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This article was published on October 16, 2008

ZocDoc: from a sinus infection to a healthier America

ZocDoc: from a sinus infection to a healthier America
Ernst-Jan Pfauth
Story by

Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.

Five Questions for Start-upsEvery once in a while we publish an interview with a start-up. We ask five questions, hoping the answers will give you inspiration and new views.

This time I’m interviewing Oliver Kharraz, MD, Co-Founder, and COO of ZocDoc. This is an online service for patients to book doctor and dentist appointments instantly. Within a few clicks, an appointment is booked and confirmed, sometimes for the same day. They also stimulate transparency, giving users an idea of how good or trustworthy a doctor is.

I’ve met Oliver and his team at the Altsearchengines New York meeting in the stunning office of Hakia. After a good chat, I decided to send him the five questions. Here’s the result.

How did you come up with the idea of Zocdoc?

Question number“Last year Cyrus Massoumi was on a cross-country flight with a sinus infection when his eardrum ruptured on landing. Obviously needing an ENT doctor, he came home to New York, and quickly realized just how hard it is to find a doctor. Between woefully out-of-date insurance websites, offices keeping him on hold for ages, and doctors being booked for weeks in advance, it actually took him four days to finally see someone. With no better way in sight, Cyrus, our CEO, decided to go ahead and make one.

What was your biggest challenge during the development process?

Question number“We learned very quickly that things don’t always go according to plan, and that being flexible is key. ZocDoc launched at TechCrunch40 last year, and one of the requirements of launching was that we had to go live at the conference. We had not planned to go live until six weeks after the conference, however. Our development time was pretty much cut in half, but we chose to brave it, and had a successful launch. If we had any advice to give other start-ups, it would be to give yourself hard deadlines. And release early, and often!

Can you describe NYC’s start-up culture compared to Silicon Valley?

Question number”New York City has more doctors per capita than any other city in the world. With no easy way to know which of these doctors are good (or available), basing ZocDoc here just made sense. The number of startups has grown steadily in New York, and we are fortunate that we launched at TechCrunch 40, and were also featured at NYTech Meetup. Also, while it might be more difficult to hire top development talent (although, we did get 1900 applications), people who do sign on with us are really committed to ZocDoc. They don’t plan on running off to the next hot thing, and that’s a big benefit to any new company. Plus, it’s New York! If you can make it there…”

What will be the influence of your start-up on the next web?

Question number“ZocDoc is using the web to make the healthcare industry better than it was before. By making it easier to find doctors, and by changing the way patients book appointments, we hope our influence expands beyond the web. We hope patients will see doctors when they need to, instead of putting it off because doctors are too hard to find or book. And we hope doctors will realize the convenience our service provides and sign up with us. We’d like to see a healthier America.”‘

You can make up this question yourself!

Question numberWhat inspires you?
“The people who support us! Our Series A round of funding was recently led by Khosla Ventures, the firm founded by Vinod Khosla. We are beyond proud to receive the support of Khosla Ventures, because they are a firm truly dedicated to social causes. Just like us. We’ve also received investments from Marc Benioff, the founder of, and Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment firm of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Salesforce is the leader in Software as a Service, and Amazon pioneered e-commerce as we know it. ZocDoc follows in their footsteps, and combines these two areas. Receiving the support of these Internet giants humbles and inspires us.”

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