Massage

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Commerce


I had, without a doubt, the best journalistic assignment a reporter could ask for on Monday.

My task: Leave work early to get a 60-minute private massage in my apartment, an assignment that took all of two seconds to accept, and only that long because I had to ensure I wasn’t being hazed (I am the new guy, after all).

The goal, which I nearly forgot to write after an hour on the table, was to get a grip on the latest example of the instant gratification economy run amok. This time, it’s Unwind Me, a massage-booking service that will launch publicly this morning at Y Combinator’s semi-annual Demo Day in Mountain View, Calif.

Which is to say: It’s now apparently time for the massage-trepreneur.

The service is about as close to on-demand as you can get — I booked my massage at 12:30 pm and was on the table in my living room by 4 pm.

Massage reservations have been available online for a while now, of course, but the overall trend to create the “Uber of X” is a strong one these days, echoing the push-a-button-get-a-car service.

But becoming the “Uber of massages” isn’t the ultimate goal, said cofounder Akaash Achreja.

“That strikes us as a fad or a trend,” he explained, noting that most Unwind Me customers schedule one to three days in advance. Instead, the startup wants to simplify the entire process, from payments to scheduling, in one central location. In less than five minutes — even quicker once you’ve set up an account — you can have an in-home massage paid for and on the schedule.

In typical San Francisco fashion, my massage therapist, Liam, arrived on his bicycle, lugging nearly 50 pounds of gear along with him. He typically rides two to three miles for appointments, but has traveled upward of six miles each way on multiple occasions. With a decade of experience under his belt, Liam started with Unwind Me in February as a way to pick up extra appointments while working at a local massage studio. It’s now his full-time job: He books several massages a day and regularly does five appointments on a Saturday or Sunday.

liam-w-bike

Kurt Wagner/Recode

In-home massages aren’t revolutionary; Liam says he’s been doing them his whole career. Unwind Me brings a number of other major benefits to the table, he says. For starters, it pays better. Of the $89 flat fee per massage, Unwind Me only takes 15 percent, leaving more than $75 for the massage therapist, as much as three times the amount Liam says he would earn at a spa. Unwind Me also handles the dirty work — billing, scheduling and marketing.

“Those are the big three things that I hate,” he said.

Just as Uber and Lyft use social profiles to help users feel safe when taking rides with strangers, Unwind Me serves as a safe, reliable middleman for in-home massages, requiring all customers to sign up with Facebook. The company knows where a massage therapist is going, and customers are welcoming trusted, licensed massage therapists into their home. Liam was even required to send an alert to Unwind Me when he left my apartment, letting them know he was safely out the door.

Since Unwind Me started in January, it has fulfilled about 300 massages per month, says Achreja. Unwind Me is limited to San Francisco at launch.

While it seems like a luxury still, Achreja doesn’t want to be seen as a service strictly for the one-percenter. The $89 price tag (which includes tip) is comparable to, if not better than, nearly all of the local spas I found on Yelp.

Unwind Me’s biggest downfall, it seems, is it has no mobile app, an element I assumed was a requirement for any consumer startup these days. Plus, an app would be the easiest way to hook massage-ready clientele.

After all, who needs a midday massage more than those who spend their day constantly working from their phones?




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