Recruit Holdings acquired Wahanda last week, following on from their Quandoo acquisition two months ago. After introducing and working with Kazumase and his team at Recruit over the last two years it is great to see both these world-beating marketplaces join Recruit.
It has been almost four years since we invested in Wahanda (I was at Fidelity) and it started as a daily deals business. Groupon’s IPO a month later was the biggest US web IPO since Google and the thesis was to leverage the million email subscribers and thousands of salons on the platform into a marketplace with real time bookings.
Health and beauty services are a huge and highly fragmented market (95% of salons are single site) so the reviews, ease of booking and amazing customer experience stood out to both consumers and salons giving amazing growth when we launched booking. However, none of us appreciated how rapidly the daily deals business would turn and within a year we shut daily deals down entirely.
This had a big cash impact and in contrast to Quandoo, which charges up front for its software, Wahanda gives it away in exchange for a higher commission and therefore required more upfront investment. Lopo (the fabulous CEO) and the team (and we investors!) persevered and by 2013 the trough was past and growth was again the focus with Klaus Nyengaard (Just Eat) and Chris Wood (OpenTable) joining the team.
In July 2014 Recruit invested, as part of their global push to extend their local commerce expertise in Japan. This funding allowed the acquisitions of Salonmeister in Germany (Oct 2014), Lemon Labs in Lithuania (Jan 2015) and Beautycheck in Austria (April 2015). With strong unit economics, multiple growth markets and an excellent mobile product there was a strong case for further investment and Recruit decided to bring this in house.
I‘m delighted for Recruit, Lopo and the team at Wahanda, my former colleague Davor at Fidelity and all the others who brought Wahanda to this point. I wish those who are continuing the journey the best for the future and I live in hope that one day I’ll look as good as Lopo always does for these photos: