Cyrus Massoumi’s exit from Zocdoc has garnered headlines.
The case dating back to September 2020, alleges Massoumi, a co-founder and former CEO at Zocdoc, was wrongly ousted from the company. In May, a New York appeals court reinstated a lawsuit against Zocdoc officials from Massoumi, reversing a previous dismissal.
While Massoumi did not want to comment on the specifics of his lawsuit, he provided a brief statement saying he was pleased with an appellate court ruling and that he was “confident” he would win in trial court. Zocdoc has denied claims in the lawsuit.
In an interview with Digital Health Business & Technology, Massoumi reflected on lessons he’s learned from his former company in how he’s leading his new venture, Dr. B. The startup company offers virtual consultations for prescription antivirals that can treat COVID-19 like Paxlovid and Molnupiravir.
Massoumi spoke about the company’s future goals and how it’s navigating the challenging direct-to-consumer healthcare marketplace. The interview was edited for clarity and length.
What led you to forming a new company and what lessons did you take with you from Zocdoc?
I think it was this interest in making healthcare more accessible that drew me to starting ZocDoc and I think I did that. I was very proud of the fact that we made healthcare more efficient for people in terms of being able to click one button, and see who out of the 100 or so specialists may have an open slot for you in the afternoon, if you needed to go see one. But the part of the equation that we never addressed was the equity access—making sure that everybody got treated. It's one of my biggest regrets from my time at ZocDoc—we just didn't do enough to help everybody. I always told myself that if I started another health care company, the next company I started would, treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay and solve not just efficiency access, but equity access.
Right now, you’re only focusing on COVID-19 treatments or therapies, correct?
Correct. So, platform that we built will be offering a number of different medications in the months to come. Right now. What we are announcing is we're starting with COVID antivirals. The reason we're starting with them is it's probably one of the biggest low hanging fruit ways to impact the highest number of people and save lives.
What were your biggest takeaways from Zocdoc? How are those relevant here?
I had a formula for success at ZocDoc that I followed and pretty much everything that we did. It was great people, hard work, focus and time…I think the thing I've come to realize since then, is that hard work is an important component of any successful effort. Purpose alignment will enable people to work hard forever. It's not just the founder, that's doing heroic things to make sure that things work if you have a purpose-built company that is really trying to solve a problem.
Can you make money addressing this patient population?
Every digital health company needs to do their part in helping everybody or the problems that plague our country will never be solved. In terms of, the question that I think you're asking is, how is this strategically helping us? Well, I'm committed to making sure it will. Ok, taking a step back, there are a lot of consumer companies or digital health companies that have done things like bought Superbowl ads or bought subway ads. And let's just take the example of a Superbowl ad. It's 30 seconds for $6.5 million dollars. For $6.5 million, we can treat 500,000 people in providing them with a COVID therapy. If you provided COVID antivirals to 500,000 people who needed it, you would save over 100 lives, so that's bigger than a football team.
How do you make those systemic changes compared to other companies?
Our cost structure is being built from the ground up to make sure that we will be able to treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay. I think that it may be painful for other companies. They could shift around their cost models [by] allocating money to expensive advertising or figuring out ways that they can be more efficiently running their businesses. I think it's possible, but I think it'd be very painful.
Does that describe Zocdoc? Was it able to change?
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't do that from the very beginning. I think it becomes more difficult to introduce later. Maybe not impossible, but it becomes more difficult. I think people will be looking at the success of Dr. B, and I'm very optimistic that we will be very successful.