The pitch is simple: Rather than try to book an appointment with your busy doctor by phone, do it online at ZocDoc. Patients seem to dig it; the site has more than 1 million users and $95 million in funding, and won't even be nationwide until 2013. (It's in 16 cities now.) But the sell to docs and investors wasn't easy.
Patients visit them frequently and schedule visits long in advance. That makes dentists a natural entry point, Cyrus Massoumi believed.
Most dentists didn't see a need for ZocDoc; Massoumi was kicked out of multiple offices. But he kept calling. "Now they're all our clients," he says.
Ten is a magic number, Massoumi says: At that point, he could tell other dentists that their peers were signing on, and selling became much easier.
ZocDoc's first market was New York, where one in six primary-care doctors are trained. Local docs told out-of-town friends, and Massoumi followed.
As the system went live, ZocDoc found that 80% of first-time users stuck with it. ZocDoc used that selling point to impress and sign up specialty doctors.
Because Massoumi and his partners were previously McKinsey & Co. consultants, he says, "the startup community really questioned us."
"I literally went to the Gap, bought jeans, and untucked my shirt. I was suddenly rebranded. And there was our cred."
In meetings with VCs, he was less formal and more direct. Now, finally, he was speaking like the startup guy he'd become.