There seems to be unicorns aplenty in the region, but in all honesty they are as rare as ever in the grand scheme of things. So whenever we get a chance to potentially see the start of a startup’s journey towards a unicorn, we pay attention.
One of the early signs of a startup starting to realise their potential and ramp up their growth is the expansion of their team and bringing in experienced leaders. ZUZU Hospitality, one of the leading hospitality startups in the region, recently brought on board François-Alexandre, ex-COO of French unicorn Doctolib.
During his time at Doctorlib, François was instrumental in helping the company scale to over a 1,000 employees and 100,000 doctors during his tenure there. He aims to bring that experience and expertise to ZUZU Hospitality and help them scale at the same pace.
We got a chance to ask him about his plans.
Congrats on joining ZUZU Hospitality, how did you come to join this startup here in Singapore?
Thank you! I’m very excited to join ZUZU. I had the chance to discover Asia when I worked in China back in 2011 and 2012. My wife is from Xiamen. We spent 7 amazing years in France where I had the chance to work for 2 great companies, McKinsey and Doctolib. But we have been wanting to come back to Asia for a long time. I missed working with different cultures and backgrounds. At the same time, Southeast Asia is going through so much growth at the moment and I wanted to be a part of that excitement. I started meeting very promising startups in the region, and came across Dan and Vikram from ZUZU. I immediately felt there was a good fit and connection, and here I am a few months later.
How do you think your experience helping Doctolib scale will translate to ZUZU?
Doctolib and ZUZU are actually quite similar. Two SaaS companies, with a good layer of service to accompany our clients to use and take full advantage of our technology. Both provide booking tools, with visibility, reviews, no shows and payments topics. Moreover, health centers and hotels share certain similarities around size, check-in check-out processes and low level of digitalization. I had a chance to help scale Doctolib from 30 to 1,000 employees and from 1,000 to 100,000 doctors. I will be able to leverage my experience at Doctolib to help ZUZU grow.
In terms of challenges, what do you foresee being potentially stumbling blocks for the business? How was it different when you worked with Doctolib?
As Head of Operations, a natural tendency is to centralize teams to align processes and leverage economies of scale. Doctolib is a France-centric company, with centralized operations in Paris from day one. ZUZU on the other hand is very decentralized: We are present in 8 countries and counting, and the Singapore HQ is in fact one of our smaller offices. Most teams sit in their markets, next to our hotels. This makes a lot of sense for us: we can secure an in-depth understanding of local markets, visit our clients often, and offer effective and efficient close support. It’s not a stumbling block by any means, but getting that balance right will be important.
What are some of the biggest differences you have experienced so far compared to your previous role?
Cultural differences are at the top of the list. My previous role was managing French teams to serve French clients. ZUZU currently operates in 8 countries with highly localised teams and clients. Discovering the specificities of each region is fascinating, and will be even more important as we continue to grow. I have a lot to learn!
What is the potential ceiling for ZUZU – do you see this brand becoming a unicorn? Why?
ZUZU has a strong vision and a great model. We’re fueled by a clear purpose to empower independent hotels to be better and more profitable. So that’s our target – build an organisation with a strong culture, with team members that love their jobs and grow all the time, so that we’re delivering better service to more hotels. If we fulfill our purpose, great results will follow. We’re in a business where 660,000 hotels around the world could benefit from our services. In Southeast Asia alone, that’s a $10B opportunity. It’s $175B globally in the next three years. If we keep our focus on our proposition and service levels, and if we continue to unchain hoteliers to run the best independent hotels in the world, our own growth will be a result of us doing the right things and being the right partner.