ZocDoc CEO on why there aren’t more health tech startups

When ZocDoc launched in 2007, CEO Cyrus Massoumi said some critics accused them of being “overly ambitious” in their vision of rethinking how patients reach doctors. Five years later, the company is not only used by more than 1.2 million people every month, it’s paving the way for an emerging wave of health startups.

At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York, he said that when the company was initially raising money, it was during the recent economic crisis. But by keeping their heads down and focusing, he said, they were able to build out their presence in New York, expand to other cities, and ultimately raise $ 95 million over the past few years. Over the past couple of years, the company has quickly added staff, adding 100 in the past year alone.

Looking out at the landscape now, he noted that it’s an especially interesting time in healthcare and for health tech startups.  “Healthcare access is one of the greatest challenges of our generations,” Massoumi said.

In the next couple of years, Obama-driven changes to the healthcare system could result in 30 million new patients coming online, he said, entering a market that already has a shortage of physicians. But even though healthcare is a $ 2.7 trillion industry, he added, “it’s totally under-represented in terms of Internet startups.” That might be because people were burned by earlier investments, he added, but it’s also because healthcare is a massive and complex industry. Changing how customers and vendors interact in the largest sector in the U.S economy is “a daunting task for any startup,” Massoumi said.

He also said that entrepreneurs sometimes look at the opportunities in healthcare too much as a patient and miss opportunities that address the needs of doctors or other players in the market. Surrounded by a family of doctors, he said he “became a doctor through osmosis” and viscerally understood the industry.

This week, ZocDoc announced that it had extended its service to Denver, the 19th city to join the platform. Other metropolitan areas (besides New York), include Austin, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

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