The Beauty of Leaving the Corporate World Behind

Entrepreneur Alex Meyer is the co founder of a beauty booking website, phone line and app which are revolutionizing the beauty service industry

Co-founder, Alex Meyer is the man behind the Australian roll-out of the online beauty booking platform, Vaniday who left a secure life in the corporate world to realize his dreams as an entrepreneur.

Just over a year ago and Alex’s passion for technology, disruption and innovation saw the former investment banker transition smoothly from a corporate business to the world of startups.

Today, under Alex’s direction, Vaniday has become a go-to digital destination for women across Melbourne and Sydney who want to secure beauty and wellness appointments quickly and conveniently via an app, beauty salon website and a phone hotline service.

And whilst this product has been billed as ‘the new Airbnb for beauty’, Vaniday has also become an customer acquisition tool for salon businesses and beauty professionals throughout the region.

I don’t miss a single thing about the corporate world, I wouldn’t go back for anything.‘ – Alex Meyer, co-founder and MD of Vaniday Australia

Here, Alex tells Nativa World about his entrepreneurial journey, why he left the investment banking world and how he’s helping to shape the future of online beauty…

Alex, what does the word ‘Achieve’ mean to you?

Much too often our actions are dictated by short-term needs and our visions clouded by immediate obstacles, achievement comes down the road and is measured by sustainable and positive impact.Overall I think my definition of achievement can be summarized by this famous quote from Isocrates: “It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement”.

Describe your entrepreneurial journey

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to do things my own way and liked to be disruptive, which proved difficult in a sector so established and normalized  such as banking. Having had the chance to advise fast-growing businesses and tech entrepreneurs it became very clear that I wanted to be a bigger part of the start-up revolution. My co-founder, Maxime Legardez and I came up with the idea for the business after thorough research into the rapid growth of the beauty industry as one of the largest and most profitable industries in the world. The beauty market was valued at $520 billion AUD in 2014 and expected to reach $630 billion AUD by 2018. Beauty is one of the few segments that has still not fully transitioned from offline to online yet. In today’s age one can easily book almost anything online or via an app. Making a reservation at a restaurant, booking a flight, requesting a taxi – it is all incredibly simple.

Maxime Legardez is the co-founder of Vaniday

I wanted to do the same for the beauty and wellness industry, and we saw a clear need for a better way for customers to discover new beauty professionals and salons, which makes businesses more accessible and profitable in the process.

What business skills were useful when you co-founded Vaniday?

Previously I was working in investment banking for about five years at an independent advisory firm in Paris. During that time I advised medium-sized European companies on mergers and acquisitions, with a focus on the internet and digital media sectors. This became the catalyst behind my will to build and grow a new disruptive business. I learned a tremendous amount of new skills along the way, especially just after the transition from the corporate world when the learning curve was extremely steep. Among those skills is the pure technical experience but also soft skills that are the most important such as learning to manage a young team in a fast moving environment and constantly adapting to drive it to success.

What’s special the pairing with your co-founder, Maxime?

Max and I have very complimentary profiles which make for a good combination. On the one side Max brings a lot of experience to the table in terms of developing fast-growing internet business, he sets goals and makes sure we deliver on ambitious targets while keeping a realistic and hands-on mentality. On the other-side I bring my experience in terms of execution of complex process and management. I’m able to apply the strategy to several work streams and adapt it to local needs, while always staying in details.

Have you had to adapt and pivot?

We constantly adapt to our market and customers and it’s by making mistakes that we are able to find solutions. We’ve made numerous changes in the business model along the way. Lately we have evolved from a pure marketplace model to also providing our partner salons with a complete salon management software solution, My.Vaniday. By extending on the beauty salon value chain we really hope to become a one-stop destination for our partners, from bringing new clients to managing appointments and their salon.

A woman using the Vaniday app during a manicure

What challenges have you both faced?

The biggest challenge we face every day is keeping in-phase with a market that is mature and competitive. Customers are extremely demanding and new competitors emerge. You never get a second chance for a good first impression so you need to be careful

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?

Waking up every morning to realize that everything you do is driven by passion and ambition and that there are no rules but the ones you impose on yourself. Sky is the limit.

Do you miss anything about the corporate world?

I don’t miss a single thing about the corporate world, I wouldn’t go back for anything.

What developments can we look forward to with Vaniday?

Vaniday is now present in six countries and four continents, with a rapid roll out expansion plan continuing for the next few years. Vaniday launched into Sydney in August 2015, and their Australian break through was swiftly followed by Melbourne’s opening in October. With 700+ salons signed up already across both cities combined, Vaniday has imprinted the country with its mark within the beauty and wellness booking sector. My five year vision is to continue to be a driving force in Vaniday’s global expansion and for the business to be the international beauty and wellness empire that we set it out to be. I won’t rest until we achieve this goal.

Moving forward we will be capitalizing on the continuous enhancement of the product and take its interactive platform a step further with the launch of ‘My. Vaniday’. This free software connects and streamlines the booking process between consumers and salons as well as equipping them with a complete set of tools for managing their businesses, including staffing, promotions, calendar scheduling and invoicing. The salon simply logs in and creates a profile. Then, they can commence planning and managing customer’s appointments online. Vaniday will soon be launching a referral program and a loyalty program to reward its growing user base.

The Vaniday app and handbag essentials

Vaniday´s business model won’t just be about creating a space to connect consumers and beauty or wellness professionals, but also to inspire them. Vaniday is moving towards becoming a complete beauty destination by bringing the latest beauty and wellness trends to consumers and helping them find the latest beauty news or tips and also connect them to salons offering these specific treatments.

We aim to be a rich content provider which will inspire consumers and offer them the possibility to adopt the latest beauty trends in one simple click.

Which apps do you use?

I use apps for convenience, for instant needs and for domains as varied as transports (Uber, Citymapper), travel (Airbnb, Skyscanner, Tripadvisor), sports (Runtastic) and well being of course with the Vaniday app!

Which tech developments are exciting to you this year?

I think the tech scene is pretty unpredictable in terms of innovation but I’m looking forward to great advances in domains such as cloud computing, e-commerce or B2B softwares. In 2015 we saw the rise of dozens of unicorns and of new customer habits, the successful players will be those understanding the needs of their audience.

How is Vaniday a main contender in the startup world?

In the on-going start-up revolution consumers will increasingly be looking for more innovation and convenience, and for a perfect user experience, that’s why thanks to our value proposition we have great hope for Vaniday in 2016.

You can also find out more about Vaniday and where to download the Vaniday app in our Tech and Nourish sections.

Photography courtesy of Maxime Legardez, Alex Meyer & Vaniday