• Sandrina Gomes Teixeira

Doctolib, the Health Start-up that Became an Innovative and Essential Unicorn




How did Doctolib manage to grow so quickly and efficiently? History, fundraising, rapid rise, discover the success story of this start-up that became the first French unicorn by revolutionising the world of e-health.


You've probably already heard of Doctolib: you may have used it even. It's a platform that puts patients in touch with health professionals quickly and easily. Making an appointment online is easy and it is possible to have remote consultation appointments.



What is Doctolib?


Doctolib is a medical appointment management platform available on website and mobile application. Used every day by millions of French people, the first French unicorn has succeeded in entering everyone's daily life by creating a simple way to access medical care. With 97% positive reviews, the e-health platform offers teleconsultation and scheduling software for medical appointments.


Since the Covid-19 crisis, Doctolib has become an integral part of French people's lives, who use it to find a practitioner or to make an appointment online quickly and safely. The unicorn not only facilitates the life of patients but also that of doctors: indeed, the secretariat is provided by the platform and professionals, therefore, avoiding additional paperwork. This company allows practitioners to reduce their cancellation rate thanks to the various alerts made by the Doctolib application or via SMS. Also established in Germany in 2017 and Italy in 2021, the platform aims to be used throughout Europe.



The story of Doctolib, a start-up that aims to revolutionise its market


Stanislas Niox-Château is the founder and CEO of Doctolib. He created the company in 2013 with three partners: Jessy Bernal, Ivan Schneider and Steve Abou-Rjeily. Doctolib directly obtained the support of several practitioners as 50 partners came forward at the time of the company's creation.


At The Fork (formerly La Fourchette), Stanislas Niox-Château managed to get used to making appointments online. This is how he came up with the idea of creating Doctolib, a start-up that would soon become one of the 27 French unicorns. Looking for partners on LinkedIn, he assured them that he was ready to revolutionise the health market. According to France Inter in 2019, Doctolib could become the leader of the e-health world in the next few years.


The aim is for patients and practitioners to simplify the booking of appointments and ensure better management of the relationship between them. Doctolib is currently partnered with 76,000 French healthcare professionals. One of the new innovations that the company has brought to the health market is teleconsultation. In fact, unavailable or very rare before the creation of the start-up, teleconsultation has now become a must for the French. Recently reimbursed by Social Security, teleconsultation is a good alternative when you are far from home or when you are still suffering from a contagious disease.


Doctors pay 139 euros per month to use the e-health platform and 79 euros to access the telemedicine platform (source: info.doctolib.fr). This service is much cheaper than setting up a secretary, which is increasingly attractive to practitioners who can carry out their activities without paying for a physical secretary.


However, Doctolib is not the precursor in the health sector. In fact, other companies have had the idea of creating a platform for making online medical appointments with teleconsultation. However, these companies have either not been able to raise funds quickly enough, or have not managed to offer a profitable service to doctors and patients. As Doctolib quickly gained notoriety thanks to rapid fundraising, practitioners rushed to the platform, which made it a reference in the world of health.



From start-up to 1st French unicorn


In the very beginning, Doctolib consisted of 4 associates and 50 partner professionals. But quickly, these partners understood how to position themselves as leaders in their sector: contracting with organisations such as clinics, medical centres or even public hospitals. In 2018, Doctolib had 40,000 healthcare professionals and 12 million visits per month. In one year, these figures have doubled. With 25 million unique users and 34 million visitors each month, the online appointment booking platform is doing very well.


In September 2018, the start-up merged with MonDocteur, one of its main competitors, allowing it to continue its evolution.


In addition to being of interest to practitioners and patients, Doctolib is a platform of great interest to investors, both French and foreign. Several rounds of financing have been carried out to help the e-health platform develop: BPI France and General Atlantic are Doctolib's main investors. The fundraising that transformed the start-up into a unicorn was the one in 2019, which amounted to 150 million euros.


The Doctolib platform has gone from 0 to 800 employees in five years. This meteoric rise is somewhat frightening for its competitors, who fear the company's monopoly in the healthcare market.



Doubts quickly swept aside


Despite its meteoric rise, there are some doubts about the impact of Doctolib on the world of health. Initially, it was very simple to obtain medication or a medical leave notice via the platform. But upon the request of the Medical Association, the application is now more regulated.


At the end of the summer, Doctolib was the indirect target of a controversy over its choice to list "wellness" practitioners who were not accredited health professionals. The platform rectified the situation by deciding to defer naturopaths, sophrologists and other unregulated professions. These professions represented nearly 6,000 people on Doctolib at the time.



Doctolib: a major player in the health sector


Since the health crisis, Doctolib has become an essential part of French people's daily health routine. Whether it is to easily make an appointment or to request a teleconsultation, the platform now hosts more than 300,000 health professionals and 70 million visits per month (source: Doctolib.fr). The company is valued at over €1 billion and employs 2,500 people in France, Germany and Italy. With the Covid crisis, the number of teleconsultations has multiplied by 100 for a total of 18 million consultations by video.


The period that gave Doctolib the most visibility was the vaccination period. It was possible to make an appointment for a vaccination via Doctolib in particular, and for some places only via this platform. Some organisations only make appointments via the app, which makes it an essential partner for health institutions. With peaks of 1.2 million connections in one day, Doctolib has equipped more than 2,000 vaccination centres with their scheduling and appointment software and has even become an official partner of the French state during the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.


In March 2022, the French unicorn managed to raise €500 million to recruit 3,500 employees. This new round of funding makes Doctolib the most highly valued start-up in French Tech. The aim is to create 3,500 new jobs in France and Europe over the next five years and to develop new software to support patients and healthcare professionals.


Today, Doctolib is part of the reflexes of the French when they want to make an appointment with a health professional. Like Google or a search browser, Doctolib has become a platform recognised throughout the country for its activity. Almost single-handedly creating the e-health market, the company is raising more and more funds and growing more and more as time goes by. It continues to invest to develop more services for hospitals and doctors, such as Doctolib Team and Doctolib Médecin.



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