Meet Zoi, a new French startup that wants to combine routine medical checkups with preventive care via a mobile app. The startup was co-founded by Ismaël Emelien, former special adviser to Emmanuel Macron at the start of his presidency, and Paul Dupuy, who previously worked on Workwell.
Before we tell you more about the product and the vision, it’s also worth noting that the company raised an impressive $23 million (€20 million) funding round from business angels exclusively.
Zoi is a healthcare startup that focuses on preventative care. The company is not working on new treatments, drugs or vaccines. Instead, Zoi wants to give you personalized insights so you can improve your overall long-term health.
How exactly does Zoi collect data? “It’s a hybrid model, physical and digital, we’re going to open centers and we’re going to collect data ourselves,” co-founder and CEO Ismaël Emelien told me.
It’s a hybrid model, physical and digital — we’re going to open centers and we’re going to collect the data ourselves Ismael Emelien
Once you start your subscription and become a member, the startup will send you an invitation to tell you that it’s time to visit a Zoi Health Center. The company will obtain blood samples, check your vision, hearing, heart and more.
Based on this initial assessment, Zoi will use data science to process this data. “We are going to create the tools that will lead us to predictive algorithms. We will be able to improve our data analysis continuously,” co-founder Paul Dupuy told me.
But instead of sending you a 30-page document with a bunch of information, Zoi thinks it’s more effective to rely on nudge, a popular concept in behavioral science. Zoi users will receive messages and content that gently nudge them to do the right thing for their health.
“At the end of the day, we’re not telling you that you should exercise more and eat healthier, but what kind of sport you should do, for example,” Emelien said. Zoi users could interact with the app a little each day to learn more about their health.
The startup plans to launch its first clinic by the end of the year. There will be a testing phase before Zoi starts accepting large numbers of patients. But the business model is scaling quite well because you can imagine a capacity of tens of thousands of potential patients per clinic.
At first, Zoi is going to be quite expensive because this type of preventive process is not supported by the French national health system. The company compares its offer with control centers in Paris, such as the control center of the American Hospital of Paris. These processes can cost thousands of dollars.
Zoi wants to be a little cheaper than these existing centers. Eventually, the startup also hopes to be able to lower its subscription price thanks to economies of scale.
In addition to the two co-founders that I have already mentioned, there are three other members of the founding team. Cédric Carbone and Fabrice Bonan already know each other well since they were respectively CTO and CPO of Talend. On the healthcare side, Dr. Claude Dalle will act as Zoi’s chief scientific advisor.
Individual investors only
On the investment front, Zoi deliberately chose to exclude venture capital money. “We were only looking for private investors who could be extremely involved. We asked for a minimum investment which was quite high with 1 million euros per investor so that they could fully support us,” said Dupuy.
Two people in particular put more money on the table than the rest – Jean-Claud Marian, the founder of Orpea, a leading healthcare real estate company, as well as Stephane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna. “He considers that preventive medicine is the solution to 90% of health problems,” said Emelien, speaking of Stéphane Bancel.
But the list of investors does not stop there. The other men on the tour are Xavier Niel, Rodolphe Saadé, Jean-Marie Messier, Jean Moueix, Hassanein Hiridjee, Emmanuel Goldstein and Patrick Levy-Waitz.
There are two concerns with Zoi as it is. First, with an expensive introductory subscription price, it could drive a wedge between people who can afford a product like this and everyone else.
Some would argue that entrepreneurs should focus more on reducing inequalities in health status and life expectancy. In France, according to a 2018 study, the richest 5% of men live 13 years longer than the poorest 5% of men. When you compare the richest 5% of women and the poorest 5% of women, the gap is smaller, but there is still an 8-year difference in life expectancy.
Second, while the startup relies heavily on nudge, Zoi won’t be an easy sell for people who don’t live in Paris near Zoi’s inaugural hub. To be fair, the startup is already planning to expand beyond Paris and the annual review only takes a few hours. So you could technically live in the middle of the Alps and get checked once a year.
But I still believe that Zoi approaches preventative care in the right light. “Conceptually, we put users at the center,” Emelien said. “We are not starting with technology, nor with health care. We combine technology with healthcare around users. »
Zoi’s founders are also well aware that preventative care does not completely stop disease. It’s about increasing your chances of living a longer, healthier life. And this kind of methodical, data-driven approach to preventive care, combined with a good level of skepticism about technological solutions, could certainly have a positive impact on the lives of many people.