This startup wants to give you a 15-minute massage at work, and it's already signed up Facebook and Microsoft

MerlinKauffmanSoothe (2)SootheSoothe CEO Merlin Kauffman

All you need to get a professional massage is a table and a licensed therapist, but much of the business still goes through spas, which have to pay a premium for office space.

That was the realisation that led Merlin Kauffman, a serial entrepreneur who had been getting massages since he was 10 years old, to found the on-demand massage startup Soothe in 2013.

You can think of Soothe like an “Uber for massages.”

To get a Soothe massage, all you have to do is open the app, request a massage, and the licensed and insured therapist will be at your door in less than an hour. The going rate is $99 per hour, $70 of which goes to the therapist, which Kauffman tells Business Insider is three times the average rate they would get working at a spa.

Soothe at Work

On Thursday, Soothe announced the next big step in its business plan: corporate massages. “Soothe at Work” functions slightly differently than the consumer service. The first big difference is that most of the massages will be done in chairs versus on tables, which Kauffman says makes more sense, both for the office environment and for the 10-15 minutes he sees as the optimal time per-employee.

The pitch to employers is that massages will increase productivity and happiness for workers. Unsurprisingly, so far Kauffman says he’s had the best luck with companies with a strong tech focus, signing up heavyweights like Hulu, Facebook, and Microsoft.

“Everyone leaves their massage looking refreshed and truly grateful for the opportunity to get pampered at work,” Gina Forrest, Benefits Specialist at Hulu, said in a statement.

Business Insider got a chance to test out the service, and it did indeed feel pretty luxurious to get a quick 10-minute massage at work. I’m not sure we were more productive afterward, but we certainly felt less stressed. And even if companies don’t sign up as a recurring service, I could see Soothe taking a little bit of the edge off if workers are feeling frazzled after a big productivity push.

SootheBusiness InsiderBusiness Insider’s test of Soothe at Work

Smoothing demand

For Soothe, the business offering isn’t just about opening up a new market, but also about smoothing out demand. Both Kauffman and the Soothe therapist I spoke to said that demand for consumer massages spikes on the weekends and after work hours. This can be good if someone wants to work during those times, as it makes sure they can always book a massage. But it also leaves a vast swath of the day with significantly lower demand.

Soothe at Work aims to fill that gap.

Soothe has been in the midst of a rapid expansion, and now operates in 35 cities including founding city Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Soothe now has thousands of therapists in its network. These therapists are all approved individually by Soothe, after an in-person trial, and Kauffman says 40% are rejected, mostly because they simply don’t have the right “feel.” All applicants are licensed, which means they have 500+ hours of training.

Looking forward, Kauffman says that while he wants to continue Soothe’s expansion, he also wants to try and cut down the time you have to wait for your massage. One hour is pretty speedy already, but Kauffman wants to get it down to 30 minutes eventually — or less, depending on how close the therapist is to you.

Soothe has raised $47.7 million in funding, most recently a $35 million Series B round in March.

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