Urban, Europe’s no.1 on-demand wellness app continues to realise its goal of becoming a one-stop-shop for wellbeing, adding more services to embrace a spectrum of self-care.
A year ago “Urban Massage” underwent a transformation. Before that point, the company had been an enterprise for home massage treatments. It became Urban, an infinitely scalable suite of on-demand wellness services with its sights set on global expansion.
Urban then secured a US$10m round of Series B funding in May, backed in-part by a major crowdfunding effort led by London’s Accelerated Digital Ventures (ADV) and joined by backers Passion Capital and Felix Capital. That took the total investment to date to $21m, and Crunchbase named it one of the 50 hottest tech companies for 2019 a month later.
School friends Jack Tang and Giles Williams first discussed the idea of Urban in an Ealing living room in 2014, determined to fix a massage industry which seemed unfair to practitioners.
An on-demand home massage service was a win-win, it seemed. Users could access treatments faster, more easily. And practitioners could earn a bigger cut of customer price, without the cost of marketing themselves and the nagging worry of landing bookings – though they’d hang on to all the freedoms of running their own businesses.
Three months after going live in 2014, the company raised £200k in pre-seed investment from Passion Capital. A second round of seed investment with Passion and Firestartr followed a year later, totalling £1.3 million.
Series A funding at £4.5 million, led by London’s Felix Capital and with the participation of Silicon Valley Bank, came in 2016, which the company used as a springboard to launch in Paris. By 2017, Urban Massage had provided its 200,000th treatment. Then its 350,000th by that time the following year.
Wellness is difficult to define, but you can certainly get a sense of when you’re feeling well. Perhaps you’re more productive, or you find stress easier to manage. Suddenly there’s room in your routine for “looking after yourself”, and doing things you’d otherwise put off.
With that principle at its core, Urban naturally challenges the ‘‘treat yourself’ mentality prevalent in pre-existing wellness institutions – the idea that you earn the right to relax or to visit a spa or a salon. The truth is, when you put wellness rituals first, you do better in all areas of life.
With Urban’s 2018 rebrand, the company began to address the issue of personal wellness. Wellness belongs to the individual, after all – no one thing works for everybody. If Urban was ever going to meet its goal of becoming a one-stop-shop for wellbeing it would need to have variety written into its DNA.
So Urban sprouted two branches – physical wellbeing and beauty. Its first new offerings were osteopathy, facials and nail treatments. It’s since added physiotherapy, hair, lashes and makeup – with waxing and male grooming in the pipeline – all with the aim of providing people with a route to feeling well that suits their circumstances and their personalities.