By Samer Hamadeh, Founder of Zeel
I’m often asked why I run a technology-enabled massage company. Here’s how Zeel Massage On Demand came to be.
I’ve always been interested in wellness and health. I’m an athlete, of sorts – an amateur basketball player, as well as a runner and weightlifter.
I’m a serial entrepreneur and have led and/or sold a series of companies, including Vault.com, a career information company (and one of the first online companies to sell PDFs on demand) and Campusfood (which we sold to GrubHub).
I found as I got older that I wasn’t bouncing back as quickly as I liked from aches and pains. I turned to various remedies that have been historically considered alternative health or wellness: acupuncture, yoga, massage. I decided my next startup would focus on wellness and healing, and founded Zeel.
At first our focus was on providing a vetted, curated directory of licensed wellness providers, ranging from massage therapists to yoga teachers to acupuncturists. Almost immediately we were flooded with requests for massage, and on very short notice – 55% of requests were for within 4 hours. The industry wasn’t set up to accommodate this kind of last-minute booking at the time, even though it seemed like most people wanted it. Massage was something that one booked a day or more ahead of time at the local spa or gym. And if you wanted a massage from a licensed therapist later in the evening or at the last minute, you were pretty much out of luck. Lastly, if you wanted the most convenient massage possible – in-home – it was virtually impossible to find except through luck and word-of-mouth.
That’s why my team and I hit upon the idea of creating Massage On Demand in the summer of 2012. At that time, mobile technology was getting to the point where on-demand services could be easily delivered. Uber was gaining popularity, but booking massages on your phone, especially in-home massages, still seemed silly to a lot of people.
Here’s how we made it work. First of all, we recruited the best licensed massage therapists – all of our Zeel Massage Therapists are licensed in their state of practice, and fully vetted by the Zeel team. They are screened, background-checked, and chosen for their excellence.
Second, all our therapists receive further training in reaching the highest Zeel standards of customer service and experience.
Third, many of our Zeel Massage Therapists were nervous about going to customer homes and hotels, so we made sure to implement best-in-class security for our therapists as well as our customers.
The result: We booked our first Massage On Demand in December 2012 and never looked back. The majority of our bookings were for within four hours of the first request time, and many were for as little as an hour.
In April 2013, we launched the Zeel app for iOS and Android. You can now book Zeel Massage On Demand by app or on zeel.com, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (including holidays), for start times as early as 8 am and as late as 10:30 pm. Originally Zeel bookings were only same-day, but you can now book up to a month in advance. You can book Zeel Massage in the greater NYC area, including Westchester and Long Island; Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County and Palm Springs; the entire San Francisco Bay Area; and South Florida, from Miami to Palm Beach.
Our customers can choose their ideal massage: Swedish, which is great for stress relief and improved circulation; deep tissue/sports, which is ideal for fatigue, injury, and workout recovery; and prenatal massage, which eases the aches and discomfort of pregnancy. Couples massages are available too. Finally, we have a premium membership, Massage Zeelot, for our massage “frequent flyers,” which includes a Zeel Massage each month plus a professional-grade massage table.
I always call massage one of the few win-win propositions in life. So rarely does something feel good, that’s also good for you. The majority of Zeel customers actually book Zeel Massage for therapeutic reasons, not just for a relaxing treat.
The good news is that scientists are finally catching up with what massage therapists and massage customers have known for a long time – that massage heals. For example, studies have now proven that massage can significantly reduce inflammation after strenuous physical activity. Inflammation is what causes pain in soft tissue and slows healing and rebuilding of muscle. Other studies have proven other benefits of massage. Massage improves circulation, which is great for performance and stamina. Certain massage modalities also focus on lymphatic drainage, which reduces swelling around stressed joints and flushes toxins from the body, improving mobility and overall wellness.
Finally, massage, just like exercise, is a great stress reducer. Massage has been shown to decrease cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body, improving mood and alleviating symptoms of stress and depression.
The best part about Zeel is that we really help people heal. Top-quality massage is so difficult to access or schedule for busy people, and with Zeel, we’re bringing the best in massage, on your timetable, literally to your doorstep.
Try us out: I’m inviting Sweat Life readers to take $25 off their first Zeel Massage with code SWEATLIFE. Enjoy!
Samer Hamadeh is the Founder & CEO of Zeel. Since December 2012, Zeel has delivered Massage On Demand — top-quality massage from licensed, vetted massage therapists — to homes, hotels, workplaces, and events in as little as an hour. Booking, scheduling, and payment for an in-home massage is simple with the Zeel app for iPhone and Android.
Samer sits on the board of the non-profit PeaceWorks Foundation and is a board observer, angel investor, and/or advisor in nearly two dozen early-stage companies. He is also a mentor at several accelerators, including Blueprint Health and NYCSeedStart, as well as a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO)'s NY Metro chapter. A David Rockefeller Fellow, Samer holds a BS in chemistry and an MS in chemical engineering from Stanford University.