Many of the Red Herring Top 100 Europe winners have already been successful businesspeople. However, few can, in addition, claim to have made a game-changing contribution to their home country in the wake of a disastrous event.
Patrice Vieux, founder and CEO of HospitalWeb, is one of those few. A Haitian who witnessed first-hand the destruction of 2010’s Haiti earthquake, which is estimated to have killed around 160,000 people. Thankfully for some of those who survived, one of their compatriots was Vieux, who, with his huge knowledge of the private hospital business in Haiti and France, began a period of philanthropy that continues to this day. “Last year we provided 120 beds, two surgery tables, two labs and more,” he says.
But if philanthropy is a love of Vieux, so is business. And HospitalWeb, his latest venture, owes much to a long career in the medical field and coding. “Since 2001, I’ve been running hospitals in France, and 2003 I was really amazed in that when you see doctors in France and all over the world, they always have tons of pens, files,” he tells Red Herring.
“It was incredible – the amount of energy spent on trying to gather all the data and documents for a hospitalized patient,” adds Vieux. “So I was wondering if there was a software I could use as director. And I didn’t find anything to meet my requirements. Something more internet-like. I didn’t want something you had to install on every different computer.”
Vieux had long admired the stability of Linux, with stability being the key word when developing his platform. “When you’re at a hospital it’s like being on a ship,” he says. “24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Instability can kill. You simply cannot afford it. I was looking for a very flexible but stable solution.” Vieux looked to Siemens, Anastasia and others. But nothing worked across the scope of disciplines one finds in a modern hospital.
“So what do you do? You do it yourself. It’s like biking: you never forget how to program.”
Vieux’s first engineer was employed in 2004, with a first program release the following year. Between 2005 and 2007 Vieux had so many people coming to inspect the workflow at his hospital that he decided to start up HospitalWeb. It was a very good idea.
Now the company employs 12 engineers full-time, in both Haiti and France. Vieux’s platform now has 20 million lines of code. And this year, when for the first time five French hospitals clubbed together to buy a software they could share, HospitalWeb beat off competition from the giants it had looked to all those years ago. “They can share the same information, which avoids duplication,” says Vieux.
HospitalWeb has increased its 2013 revenue by 250% and sales by 167% with a net profit of 280% of last year’s. New products are also slated for release, including a special tag which will drastically reduce the terrible risk of babies being snatched from maternity wards. And, as Vieux explains, the healthcare industry is one where local needs are the world’s.
“I have a very complete package and software, that took me about nine years to develop completely. Now we have released an English, German, Spanish and Portuguese version,” adds Vieux. “Our aim is to get out of France, get into Europe, South America, the States of course.” And with a market worth many billions of dollars, growth seems inevitable.