Cyrus Massoumi’s ruptured eardrum inspired the creation of ZocDoc, a site that allows patients to locate and book doctor appointments online. It’s as simple as entering your zip code and insurance (if applicable), and in seconds, ZocDoc shows you doctors near you with availability by the hour. You can check out their educational background, specialties and read reviews from other patients.
Co-Founders: Cyrus Massoumi, Oliver Kharraz, MD, Nick Ganju
Founded: April 2007
Financing: Series A: $5M; Series B: $15M
Progress: 100+ employees, serving New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington DC and San Francisco
How did an earache serve as the inspiration for ZocDoc?
In January 2007, I was working for McKinsey and ruptured my eardrum on a flight. I needed to find a doctor right away, and I was surprised by how difficult it was to find a doctor online who could treat me within a day or two. Each doctor I called from my insurance company’s website was booked for weeks. I just thought, There has to be an easier way.
I enlisted my friend Oliver, who was also at McKinsey, to help me build the idea. Oliver’s a physician and, at the time, was an expert at McKinsey on practice management systems that doctors use to keep track of their records.
We started researching the opportunity and quickly built a prototype.
What is the business model?
The service is free for patients. Doctors pay $250 per month. The fundamental service we provide for doctors is to help them see more patients and take some of the administrative burden off their office staff. Thirty percent of doctors use hard-copy calendars and scheduling systems, so we allow them to take advantage of our custom digital-calendar tools. The remaining 70% use 1,400 different calendar systems. Our engineers have figured out how to integrate our technology to be compatible with all of these systems.
Would you ever consider charging patients?
We’ll never charge patients for our core service of locating and scheduling appointments. Down the road, we might be able to offer some premium services to provide an even better customer-service experience to our most loyal patients.
What was your initial philosophy on financing?
My co-founders and I had all started companies in the past, so we weren’t entirely new to fundraising. Based on our collective experience, we worked hard to bootstrap as long as possible. The three of us went for 18 months without salaries. Once we launched the site and demonstrated we had some interest, we started with an angel round.
After two successful rounds of VC fundraising, what advice would you share with up and coming entrepreneurs?
You should never raise money when you need it. Just do the best you can to keep your burn-rate low. If you can take the time to build value for your company, you’ll avoid dilution later on when funders come in.
In 2010, Crain’s named ZocDoc as the Best Place to Work in NYC. What is your philosophy for recruitment?
Vinod Khosla gave us some great advice. He said the first 20 employees are the most important employees you’ll hire because they’ll set the tone for everyone to come. And he was right. But the really ironic thing about being the best place to work is that we had to fire some people in the beginning to get there.
Firing people is never fun. What have you learned about talent management?
I think it’s really important for start-up founders to stay disciplined about recruitment, especially in the beginning, when you have little to no bandwidth. You might say, “I’m so busy, let me just hire this person now because they’re good enough. I’ll hire the person I really need later.” That’s absolutely the wrong way of thinking. If things are successful, that person will wind up doing something important pretty quickly. You have to get really comfortable with firing people. It’s never fun, but you have to let people know where they stand and not getting too upset about ruining the family, so to speak.
ZocDoc has a clear set of company values. What are they?
- Patients first – I view our company as a social enterprise in the sense that we’re fixing a patient problem, and hopefully patients will reward us with their loyalty and referrals; yes, doctors pay us, but patients are our customers.
- Great people – Hire employees who are better than yourself.
- Own it – Everyone should act like an owner. Take days off only when you need to, and expense what you need to as if it were your own money.
- Us before me – Everybody pitches in everywhere. There isn’t a single job at this company that is beneath any one of us.
- Work hard – Our people apply 200% to everything they do.
- Make work fun – If it’s not fun, why are you here?
- Speak up – If an employee disagrees with something we’re doing, I want that employee to tell me. We have smart, high-energy employees, and I want to make sure we get the best ideas out.
We want to be in every city in America as soon as possible. We’re also very interested in ZocDoc growing internationally. Our aspiration is to be as big asGoogle or Microsoft. Our market is that big. We have the potential to be that big. It’s just a matter of how long it takes us to get there.
Are there any start-ups out there that impress you so much that you think to yourself, wow, I kind of wish I started that…?
For me personally, I think I have the world’s best job because we’re doing something really innovative and we’re helping people. I want to work here for the rest of my life. Health care may not be as sexy as Facebook, but when you need medical care, it’s the sexiest thing in the world.
For now, we’re just focused on delivering results, expanding and hiring amazing people.
Visit ZocDoc: www.zocdoc.com