I recently caught with Lloyd Price, one of the founders of Zesty as he spoke about how his start-up is improving the ways in which healthcare appointments are being made online, making booking a dentist, private doctor, physiotherapist or osteopath as easy as booking a flight, hotel or restaurant.
Hi Lloyd, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
My pleasure, I am doing very well thank you.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I am one of the founders of Zesty, a new London based internet start up on a mission to make access to healthcare appointments easier for consumers. For the last 15 years I have worked for a number of high profile internet companies such as Kelkoo.com in 2000, Yahoo! in 2005, Badoo.com in 2010 as well as co founding, angel investing and advising various mobile & internet start ups a long the way.
Tell me how you initially got into business?
I studied Business Administration at University and wrote my dissertation on “what is the potential of eCommerce for small businesses” back in 1998/1999. In order to gather primary research I interviewed a number of SME’s about their digital strategy, plans for their website, ideas for online shopping etc… After about 3 weeks I saw an opportunity to help small businesses get online, so myself and a friend set up an internet marketing agency, this was my first step into the business world.
How did the idea for Zesty come about?
The idea for Zesty was born out of frustration really, my co founder and I had been saying for a few years that searching for a dentist in a new area when you move house or trying to find a physiotherapist and read their reviews online was not very good. One day we researched the size of all the healthcare markets in the UK, did a competitive analysis by sector, read various OFT, DTI and Forrester reports, analysed the number of searches for each healthcare service on Google every month and quickly saw there was a huge opportunity to improve access to healthcare appointments online.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
I would say the hardest part of starting Zesty was selling to private doctors, dentists, physiotherapists and others without the website being live. Healthcare professionals are cautious and sceptical by nature so convincing hundreds of them to work with us was very hard in the early days when we could not show them exactly how they would appear in the search results, how many of their reviews we would display etc.. Secondly getting hold of the right person to speak to was very hard, healthcare professionals do not sit in an office next to a phone and computer all day, they are on their feet seeing patients!
What is Zesty? And what are you trying to solve with it?
Zesty is an online healthcare marketplace, a search engine for health care appointments if you look at it another way. We are trying to solve the problem of booking available appointments online 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our vision is to make booking a dentist, private doctor, physiotherapist, osteopath, dermatologist etc… as easy as booking a flight, hotel or restaurant. Users can search by location, read ratings and reviews, choose an available appointment and then book online in less than 2 minutes. We offer a fast, easy to use and convenient way to book healthcare appointments on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop 24 hours a day.
How have you been able to fund it?
My co Founder and I funded Zesty with our own money for the first few months, paying for focus groups, in depth market research, the design and development of web and mobile apps etc…. As soon as we saw the sheer scale and size of the problem we are trying to solve, we decided to raise a large Seed round and partner with one of the best early stage Venture Capital companies in Europe. We closed our first round at the end of 2012 and are very excited to be working with investors of the highest calibre to help us realise our potential in the UK and across Europe.
What sorts of advice do you having for entrepreneurs looking to raise money for their start-ups?
The best advice I can give is to be Patient, Realistic, well Prepared and always remember it only takes one Yes to kick start or accelerate your vision. Raising money always takes longer than you think, everyone does their own research, due diligence and reference checking at different paces, as an entrepreneur you are always working on “start up time” which is usually days or weeks ahead of investors, so be patient and resist the urge to call or email people every few days.
It’s important to be realistic when raising money, you don’t have the next Google or Facebook to offer investors so they are not going to bite your hand off and write a cheque the same day. Present a clear plan showing how you will enter the market, the risks involved, how you will acquire users/customers and your teams experience to date, this should give you a shot at raising your first amount of funding.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
An emotional roller coaster! We were all very excited, nervous and humble at the same time. We were excited to see our vision come to life, nervous that everything would work smoothly and humble as we quickly realised the mountain of hard work ahead of us and challenges to overcome.
How did you initially get traction?
We initially generated traction by calling hundreds and hundreds of dentists, private doctors, physiotherapists, osteopaths, dermatologists and other healthcare professionals offering them a new online marketing channel to generate new patient appointments. In addition I built up our social media presence by focusing on topical issues in healthcare to stimulate debate which got us noticed by a few influential bloggers and wrote over 100 blog posts to help patients navigate their way around the complicated healthcare landscape. All of which kick started our search engine optimisation and generated traffic to our site.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
Focus, focus, focus. We have been laser focused on hiring the best people possible, building up supply and demand in each core market and creating awareness of our product. Awareness creates credibility and credibility creates trust. To build a hugely successful company we need our users and customers to trust us.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I would say teamwork and passion. I appreciate the fact I am working with amazing people everyday who share my energy, drive and creativity to build a world class service for our users and customers.
What should we be expecting from yourself and the Zesty team for 2013?
Growth, awareness and a lot of hard work. We plan to rapidly expand out of London into new towns and cities by the end of the year and offer our users thousands of available appointments in more and more healthcare markets.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
First of all, find a partner or co founder who you trust, respect and enjoy spending time with. The first year of any new business is very intense, stressful and can be fairly emotional as you experience a multitude of highs and lows. So it is critical you surround yourself with people who you are happy to spend a lot of time with, often under high pressure situations.
Second, stick to you what you believe; perseverance is everything when you are just starting out. Nine times out of 10 it feels like everyone you talk to does not see what you see and can’t get excited like you can with the opportunity. So keep it at everyday, nothing in life worth doing is easy!
Third, don’t ever forget you are always selling … from day one you have the idea through to exiting the business; you are always selling to someone. Investors, co founders, clients, suppliers, users, agencies, lawyers, accountants, journalists, employees, landlords… the list goes on, so wake up everyday and say to yourself “who am I selling to today ?”