Among fintech companies, there is often a common thread. Many began with the needs of a vertical in mind. Then they create a solution from the ground up that meets those needs.
Usually, however, the people who develop software for these companies are already programmers.
Not so with Mindbody, the software company that caters to health, beauty and wellness businesses. According to Chet Brandenburg, MINDBODY’s chief product officer, the story begins with one of the company’s co-founders, Blake Beltram. He was looking for software to support two exercise businesses.
Unsurprisingly, he found that existing solutions didn’t serve the needs of the studios he was shopping for. So he decided to create something himself.
An actor by profession, he bought a book about Microsoft Access and trained himself to program with it. And the first version of MINDBODY’s software was born.
Those humble beginnings paved the way for innovation to continue. In January, MINDBODY launched the pilot of a fitness booking integration with Google.
Users search for a class or appointment in the pilot area using Google search, Maps, or a Reserve with Google web site. They then complete the booking through Google as well.
And last week at Mobile World Congress, MINDBODY received a 2017 Global Mobile Award given by GSMA, the host organization, for Best Mobile App for the Connected Lifestyle.
The MINDBODY app enables consumers to use one login to find, book, and pay for classes and appointments. They’re able to access the more than 60,000 companies on the MINDBODY platform through the app.
Scheduling to payments, soup to nuts
The app is a recent development, having launched in 2013. MINDBODY’s primary function is helping wellness studios, salons, spas, and other health and beauty businesses with their operations.
“It handles every aspect of running your small business, from scheduling to payments, whether those payments are your customers buying online or through your web or mobile apps, or handling those payments in card-present transactions at the front desk,” Brandenburg said.
“A lot of our clients also do memberships, where they’re storing the billing information and doing recurring autopayments. So all that has to be integrated into the solution.”
Beyond the customer-facing capabilities, MINDBODY clients also need to be able to manage payroll and conduct other accounting functions. The MINDBODY software delivers both back-office and front desk features, Brandenburg said.
MINDBODY began accepting payments to fill an emerging need in 2003. Brandenburg said that the company found that its clients wanted to offer online booking. Many of them require payment in advance to hold an appointment or a spot in their class.
“To enable online booking, we also had to tackle payments,” he said.
To enable both one-time and recurring payments for its clients, MINDBODY has chosen to operate through an ISO model.
“When you think of an ISO traditionally, you’re thinking about a sales agency or a sales organization,” said Brad Greene, vice president of commerce for MINDBODY. “We really do so much more. We’re really that integrated platform that handles everything, soup to nuts. And then gateways the actual transactions into our payment partners.”
The decision to operate as an ISO vs. another model is a designation that, for MINDBODY, has little effect on the services they can provide for their clients.
When it comes to the possibility of being a payment facilitator, he said, “it’s something we continue to explore. I think we’re open to basically any model that can enable us to deliver more value or better support our clients. But to date, this model has worked very well for us.”
Expanding alongside a growing market
The company reported $6.5 billion in gross payments volume in 2016, Greene said. That number was up from $5.1 billion the year before.
MINDBODY operates in 130 countries. It is focusing on expansion within eight English-speaking regions: the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, Greene said.
He is optimistic about the growth opportunities for MINDBODY.
“We think the market is still very untapped,” he said. “We think there are a lot of existing wellness businesses that are using just pen and paper or maybe some combination of Excel and QuickBooks and Microsoft Outlook, so we think there’s still a great untapped addressable market there for us to go after.”
In addition, Greene said, new wellness businesses continue to pop up.
“Those new business owners need a solution and oftentimes they’re not professional businesspeople. They’re practitioners. They were once personal trainers, yoga instructors, or stylists, and then they decide to open up their own business. And what we offer really helps get them going and simplifies the operation of business, and it helps them capture new customers, retain existing customers,” he said.