INTERVIEW by REBEKAH ALLEN | PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of ZOCDOC FOUNDERS
Quitting a stable, successful job and starting a free online service might seem pretty risky to most, but to Cyrus Massoumi and his fellow co-founders, it was the natural thing to do. Turns out their hunch was spot on, and today we can thank them for ZocDoc, where finding a good doctor in your area is as easy as logging in. Now ZocDoc can be found in 11 of the biggest cities in America, and it’s only continuing to expand. I caught up with Cyrus to learn the secrets behind one of healthcare’s biggest assets, and after hearing what he has to say, it’s no surprise that ZocDoc is spreading (and healing) across the nation.
What was your background pre-ZocDoc?
I worked at a company called McKinsey & Company as a consultant, and prior to that I ran an internet company down in Austin, Texas.
For those who are unfamiliar with ZocDoc, can you give us a rundown of the site?
ZocDoc is the most convenient way for someone to find a doctor who accepts their insurance and book an appointment instantly online. It’s completely free for them to come to our site, and they just type in where they’re looking for a doctor, what kind of doctor they need, and they automatically get a list. They can sort by who accepts their insurance, what procedures they need done, see pictures, read reviews. It’s as easy as buying a book on Amazon.
How did you come up with the idea for ZocDoc?
Well, I was on a flight about four years ago, and when my plane landed back in New York I ruptured my eardrum. I wanted to find a doctor on short notice and started calling down the list on my insurance company website, but I had several problems with that. It ended up taking me four days to get a doctor’s appointment, which I thought was a little ridiculous, so I went to one of my co-founders who is a doctor and I talked to him about this idea for ZocDoc. I said, “Look, we do everything in our lives on the internet — booking travel, booking restaurants, buying groceries. Why can’t I find a doctor this way?” And he said, “You’re right!” So we quit our jobs and started ZocDoc.
That sounds like quite a gamble!
Everything in our life was secure, and it seems like it would have been a very difficult decision, but it wasn’t for us. It made perfect sense. It was something that we had to do.
You seem to have a very positive employee response. How did you get your team together?
Early on, my two co-founders were both people that I knew for many years. We hired a number of people through employee referrals, but most importantly, people have just applied to our site. We spent a lot of time recruiting, and we hired less than 1 percent of the people who applied for a job on ZocDoc, so we are very selective about who we bring on.
You’ve been written about by the New York Times, NBC, and CNN, to name a few. How did you advertise the site to get on their radar?
We were very fortunate that we launched at the original TechCrunch40 Conference back in 2007. It gave us a lot of exposure to folks, and from there we focused on search engine marketing, search engine optimization, that kind of stuff. But really what we found is that we offered a great service, and it started growing virally. The traffic started snowballing. And as we began expanding beyond New York, people started to take more notice. Now we’ve just closed on a 75 million third round of funding, and it’s given us the money to take ZocDoc nationwide and even global. So as a result of that, we’re starting to get a lot more press, which is great.
How do you pick which doctors you feature on ZocDoc?
We credential every doctor that comes up in ZocDoc. There were some doctors over time who may have been on probation, etc., and we just chose not to let those doctors onto the site. Actually, one of the interesting things about the site is that we let patients give their opinions and experiences with the doctors. In fact, we’re the only site that I’m aware of on the internet where one hundred percent of the reviews are coming from actual patients of ZocDoc, as opposed to sites where people are able to leave a review on themselves, or a doctor they might not have known, or a competitor. You have to actually book the appointment on ZocDoc before you can leave a review of that doctor.
What do you think ZocDoc can do to change the future of health care here in America?
I think as we started the business, the intent was really to solve my specific problem and similar problems for people. However, we’ve come to realize that if you look at health care reform, there are 30 million new patients who now have access to health care as a result, and there are no new doctors. Now, data suggest people on average wait twenty-one days to see a doctor. What we are able to do is let people know in real time if a doctor’s available, and then within the same day or the next day they can find the one or two doctors out of a hundred who may have open availability or last minute cancellations. We believe that ZocDoc is almost going to be a necessity for people accessing health care in the future, and we’re expanding as fast as we can to meet that demand.
What’s the future of ZocDoc looking like?
If I was to sort of extrapolate out ten years, we would hope that ZocDoc has massively improved the access to care globally. Our company mission is to really just make it easier for people to see a doctor when they need one, and simplify that process as well.
I saw you were hiring. So could people who read this article potentially apply?
Absolutely! Our headquarters is in New York, but we’re hiring all over the country. One of the things we pride ourselves on is we were named the Best Place to Work in all of New York City this past year.
Is there anything else BR!NKers can do to partake in the site and its success?
Well, of course, if you need a doctor’s appointment we’re happy to provide you with one. We have forty different medical specialties depending on the city that you’re in. But for those people who are in a city that we are not yet launched in, we actually have a very interesting way that we expand. We let people vote for where they want us to expand to next, then we literally tabulate the votes, and it helps guide our marketing expansion plans. I definitely encourage you to come on to ZocDoc and do that!
What’s it like to see something you took such a risk on doing so well?
Well, I think I speak for my co-founders when I say we think we have the world’s best job. We’re really blessed that we’ve had such good fortune with the business, but we really think it’s just the beginning. We have so much opportunity in front of us to improve accessibility across the U.S. and internationally that I think it’s hard to take a step back and appreciate it because we have so much work left to do!