Zwivel: A Case of SaaS Making You Look Good (no, literally)

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A Softletter Mobile Applications Business Case Study

Company Zwivel LLC
 HQ 45 Eisenhower Drive, Paramus, NJ  07652
 Market/Industry Health Care/Cosmetic Medicine
 Company Principals Gary D. Breslow, MD and CEO, Scott Kera, COO
 Founded/Years in Business Founded 2012;  Launched January 2015
 Company Development Type Privately held, privately funded
 % of Revenue Growth Over Last Years 15
Notable Customers Rod Rohrich, MD, prominent plastic surgeon in Dallas, Texas and Editor of Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Grant Stevens, MD,  prominent plastic surgeon in California, Paul Nassif, MD, prominent facial plastic surgeon in California and star of TV show Botched, Yan Trokel, MD,  – prominent cosmetic doctor in NYC, creator of famed “Y Lift, Stephen Greenberg, MD, prominent plastic surgeon on Long Island.
Company Milestones Number of doctors signed up for the service: 12,00. Unique site visitors per month: 25K
Contact Info Website: www.zwivel.com

Background

plastic_surgeryIn the 20th century, plastic surgery was a strange and exotic technology, reserved for movie stars, spies, the fabulously rich, and mad scientists. Famous public figures who went under the knife in an attempt to augment nature’s natural gifts include Marilyn Monroe (chin), Gary Cooper (facelift), Jennifer Grey (the world’s most infamous nose job), and Cher (everything).

All snarking aside, plastic surgery has also improved the lives of war veterans damaged and scarred in battle, victims of spousal abuse, children born with cleft palates and other correctable defects, and countless numbers of people who want to look better than they currently do (at least in their eyes). Today nose jobs, tummy tucks, breast augmentation and a whole host of other procedures are available to the middle class.

Plastic is typically paid for by the individual, not your employer. That’s why plastic surgery, LASIK, and any other surgical procedure not controlled by the U.S. government healthcare bureaucracy has dropped in cost significantly over the years. Today, cosmetic surgery is relatively cheap, becoming cheaper and in recent years has gained in popularity with a not insignificant number of high-tech workers who are attempting to prolong their careers in the teeth of the industry’s relentless ageism. To give you a feel for market demand, The Amercian Society for Esthetic Plastic Surgery reports the yearly demand for plastic surgery rose 2% to 3% since 2007 and through the recent recession. In 20014, approximately 16M procedures were performed in the U.S.

The current boom as driven demand for an “app for augmentation, Zwivel. Many people are sensitive about the decision to under this type of surgery and consults are time consuming. Zwivel solves this problem by enabling surgery candidates to securely connect with local surgeons in their area via their smartphones/tablets/computers and virtually consult with them from any location. After taking a look at the company’s model, we believe it will extend well beyond the cosmetic surgery industry. We contacted Zwivel’s co-founder and CEO, Dr. Gary Breslow, to explore this new mobile app and now it matches doctors with patients.

Doctor, how does Zwivel work?

Once the app is installed, a person can go online, pick an avatar, and record a video and/or pictures about what augmentations or corrections they want. The information they upload is HIPPA protected. The list of candidates who wish to consult, though not their personal information, is posted to doctors, usually local. At that point, the surgeons and prospective patients can consult on a peer-to-peer basis online and discuss their requirements and expectations. You can think of Zwivel as Match.com for cosmetic surgery.

What’s the need for this app? What problem were you trying to solve?

In cosmetic surgery, 60% of consults don’t result in a procedure. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many people have exaggerated ideas of what plastic surgery can achieve, and many people aren’t good candidates for surgery. But a typical in-office consult takes 45 minutes to an hour and the time wasted is very frustrating to doctors. And expensive.

Some doctors try to deal with this by charging a consulting fee, but this is very strongly resisted by many prospective patients and leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

From the prospective of cosmetic surgery candidates, who are the primary subscribers to Zwivel?

Ninety percent are women and Zwivel solves a real problem for them. Many have to juggle jobs, children, and family. Finding the right match for a plastic surgeon can be very time consuming.

How have conversion from consults to procedures improved via Zwivel?

Under the old model, out of 10 consults, three typically booked. With Zwivel, four out of 10. More importantly, a typical consult now averages between 10 to 15 minutes. And if the candidate decides to come in for an in person consultation, the conversion rises to 85%.

What platforms do you support?

iOS and Android. On iOS it’s a native app; the Android system is a wrapped app.

You’re a doctor, not a programmer How was it built?

It took us six months and two sets of development houses before were able to get started. Finally, my physician’s assistant said she thought her boyfriend might be able to help me. He’d previously built a cloud-based job services systems. He come on-board the company as the COO and was able to develop a U.S. based development group who work for us on a contract basis. Once we had our team in place, we were able to deploy the first version of the product in six months.

How are you monetizing Zwivel? When your company first contacted me, we were told the service was free.

We’re monetizing in several ways. First, via paid subscriptions. We releaesd the free version initially as part of our research into how the system would be usesd. “Founding” subscribers will still be able to use the free version, but new versions with enhanced features will require you to subscribe. A basic paid subscription is $495 per month. Plastic surgeons typically spend $5 to $10K per month on all forms of advertising and SEO and have no problem with that price.

We’re also building an advertising platform into the systems. For instance, we’re rolling out a new Zwivel Match search for doctors that enables them to filter for patients that meet a certain profile or are interested in specific procedures. Doctors will be able to bid in specific keywords used by surgery candidates. We’re also adding trigger ads; based on search terms, specific ads will be displayed to site visitors.

We’ve also created a Zwivel widget they can mount of their website that allows the platform to provide only their information. In addition, our emails to doctors and subscribers contain links which operate on a CMP or CPA basis.

Are you using a subscription service to provide the above?

No. We’ve built our advertising platform in house.

How are you marketing Zwivel?

We’re in the App store of course, but as we all know, that’s a narrow band channel. We’re not yet in the Google store.

We’ve found that running TV ads on certain networks in the evening such as Bravo, Lifetime, E, and others is a very effective way to reach our audience. We focus on purchasing what are called in the industry remnant ads, last minute buys where you can purchase on air time for as much as 90% off the rate card. You can also do with this radio, another effective medium for us. Tradeshows are an effective venue for Zwivel as well. Ultimately, we think patient demand and word of mouth are going to drive our growth.

How did you develop the name Zwivel? Via a naming company?

We came up with the name internally. We were discussing the back and forth process that occurs between a doctor and candidate and the term “swivel” came to mind. Then we decided replace the “S” with a “Z” because it’s cool. Internally, we use the term as a noun.

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