepreneur who had impressed him greatly, Martina Skelly, founder of Yellow Schedule, a scheduling appointment software solution.
The YellowSchedule platform with customers now in 31 countries, streamlines the entire appointment process from start to finish and allows customers to schedule securely in the cloud, take appointments online from patients 24/7 and send automated appointment reminders that require patients to reply with a Yes/No to indicate attendance.
So in short – more appointments, less no-shows and less admin time.
Skelly founded Yellow Schedule because, ‘Anyone who knows me well knows that I have real issues remembering dates. I miss birthdays, anniversaries and appointments constantly. A few years ago my eldest child developed hearing issues that were causing her problems at school, there was a very long waiting list for the specialist we needed to see. After waiting almost 6 months for the appointment we missed it because I had noted it down incorrectly. I was really annoyed at myself and my daughter wasn’t very happy with me either. We had to make another appointment and I was aware that I had added to the already lengthy waiting list for other patients. Mulling over the incident I began wondering how the appointments process could work better for both service provider and end user.”
“It struck me that we could book a flight to the other side of the world, or see the live room availability of a remote farmhouse B&B but most of us accessing local services such as physiotherapy, dental treatment, dog walking or car servicing still needed to pick up the phone to make an appointment.”
Skelly conducted a feasibility study on existing solutions and the market opportunity. She convinced her brother Michael, to join her team as co-founder. Michael had extensive development experience, security experience and global SMS Integration.
"If one door closes you kick another one open!"
There is a fundamental problem that Skelly has identified, with average no-show rates for therapy sessions here in the US at 20 – 30%. No-shows are a major source of lost revenue for the counselling sector as well as potentially reducing the effectiveness of some treatments.
The Skellys are perfectionists, and went against the customary recommended route of building a minimum viable product by taking the time to perfect their platform.
“We wanted to wait to launch a perfect platform both in terms of how it worked, full features, visuals etc. We went against the principles of lean start up theory at the beginning! We’ve were lucky in that we managed to create a very robust, bug free and scalable product. Our efforts weren’t wasted and we didn’t have to backtrack, but moving on from that we use lean principles to release new features and iterate improvements now.”
At the start Yellow Schedule tried to aim at all service industries. “To gain traction though, we realised that you need to serve one vertical really well, and to aim to become the default tool for that vertical.”
According to Skelly, ‘it is easy to build Online Scheduling functionality. However, it is very difficult to do it well and to take into account the many nuances associated with scheduling, while keeping the software easy to use. We secured our 1st US partner after they had tried, and failed, to develop their own scheduling software.”
Biggest challenge to date:
“Bootstrapping has been our biggest challenge and sometimes it’s hard to get people fired up about scheduling. It’s not seen as a sexy space, however we all make appointments and for the most part we’re using very inconvenient methods to do so.
This is a large addressable market for Yellow Schedule with an estimated 25m daily appointments made in North America. The Skellys believe that in the same way online booking changed the travel sector, making appointments is about to get a lot more convenient and their solution will be at the forefront of leading that change.
Advice for entrepreneurs: You need grit and determination and if one door closes you kick another one open!
As a CEO of a start up it’s too easy to spread yourself too thin, get caught up in admin and red tape and forget about the #1 priority which is sales and traction.
Try to get help with non-critical tasks early on and focus on strategy, sales and traction. Put your focus into where it will have the most impact for your company’s success.
Try to moderate the rollercoaster of emotions to make life more bearable for yourself. The lows are rarely as bad as they first appear and quite often the highs are not as good as they first appear!