Entrepreneur profile: Xavier Bernal, Findoc

Having secured over 540 healthcare professionals to use their paid platform in London in two years and raised £1.2 million in funding, healthcare online bookings system Findoc is looking to expand outside of the capital. Company founder Xavier Bernal explains how he is trying to reboot the 'time-poor' healthcare sector.

French-born Xavier Bernal is sure to have inspired fellow entrepreneurs with his online booking platform company Findoc.

Having left school at 16 and finding himself sleeping rough in London, he was helped by a local church. He then set up two market stalls in Camden and later a shop in Queensway, West London.

After seeing a friend breaking his tooth in a nightclub, Bernal realised that accessing healthcare was found wanting, compared to booking a hotel room or a table at a restaurant.

Findoc-now in its third year-aims to improve access to healthcare for for patients, GPs and other healthcare professionals.

When was the company founded and what is its vision?

Having originated from France and after leaving school at sixteen, I began working for my father’s plumbing business. I then moved to London in 2004 where I found myself living on the streets. Eventually, after receiving support from a local church I found a job as a market seller in Camden. I built myself up, gaining two market stalls and later opened a shop in Queensway.

A friend’s tooth-breaking incident in a nightclub planted the seed for Findoc. The experience demonstrated what a painful process accessing healthcare is, compared to booking a hotel room or a restaurant for example.

There was evidently a gaping hole in the market for an efficient, direct, 24/7 online booking platform for health services. The Findoc adventure started in 2016 to address three main issues with the current healthcare service across the UK.

Over one billion medical appointments are booked in the UK every year, however there is a lack of a unified system that makes the process of booking and managing appointments online simple for both patients and practitioners. Compared to UK hotel bookings which amount to 200-million annually for which we have user friendly systems such as ‘Booking.com’.

For patients the process can be complex and time consuming. Often, they experience difficulties in the actual booking of appointments, and a lack of information and follow-up.

Thirdly, administrative tasks take up a third of practitioner’s time. For instance, 86 per cent of appointments are still managed over the telephone. This creates a considerable challenge in a profession that is notoriously time-poor.

Findoc aims to reboot the UK’s healthcare appointment systems by providing an efficient, direct, 24/7 online booking platform for healthcare professionals to offer their patients. Findoc.co.uk enables people to find their nearest healthcare professionals such as GPs, physiotherapists and dentists, read patient reviews, and book an appointment directly.

The long-term vision of the company is to harness technology to change how people engage with healthcare. Findoc’s vision is to improve healthcare access to 500-million inhabitants in Europe, and to provide the best daily tools for healthcare professionals.

How much initial investment did the company need to start and what was the money used for?

We initially pitched the Findoc concept at The Guardian’s Volunteering Week. Through this community project we have accessed workshops, sharing knowledge and expertise to help develop business ideas and prototypes. Then, in 2016 we won the People’s Choice Award at The Virgin Media Voom Awards, with 24,000 votes from the public and were awarded £10,000.

Eight months later Findoc had raised enough capital through an early stage technology investment fund, Fuel Capital, which allowed the company to move from my living room to a larger office space in Angel.

In January 2017 we ran a pilot with Medicare Francais (the biggest French medical centre in London), booking over 800 appointments over three months. Later that year we raised £1.2 million from Fuel Ventures in order to pursue our important growth in London. Almost 70 per cent of this amount was used for operational expenses. We soon structured our activities with the creation of processes, reporting, implementing a customer success team, etc. to allow our commercial teams to focus exclusively on their main mission: making sure that as many practitioners as possible in the UK know about our service.

Some 30 per cent was allocated to developing the product, in order to offer the more complete product and the largest range of services for doctors and healthcare facilities. We have a CTO and three developers working on the platform. It’s still early days, but the team is working every day (and night) to improve the services we offer to practitioners and patients.

What marketing did the company employ to maximise exposure?

Successfully launching Findoc has relied on getting doctors on board, so that they are actively recommending us. Building relationships with practitioners face-to-face has been key. When I launched the company, I walked more than 1000 km around London to meet our first adopter doctors and to map out the city. This approach has not changed! Not only are we providing a technology, but also a service which requires us to be especially close to our doctors, that’s why I continue to go out in to the field with my sales team.

Our strategy to acquire our paying customers may be viewed as ‘old school’ (ie, field and inside sales), but it has proved very effective. Indeed, more and more practitioners use our service, and we already generate decent revenue, something which has been helped by positive word of mouth.

To create a buzz around the brand, it has been important to employ multiple marketing techniques, and to pursue both online, and offline channels. In terms of online, our focus has been on putting out Adwords, building SEO for the website, affiliate marketing, a targeted social media campaign and word of mouth positive reviews

How has the company grown, from being founded to establishing revenue, to covering costs, to moving into profit?

Findoc has grown quickly, increasing its portfolio of healthcare specialists in London from 0 in 2016, to 5,500 in 2018 across fifty specialities. To date, we have secured 110 healthcare establishments as clients, including: GPs, dentists, beauty and cosmetic surgeons, physiotherapists, fertility clinics and holistic medical advisers. Our strategy has been to start small, targeting individual practices and then expanding our reach to larger providers and hospitals.

Initial client outreach involved a general mapping out of practices within the London area. Today we are much more targeted in our approach, focussing on specialty and area in conjunction.

At present, we employ 21 people. We now have 3,000 patient reviews and more than 25,000 online bookings have been made, doubling every month.

Findoc is currently focused on private practices in London, however, we are expanding coverage to other UK cities and to the NHS, with trials starting at a number of GP practices in April. In order to facilitate this growth, we are currently preparing a series A round of funding. The money will be used to increase Findoc’s presence outside of London. The rollout strategy is to focus on adding other large metropolitan areas with a mass of healthcare providers first. We will then expand regionally and hope to be national before the end of the year.

How important is an inspirational figurehead to a scale-up company?

Good leadership is an integral aspect of any business. At Findoc we have developed a set of key values; CAASH (Care, Ambition, Attack, Simplicity, Humility) that sit at the heart of everything we do, and which have become the foundation of our company culture. As our company grows, it has become increasingly important to define explicitly our core values, so as to keep our business strategy in line with our brand.

We have created a company culture which recognises the needs of all of our stakeholders (employees, patients, doctors, investors) so that we maintain unity as we grow. We want all five core values to be reflected in everything we do, including how we interact with each other, our customers, our vendors and business partners. As we expand, our processes and strategies may change, but we want our values to remain the same as they provide the framework through which all decisions are made.

Further reading on Entrepreneurs

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Michael Somerville

Michael Somerville

Michael was senior reporter for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2018 to 2019.

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