How Xavier Bernal went from homeless to helping the NHS

The founder of growing startup Findoc is changing the way patients book appointments.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 06 Mar 2018

What does Findoc do?

Basically we are an online booking platform for healthcare appointments. We offer a service for the patient to book an appointment online and find details about different healthcare professionals. For the doctors we provide software with a full range of services to improve booking management and marketing to the patients.

What were you doing before Findoc?

I was born in the south of France, left school at 16 and started working with my dad’s plumbing business. I came to London in November 2004, but after being scammed I was left with no papers and no money and was living on the street.

Eventually I received help from a church and got a job as a market seller in Camden market. In the end I got two market stools and then started a shop in Queensway. I wanted a change so started working as a waiter in celebrity nightclubs. I became a maître d'hôtel serving premier league footballers and rich people in huge clubs. I spent five years doing that, working over the summer in Saint-Tropez. It was fun, I was enjoying it but it did not satisfy me, I wasn’t learning anything, it wasn’t very meaningful.

How did you come up with the idea?

A friend came to stay with me from France and the first night I took her to a nightclub and she ended up breaking her tooth on a speaker. The next morning she went online and couldn't find a suitable dentist.

The first one she called the number didn’t work, the second one she couldn’t really explain herself because English was not her first language. She eventually managed to get an appointment for three days later. The dentist fixed her tooth but it wasn't the same colour and she had spent a lot of money on it.

I thought it was crazy that you can find everything online nowadays; you can book a table at a restaurant, you can find a hotel on TripAdvisor, but when you are looking for a dentist there was nothing.

How has Findoc grown?

I started developing the business plan in 2015. In June 2016 we won the People’s Choice Award at The Virgin Media Voom Awards with 24,000 votes from the public.

I knew that in order to develop the right product we needed to meet as many healthcare professionals as possible. So we printed a whole map of London and went street by street into practices. We walked over 1000km and met over 500 doctors face to face to explain and get feedback on our idea and learn what they needed. I attended hackathons at weekends to meet my developer.

At the start there were just four of us working out of my living room but in August 2017 we raised £1.2 million investment which allowed us to move into larger offices in Angel. We currently have 21 staff and 5,000 healthcare professionals on the website across 25 specialities with nearly 500 using our integrated calendars.

Have you faced any teething problems?

When we first launched it was more like a directory of doctors. Traffic was increasing on the website, but some doctors weren’t replying on time or not at all so we were losing patients. This is when we decided we need to integrate the booking solution and give access to the doctor's calendar so we can book appointments in real time.

In January 2017 we ran a pilot with Medicare Francais (the biggest French medical centre in London) for three months and booked over 800 appointments. Since then we have worked with more practices, improving our product which allowed us to approach investors.

What are your aims for the future?

At the moment we are working in the private sector but now we are working on two ‘smart moves’. One of these is to integrate clinical software within private hospitals. The second is working with the NHS -we are working to implement some pilots in some NHS clinical practices. Ultimately we want to expand outside of London, but it is important for us to understand the market fully before growing.

What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt so far?

It is about enjoying what you do. As soon as you enjoy what you do and are passionate about what you do you will get the right people.

At the beginning I was by myself with this idea, I had no money, no background and no track-record but we’ve been able to attract people to join because of the passion and the enjoyment we have. We just want to create something and grow. It is not only about making money, for you to enjoy something you have to understand why you are doing it and what the purpose is behind it. 

What would your advice be to any entrepreneur starting out now?

Make sure you understand the market. Sometimes doing too much overthinking by sending surveys, sending emails and doing all of your market research on computers isn't always the most helpful way of doing this. It’s about getting on the ground and meeting people face to face, concrete stuff really.

 

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