It wasn’t until his daughter became the patient zero test-case for his still-nascent DocDoc service, which matches patients with doctors, that entrepreneur and onetime Temasek investor, Cole Sirucek, knew what he needed to do to build his business.
Sirucek had brought his daughter, Rand, in for a basic check-up — until the team of pediatricians and doctors tending his daughter went into crisis mode. Rand’s liver was failing, the child was jaundiced, and her doctors were counseling for a risky surgery immediately.
For Sirucek and his wife and co-founder at DocDoc Grace Park, both graduates of MIT and Harvard, the diagnosis was horrifying, but the idea that the team of surgeons in Singapore were the right people to perform the surgery was equally frightening.
“The woman doing the ultrasound starts… crying,” Sirucek recalled. “Then the next thing you know, they do another test and a couple of more tests and then I’m in a room with surgeons and they’re saying to us she has biliary atresia.”
Despite the doctor’s adamance in performing the surgery immediately, Sirucek began to ask questions. The doctors in Singapore had performed the surgery only eight times and had no information about how much the procedure would cost or the success rates of the treatment.
“What we did was we stopped,” says Sirucek. A surgeon friend of Sirucek’s worked in the hospital and, after finishing his procedure, came down still wearing his dirty scrubs and told the couple to reach out to a Dr. Tanka in Japan.
“These guys I’d talked to had done this procedure eight times,” said Sirucek. “Tanaka had done it 2,000 times before the turn of the millennia.”
So DocDoc went from a ZocDoc clone, which is how it had initially been envisioned in late 2012 when it launched, to a service providing patients with ratings and information (alongside booking services) for doctors in Southeast Asia.
Now with a fresh S$11 million in the bank from its Series A round (in the largest early-stage round for a healthcare services company in the region) Sirucek — with healthy daughter in tow — is looking to expand his business.
The funding, which was led by Raymond Choong Yee How, president and chief executive officer of Malaysia banking conglomerate Hong Leong Financial Group and included participation from Sparklabs Global Ventures, will be used to expand DocDoc’s presence in the eight countries it already operates in (Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, South Korea, and India), as well as tackle new markets.
As it looks to grow, the company’s founders have had to shake off more than their daughter’s illness. Despite raising a healthy $2.56 million seed financing from investors including 500 Startups and Jungle Ventures, the company had significant turnover of its executive team early after its merger with competitor DoctorPage.
It has since recovered from those stumbles. The company boasts it has connected 15,000 unique patients with doctors in the past six months. In Singapore, where the company is based, DocDoc charges a S$299 monthly fee for its services. Abroad it takes a variable fee on referrals just like a performance-based marketer.
“The capital of the world for medial tourism is Southeast Asia,” says Sirucek. And that means the company can charge based on the type of treatment that’s being offered.
According to Sirucek there are currently 500 paying doctors on the service and another 20,000 in the company’s global directory.
As for what patients are looking to find, Sirucek says the treatments are “all over the map.” Literally and figuratively. “In places like Indonesia, or your other developing countries that have an inadequate infrastructure, it’s things like liver transplants, kidney transplants, and oncology. In your developed markets it’s much more elective.”
Indonesia is currently a priority for the company, as it looks to expand regionally and ultimately, the company — and Sirucek — have set themselves a lofty goal. “Our goal is to be the go-to provider of doctor referrals in local markets,” Sirucek says.