Welcome to Meet The Team! This is a series we’re starting on our blog to introduce the world to our Blys family. Since this is the first little episode we’re posting, we thought it made the most sense to start with the man behind the magic: Ilter Dumduz.
Ilter is the Founder and CEO of Blys. He is passionate about self-care and mindfulness and aims to improve lives by making health and wellness services more accessible.
As a recognised leader in Australia’s tech ecosystem with a strong track record in product management and growth, Ilter has been featured in Business Insider, TechCrunch and Startup Daily.
Prior to the conception of Blys, Ilter held senior product roles at some of Australia’s most successful technology ventures, including Domain.com.au and Freelancer.com. An active member of the Australian tech community, he is also a current mentor at Founder Institute, Entrepreneur-In-Residence at University of Sydney, and co-organiser of one of Australia’s largest product meetups: Product Hunt Sydney.
We sat down with Ilter to pick his brain. Here’s what he has to share about the conception, development, and execution of ideas that leads to true entrepreneurship.
How has digital disruption/technology created opportunities for Blys?
My background is in product and consumer tech so I’ve had a front row seat to technology led industry shake-ups. Tech innovations have not only changed industries but have completely revolutionised the way that we (as consumers) do day to day things.
A bit over two years’ ago though, I began to notice that the massage industry was lagging behind a bit in terms of accessibility and the overall experience both for customers and therapists. I noticed this as a consumer, after repeatedly facing pain points when booking a massage.
To start with, I never liked calling to book and would always beg my wife Kristen to call instead! Funnily enough, this is a common trend we see with guys! Other pain points included needing to book well in advance, not finding a time that suited my work/family schedule, and needing to travel to and from the clinic.
As a consumer, I could see the problem. The natural next step was to put on my product hat and start looking at how technology could be used to improve it.
Do you remember when you first came up with the concept for Blys?
Ironically, it was on a walk home after a massage! Turns out there were some benefits to the travel part. I used to go to a massage place in Bondi and would then walk the coastal route home to Bronte. This walk was my time for introspection and also my creative space to contemplate ideas and challenges. This is when I first started nutting out the concept of Blys and identifying how I could build a tech-enabled service that improved the customer experience 10-fold.
Thanks to Blys, you can now get your massage at home. Do you have a new post-massage routine for introspection and creative thinking?
Good question and yep! I normally book my massage for around 8:30/9pm once we have eaten dinner and put the kids to bed. After this, if I need to do some creative thinking and problem solving, I’ll chuck on one of my favourite Spotify playlists and find a quiet space at home to reflect. Other times, I might roll straight into bed and enjoy a quality night sleep instead. Getting enough sleep is tough as an entrepreneur so I’ll take it when I can get it!
What self-care strategies help you to focus, increase productivity and basically get sh*t done?
Meditation is a big one and I try my best to incorporate it into my daily routine. On a good day, I would get up in the morning, put on music, do some simple stretching to energise my body and then 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation. Sometimes using an app like Headspace, other times self-guided. After this, I go for a swim in Bronte before heading back home to help the kids get ready for school and head to the office. On other days, I might have been up until 3 am working with our global engineers to fix a problem with the app and all I want is an extra hour of sleep while my wife takes the kids to school. A morning routine is great but sometimes it just isn’t realistic. When it comes to self-care, I’m still learning but I am becoming better at listening to what my body needs and when.
Understanding what helps and hinders my productivity has become vital since owning a business. I think through this awareness and experience, I have become a lot more focussed and am better at dealing with stress. Going for a quick walk in a stressful situation, not chasing every little task, mastering the art of prioritisation and streamlining processes are all helpful productivity strategies.
What are some of the main challenges you face in a startup environment?
Self-doubt is a big one! It can even rear its ugly head when everything seems to be going well. Something small – like a 1 star review from a customer – might trigger me into second guessing myself. It’s in these situations that I need to remind myself to expand my perspective. Remember that for every bad review we have, there are hundreds and hundreds of 5 star ones, and that every feedback (good or bad) is a blessing as it helps us iterate on the product/model & ultimately improve the experience
While I absolutely love running and growing Blys, it isn’t easy! There are endless challenges, setbacks and you get your ass totally kicked, over and over again. In this two year journey, there have been days when I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed. It’s these same times though, that have forced me to learn and build up my resilience. These challenges have made me much stronger and taught me alot about myself as well.
Some other challenges that I’ve faced as a founder would be keeping everyone on board with the dream and vision. Constantly keeping up that positive vibe regardless of what challenges are going on behind the scene.
Lastly, learning not to chase the ‘new shiny toy’. There are so many opportunities and ideas in the early stages, it can sometimes be really hard not to lose focus. Luckily saying ‘no’ to an idea comes naturally to me which helps us remain laser focused on our priorities.
What has surprised you in your experience of launching and managing Blys?
I was really surprised at how quickly we took off. In the past year alone we’ve grown over 330% and while that’s the result of a lot of hard work, it still continues to surprise (and excite) me. For our first few bookings, I would drive the therapists around and wait for the job to finish and then drive them to the next booking. Thankfully I’m not doing that anymore as it doesn’t scream scalability. In the early days, it was still just me doing everything from product development, customer service, marketing, therapist recruitment and everything in between. Now we have a team of 15 people and over 500 highly qualified therapists.
The second thing that surprised me (and continues to surprise me) is how much I don’t know. I am forever learning, growing and challenging my assumptions. When I first started Blys, founders would tell me that it takes around 2 years to truly understand your business. I never really believed this to be true until now. We just had our 2nd birthday on the 17th of April!
What is your 3-year vision?
Blys will be a household name in Australia and NZ and have a footprint internationally. Anyone who wants a massage will simply ‘Blys it’. I would also love to have expanded into other health and wellness services across these locations. Last but not least, our awesome team and culture will have continued to evolve! We have a really strong tight-knit team now and it’s important to me that this culture and vibe continues to flourish as we scale.
Where do you see the industry going and what will be important as we move forward?
For on-demand businesses, it will be figuring out how to scale in a sustainable way. As part of this, we need to be able to grow to meet consumer demand while continuing to offer a unique and memorable customer experience. With this business model, the business doesn’t actually provide the service. This means it’s not as easy to control the end user experience. This is why it’s important to have processes in place like – thorough vetting of new therapists and consumer reviews – to help with quality control and rapidly build brand equity and recognition.
It will also continue to be easier for people to enter the on-demand market. As a result of out-of-the-box on-demand platforms, the barriers for entry are lower. This makes it even more important for businesses to continually be innovating and looking at how they can improve the customer experience. This doesn’t mean adding extra bells and whistles but instead designing the product and service in a way that removes existing frictions; making it easier and more enjoyable for the customer to reach their goal.
By the same token, technologies that I’m most excited for are things that have practical use cases and have the potential to remove friction points for the customer. An example of this would be voice search – “Hey Alexa, book me a massage” and other AI developments.
So there you have it – some wise words and key insight from our wonderful CEO Ilter. The Blys journey has only just begun, and we’re very much looking forward to what the future holds for us. Alongside home massage services, we also offer corporate office massage services as part of our mobile massage brand. Ilter and the team are passionate about making health and wellness services available to everyone, everywhere.
If you’ve enjoyed reading about Ilter, you can follow see more of him on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re a professional looking to connect with other industry leaders and entrepreneurs, you can find Ilter on LinkedIn.