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April 03, 2009

Wait For the Right Idea, Then Jump

Cyrus Massoumi ’03
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When I was at Columbia Business School, I took Value Investing with Bruce Greenwald. We had a guest speaker once who told us to wait and look for the right investments, make 20 of them in our lives, and when we make them, to go all in. I really took that to heart. It’s incredibly difficult to be a part-time entrepreneur. To do well, I believe you have to immerse yourself in your work. You have to go all in.

Throughout my time at the School, I really wanted to come up with The Next Great Idea. It didn’t come then, and I waited for the right opportunity to arrive. In 2007, I had the idea for ZocDoc, an online service to connect patients with doctors, and I quit my job to give all of my time and attention to the company. The challenges came right away. But so did the lessons.

The common attitude towards business school is that grades don’t matter. True as this may be, your reputation does. People need to know they can count on you. This served me well when we were looking for angels — half of ZocDoc’s angel investors were classmates of mine.

Though many people supported me in this venture, I definitely heard “This will never work” more than I cared to. But I pressed on. Healthcare is the largest sector of the U.S. economy, and it also happens to be plagued with problems. It was always my intention to fix one simple problem instead of trying to fix them all, and I think this is an effective way to succeed in the healthcare sector. Focus on one problem and do it better than anyone else.

With the nation’s current climate, I’m glad to be working in healthcare. It has always been a strong industry, and with the economy we have now, ZocDoc isn’t affected as much as other startups might be. People will always need to find a dentist or a doctor. Also, healthcare seems to be high on the Obama administration’s agenda, and we look forward to positioning ourselves as a leader in the changing landscape that surely lies ahead.

The future of healthcare in America is bright, and if you are interested in starting your business in this space, be patient with yourself. Wait for the right idea, and then go for it. All in.