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12 May, 2015 - 18:33 By Tony Quested

Appointment with destiny for Cleevely and Playford

10to8 co-founder Tom Playford

A young Cambridge dotcom that has created digital diary technology to take the hassle out of keeping appointments has expanded into the Far East and South America and says it is rolling into new territories every week.

10to8 says it offers security in handling private and business engagements that neither the public nor company executives would trust to Facebook. The co-founders of 10to8 are Tom Playford and Matthew Cleevely, who is also CEO. Their fathers – Nigel and David, respectively – battled to change the landscape of telecoms in the Cambridge cluster and the UK.

Friends since primary school days, Tom and Matthew founded 10to8 with a noble ambition – “to rid the world of wasted time.”

Tom Playford said: “We envisioned a world where no one missed their commitments; no forgotten medical appointments, no late meetings, no last-minute cancellations or disappointing no-shows. We developed software that means much less effort to organise your time.”

10to8 creates bespoke appointment booking systems for small businesses such as accountants, health therapists, beauticians, music tutors and the like. The system is available as a web-based service and as an iPhone app and is free up to a limited number of active appointments; clients include the University of Cambridge and Neal’s Yard Remedies.

10to8 has just released two new APIs (application-programming interfaces), which mean that developers can now integrate the booking system into business websites. The booking process is seamlessly integrated with their own business process; customers won’t be taken off site to to make a booking.

Playford said: “We’ve had lots of requests from customers who want to tweak something about the way 10to8 takes their bookings and that’s understandable – every business is different.

“We’ve helped them as much as we can, but with the new Booking API, digital savvy business can design their own booking application whilst still allowing 10to8 to do all the heavy lifting  – finding free slots, managing working hours, sending SMSs, calendar syncing, mobile views etc.

“The other API we’re launching is a bit of an experiment. It’s a really simple REST API which allows you to book 10to8 appointments with only the email address of the customer.”

Co-founders Matthew Cleevely (left) and Tom Playford (right) with the 10to8 team
The 10to8 team with co-founders Matthew Cleevely (left) and Tom Playford (right)

10to8 is currently angel and customer funded. A few Cambridge investors have backed the enterprise but with Cambridge and London offices, the investor profile is UK-wide and the client portfolio international. Playford said: “We’re growing but we want to grow faster and that’s our main focus at the moment.

“Longer term, we see ourselves as the trusted broker between businesses and their customers. Entering and updating the same tedious details every time you book a new appointment will be a thing of the past.

“We see ourselves as an ally customers can trust to guard their privacy and someone businesses can trust to look after parts of their customer communication. I don’t think I would trust Facebook with that.

“We’re seeing strong international demand with the Far East and South America providing the greatest growth at the moment. We’re rolling out to new countries weekly.

“It’s all about keeping  the cost of customer communication low and predictable in new territories. 10to8 is free and we want to keep it that way for 95 per cent of the customers in all the countries we launch in.”

Playford says there is the potential to greatly expand the technology proposition but 10to8 is intent on understanding – sometimes anticipating – and then meeting customer requirements. He said: “In terms of what we can do with the technology in future, we have a list as long as our office – in fact longer – we measured it. But it’s all about making sure we can develop things that our customers will actually use and in a way that will scale.

“Integrations with as many systems and APIs as possible is probably highest on our list of priorities. We want to make it easy for our customers to get the information they need in and out of 10to8.”

The company already has a headcount of 12 but says it is growing fast. Whether it sets up overseas offices is an issue for another time. “We’ll see where demand takes us but Cambridge and London suits us very well at the moment,” Playford said.

10to8 not only reflects the time of day that the founders had their lightbulb moment but also, as Playford explains, “Most of our customers used to take 10 minutes booking an appointment – we got it down to 8 seconds.”

The new generation Playford and Cleevely entrepreneurs have known each other for some time. Playford says: “We first met at primary school and I was the best man at his wedding on Saturday! We get on very well and it’s great to be able to work together on something so exciting.”

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