Interview with Edward Lujan (Setster)
Setster is a web-based application that gives service providers and teams of professionals the ability to accept appointments online using a widget that can be embedded on any website.
I interviewed Edward Lujan, Setster founder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the hundred and ninth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Edward!
Describe Setster in under 50 words.
Setster is a scheduling platform used by professionals to manage their availability and appointments within their real time calendars. We provide this mission critical SaaS scheduling solution to businesses in all parts of the world and in almost every industry.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
Entrepreneur with pockets full of ideas, a head full of dreams and a heart hungry to see them come true.
Who uses Setster?
What is amazing is the range of businesses that use Setster. Besides the obvious ones like massage, spa, health, dental, accounting and fitness, we have priests, tutors, dog walkers, plumbers, home inspectors, computer repair, human resources, universities and the government.
Setster integrates with PayPal, and Quickbooks and Freshbooks for invoicing and keeping track of payments. Was this feature present from the start?
While not all features were present from the start, we did have a roadmap that laid out these features from the beginning. The development path was intentional in that we wanted to combine other value added services into our offering without changing anyones habits.
Congratulations on the release of an appointment scheduling API for DailyDeal companies. Has this been a long time in the making?
Thanks for your kind words. We saw an opportunity early on where deal marketers were bringing an extreme amount of business to our clients in a very short period of time. It was obvious that the merchants needed the platform but we needed a way to get it directly in their hands. The API was the proper solution.
What technologies have you used to build Setster?
I may get heat for this but let me tell you the technologies that I personally used to build Setster.
As a team, we use BaseCamp to manage our tasks and priorities down to the individual. Salesforce is our CRM and ZenDesk we use for customer support. I manage my daily tasks with OmniFocus which syncs to BaseCamp, iCal and my iPhone. I also use Dropbox and Evernote to communicate with team members. All are synced together. We use Mac’s keynote to mock up designs and from there; task the details to the engineers and graphic artists to make it look and work exactly as we intended. What tools they use to create the end product changes constantly.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Setster?
There are hundreds of puzzles in this technology. Behind the UI are algorithms that dissect availability from objects that need to be filtered between multiple locations, multiple services and availabilities within a synced calendar. Add on top of that add daylight savings time (some states and countries apply, some do not) and you’ll see that it’s many a sleepless night.
How long did it take to put together Setster?
This is version 3.0 of a 4 year old product. Our initial build was a simple widget that pushed .ics files back and forth into a flash calendar. Over time, we’ve adapted our technology to meet the needs of our evolving market. The current version reflects years of product development as we’ve fine tuned the offering to reflect where we believe the market is headed.
Who is your biggest competitor?
We compete in two markets, SaaS and Enterprise. We’ve found that because our architecture straddles both, we are running with both packs.
We are a little more expensive than other scheduling apps who are less feature rich. At the same time our enterprise level clients requires a more robust platform and development capacity. I believe that because we service both clients types within the SaaS environment, we have the advantage of being in both worlds.
We’ve done radically detailed studies on this market and every company in the space. From that research, we know statistically exactly what market share each of our competitors has in each industry. I can say with confidence that there is not one company servicing both the small business or enterprise solutions side, that has taken a definitive lead in this race.
How did you decide on the pricing plan?
We worked out a mathematical formula that treats all clients that grow with us equally. The best model was the one that was the most logical.
What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?
Would I really like to know now what I will know in 5 years? Wouldn’t that knowledge shift my experience and ultimately be my undoing? This is more of a philosophical question. From a practical standpoint, since I am happy where I am, it’s better to stay aware of my present and learn as much about the things I don’t know now so I reduce the odds of living in world where I have regrets.
Has Setster got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
Setster came out strong being the first company on the web to offer widget based booking, then appointment overlays, then payments for appointments, then invoicing and true calendar syncing. We’ve been fortunate that by leading with these innovations, we sparked great press coverage and have been able to achieve significant growth since launch.
What is your strategy for further growth?
We are focused on mobile and supporting it with our API’s. There are endless ways you can adopt appointment setting into an application. I’d like to see Setster integrated into more than one application on every cell phone in the world.
Where do you see Setster in 5 years time?
Our API is the standard that all applications deploying a scheduling solution use to publish into mobile, social and proprietary applications.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
I’m usually up by 5am, off to the office by 7:30am and heading home between 7 to 8pm. I spend many late evenings reviewing and planning for the next day. I truly enjoy the process of building a company to the point where the lines between hobby and work have blurred out completely.
When you’re not in the office working, where can you be found?
I’m lucky. I live near a trail head in Hollywood so I start or end my day hiking up a 1,300 foot high hill with amazing views of LA. My offices are 10 minutes away in West Hollywood in an area where technology, design, fashion and commerce intersect. Living in LA is great, there is always an adventure around the corner.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting up?
Get the company to generate cash fast and make sure you have the personal runway to hold on until you do. I’ve seen too many ventures fail because the founders can’t give up their lifestyle for the future of the business. Expect that for at least a while to humble yourself and live as frugally as possible. Invest back into the company, push hard and hold on with everything you have.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
If you walk down your main street right now, you can take a count of the total number of business that use online scheduling compared to how many of them should have online scheduling. Notice that there is a lot of room for growth? Recent success with daily deal and performance based marketing has shown these businesses that the internet can give actual results. The toolsets that provide and support these services are maturing and within that evolution sits Setster. Our time has come.
Can you convince the reader to start using Setster in under 50 words?
Automated scheduling is like a phone service into your business. If you are marketing online, scheduling gives your clients an immediate direct connection allowing booking an of an appointment when it is convenient for them. It’s a 24 hour personal assistant that schedules, handles cancellations and sends reminders automatically.
Finished reading? Check out Setster!