François Pelen is Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of Groupe Point Vision. The company boasts 23 ophthalmologists centers in France, and hopes to expand to 50 over the next five years.
BACKGROUNDAlmost six out of 10 French people have, at one point in time, given up seeing a eye specialist due to long wait times for appointments. On average in France, the first available appointment is 2.5 months out, but sometimes as long as 6-12 months away. In addition, young ophthalmologists encounter high administrative burdens and fees when first starting their private practices. Groupe Point Vision, a network of 23 medical centers across France, has changed all that. The company has built a modern, organizational model that leverages the complementary skills of its medical staff to increase the efficiency of services, and thus better serve clients’ needs. The result? An affordable eye consultation in less than one week!
What led you to become an entrepreneur?François Pelen: After nearly eleven years at Pfizer, including five years as the Business Unit Director of Ophthalmology, I became accutely aware of the business dynamics in the medical sector. I started realizing that there was a real need in France to modernize the ophthalmology sector to improve patient consultation and care. In 2011, I set out with my colleague at Pfizer, Patrice Pouts, and a young lawyer, Raphael Schnitzer, with the intention to create Groupe Point Vision and haven’t looked back since.
How has HEC contributed to your success?FP: As a young manager with a background in medicine, I turned to HEC to sharpen my business management skills. I completed my EMBA at HEC in 1991. The experience was very satisfiying as it really structured my mind in terms of business strategy and development. My career evolution from more technical positions to business and marketing roles wouldn’t have been possible without the foundation I received from HEC. Twenty years later, in 2011, I returned to HEC for help launching my startup. After applying and being selected to the HEC Challenge+ program, I was able to build a strong business plan for Groupe Point Vision. Immediately aftewards, I joined the HEC Incubator program and benefited from months of invaluable coaching. It was during the program that I met my future investor, Marc Simoncini of Meetic, and together we were able to really launch Groupe Point Vision in 2012. With a small round of financing, we built a proof of concept in Paris and Lyon to prove the idea could work. Based on that success, we were able to raise more money—17 million euros in three years—and slowly but surely constructed our 23 opthalmologist centers.
“Think long and hard about your business plan. Make sure you have the right amount of resources to pull it off.”
What is one key lesson you learned at HEC Challenge+?FP: Think long and hard about your business plan. Make sure you have the right amount of resources to pull it off. If you want to convince the investors, you must be able to implement your strategy in the way you say you will. It’s a key to building confidence.
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?FP: There is one thing you need to know: time is of the essence. You must be able to organize your time very well if you want to succeed. And this is one field that demands a lot of it!
- + 1.2 million patients seen
- 23 Groupe Point Vision centers in operation, with goal of 50 by 2021
- 17 million euros in financing raised in three years (2011-2013)
- 5 months – average wait time to see an eye doctor in France
- 48 hours – average wait time to see an eye doctor in Groupe Point Vision