Thomaz Srougi, the founder and former CEO of Dr. Consulta, has an inspiring story that stretches from the swimming lanes of Sao Paulo, Brazil, to the boardrooms of one of Brazil’s leading healthcare providers.
His journey is an amalgamation of competitive sports, public policy education, successful entrepreneurship, and an unwavering desire to solve social problems. The startup, Dr. Consulta, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Madrone Capital Partners, Omidyar Network, KaszeK Ventures, and Kamaroopin.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Srougi’s journey from Sao Paulo to Chicago and Stanford
- His initial career as a trader and entrepreneur
- The founding and growth of Dr. Consulta
- His international approach to team and business development
- The future of Dr. Consulta and its influence on healthcare in Brazil
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About Thomaz Srougi:
Thomaz Srougi grew up in his native Brazil, a country that has made health security a major priority, offering comprehensive and free medical coverage to every citizen, a right enshrined in its constitution.
That simple right, though, is riven with challenges, from a lack of public funding to long queues for services, to geographic disparities between urban cores and rural areas. Thomaz’s solution would eventually become Dr Consulta.
The concept was simple: offer the sort of universal access to the public health system but with the quality and timeliness of the private health market. Srougi and his team opened their first clinic in 2011 in a São Paulo favela, the irregular slums that spread like an archipelago through Brazil’s cities.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alright, hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So today say interview I got to tell you you know I’m really excited. You know he say he’s an entrepreneur that has built it has done it multiple times you know with success and I find that his journey is quite inspiring and I’m sure that you’re gonna find you know, but. Fight it the same way you know building scaling financing all of that good stuff that we like to hear so without fartherdo. Let’s welcome our guest today Thomas Surugi welcome to the show. So originally born there.
Thomaz Srougi: Thanks I have.
Alejandro Cremades: In Brazil so give us a walkthrough memory lane. How was life growing up.
Thomaz Srougi: All right born and raised in sa Paulo um, used to play sports um, competitive sports swiming soccer as a brazilian and and later on. Um. Cycling um and always like the competition but also always like to change things and so I’ve always been challenging myself and trying to change this functions in Brazil that there’s lots to be done in Brazil.
Thomaz Srougi: Um, and so it was a ah good combination. Um, a place full of opportunities and um, lots of problems to be solved.
Alejandro Cremades: Um, so in that in that case, how was you know? for example, swimming another. You were quite competitive. You know when he came to sports you know how do you think that that had shaped who you are you know who you are today I’ve seen it a lot you know founders that used to do you know back when they were growing up like a sport you know, competitively and. And how well that has served them when it comes to leadership I think that there’s a lot to learn you know in sports when it comes to leadership.
Thomaz Srougi: Yeah, well, it’s tricky. Some sports are very individual. Others are collective I think the collective sports may be the better leader I used to swim so swimming is very It’s a lonely sport. Um, and once you jump on the water you gotta give your best and you basically explode and try to swim as fast as possible. Um, and at the at the lowest time possible. So when you do that for a long. Period of time. It basically transforms you so everything that I did is basically trying to to sprint through walls and trying to accomplish high performance as soon as possible in 1 way that helps entrepreneurs. On another way. Um, it’s really hard to work collectively and I had to develop new muscles and a level of consciousness consciousness that I didn’t have before. So that I could function well with the team so that I could help other people um succeed and achieve high performance that was quite interesting and and it’s funny because you know there’s there’s an interesting thing. Um, when we’re beginning. Thanks.
Alejandro Cremades: Um, now it.
Thomaz Srougi: It’s very easy to get distracted with competition or other startups if. You don’t have a strong vision and awareness of what you want to do and how we’ll get there. It’s quite easy to get anxious. So when you swim you basically you jump on the water. There’s. 6 other people alongside you and you have to swim as fast as possible. There’s no time to look to the sides and try to measure if the ah if the other if the other swimmers are behind or in front of you. You basically swim and give your best. So that helped us a lot actually to get us um away from distractions and from the market and other startups in competition just you know focus on what we have to do on our goal and work as fast as possible so that we can try to. Get there faster so that actually has helped us a lot and the other thing is that I used to swim and there’s this is quite interesting and there was ah another swimmer that every time that I met him he bit me so every time I was swimming. Um I was practicing I was thinking about him. And when I wasn’t in the water I was thinking he would be training and he would beat me so that forced me to always be training and always I gave me a lot of focus. So um, in in in it. You know when you build a company. It’s just like that if you’re not giving your max.
Thomaz Srougi: Someone somewhere will do it So So you have to make sure you do something you like you’re passionate about and there’s a huge that you should find a purpose behind it. Otherwise you you won’t be training and working as hard as you have to to break through with the New. Product.
Alejandro Cremades: Um, now for you after you know you graduate I mean you you studied the math. You know pretty much you know you were really interested with the macro economy and the financial markets and you became a trader. But eventually you know you decided that that you decided that it was time to perhaps you know, pack up the bags go to Chicago and do your master’s degree and that’s the time where you started to ask yourself. You know? Perhaps why governments were so inefficient so walk us through you know what was going through your mind at this point, what were some of those questions that you were asking yourself. And how did that eventually you know lead to um to what you know ended up becoming your first your first company obviously obviously you did a little bit of corporate. You know like got bot wiseis and things like that. But 1 thing to led to the next and you ended up starting your first business so walk us through the sequence of events all the way up to you becoming an entrepreneur.
Thomaz Srougi: So Brazil is ah used to be the fifth economy in the world but also a very dysfunctional place so many opportunities and huge market. A good place to start up. Um, and. My first job was working with a very famous macro economisto that gave me um, that gave me ah, ah you know a sense or a vision that there’s ah, a crisis in Brazil every five years right? And if you want to play Brazil.
Alejandro Cremades: Oh.
Thomaz Srougi: You have to learn how to play it. So next I I went to work for an investment bank. He recommended me and I entered as a trainee and I and I was basically trading currency and fix it income and I could see ah how things. How variables behaved when we had macroeconomic crisis I’m talking about the asian crisis and when our currency fluctuated massively and I could see the impact on companies and I could see the companies that relied heavily on. Foreign exchange are companies that relied heavily on luxury goods. Ah and those companies basically disappeared on crisis so that led me to the bottom of the pyramid low income people. Low income families and inelastic demand businesses. That’s how I began for me a hypothesis of how do you play Brazil sustainably and and successfully if there’s a crisis every five years. So then I began really ah connecting my my personal view of the world. Why the world is so dysfunctional why things don’t. Function the way they should why there’s so much poverty and inequality. What can I do about it and governments when you think about governments and ngos. Um, they’re not solving social problems at scale. So what’s so so what.
Thomaz Srougi: You know governments are very ineffective. Inefficient. The data is out there. It’s not my personal opinion and and so what how can we think differently about solving social problems. How how can we change society and I think companies could have an important role as. Innovators as to put new products to solve old old challenges and old pain points in a different way in an novel way. So so I went to study public policy and. I was very interested in the intersection between the private and the public sector could company solve huge social social problems and so that’s what I went to study and I came back and I wanted to understand how the best companies were run. What was the type of fool. Fuel that was running inside those companies all type of culture values. What people were doing what what were the best practices for for success and that’s why I I I went to work for Abi and we have I’ve learned tons and and after I left the company I I decided to. Try to launch a search fund ah and the idea was to acquire a lowincome homebuer. Um, that was taking people out of the favelas and giving them a a a home so basically swapping favelas rent.
Thomaz Srougi: For their own homes and that was really cool. It was basically building up dignity and and allowing people to build their families in a much um, respectful way. So we did it I called in my previous bosses from mbav they joined we entered the company. Peeled the company after ten months we we were very lucky the market timing played in our favor that was 2007 and it was amazing. We worked our asses off 6 a m to 12 p m every day for a year and um and then we left the company. It was great. It felt really good.
Thomaz Srougi: We the company was selling I believe a thousand homes per year. We scaled up to 30000 homes. Um, and so we were impacting more lives. We’re taking people out of the favallas and it was a great outcome and then after that. Um. Basically it was looking at ah you know health care I come from a family of doctors. Huge problem in elastic demand. Um, and and I realize I’ve always been obsessed about performance on a personal level. Ah, and.
Thomaz Srougi: My personal life in my professional life and you know I realized at some point that ah healthcare care used to over promise and under deliver and it was really hard because physicians didn’t understand about ah product engineering. Ah, data and engineers didn’t understand about healthcare but I had a unique angle I came from a femin of doctors. So I thought I you know I should take ah should take a stab at that and huge demand huge market a lot of impact really truly saving. People’s lives. And so yeah, you know that was the idea for ah primary care operations that provided access took people out of the public health care system gave people quick ah assertive qualified access. So the idea was basically to. Bring the best healthcare in the world. Um, automate everything to try to make it affordable without losing quality but actually increasing quality. So we began building clinics and that’s how Dr Consulta began
Alejandro Cremades: Um, so how do you guys say you know ended up making money with Dr Kutruta what was the business model there for people that are listening to get it.
Thomaz Srougi: So Dr Konsuta began as a primary care provider and today we became a pay a payer and a a provider we have our own health insurance. We also have with 30000 members. Um, we also have a membership program. And people can also pay out of bucket. Um, so we have 3 different models of access and but this structure works really really well. Um, and we had to automate clinical decision making we automated repetitive tasks. And it all happened gradually through the years the company became profitable and it continues to grow. It’s currently growing 50% per year in Brazil with very high Nps above 8083? Um, so ah. So yeah, you know I think we were very lucky because we were extremely persistent. It wasn’t easy. We almost closed Dr Kosut along the way. Um, we began with one clinic as a scientific experiment literally. We wanted to understand if we could provide the best quality health care for the for the poorest of the country in Sao Paulo and we also wanted to do it in a building. Ah, an amazing experience.
Thomaz Srougi: And we had to achieve profitability so it took us 2 years to get there once we got there we then began building the company so we began hiring a management team technology team increasing our medical medical care team. And and then we began opening clinics all over the city. We grew tremendously. Ah, we grew for five years six years 100% per year and and then we stalled. Um, we stalled. Um, we had to rethink. Um. How we were um, providing care and the value that we were providing so we launched a membership plan and we decided we needed to be profitable that was 2018 because we were a health care company. We had. By that time 3000000 patients and if we could reach profitability then we could explore a different channel and product and taking risk ah that would enable us to become a health insurance. So we made a huge effort and we we went through the hole and we came out on the other end with muscles. We didn’t know we had we could develop and profitably that was just before covid and covid came in. We had to close all the clinics we set up a plan.
Thomaz Srougi: Survive for 2 years without having revenue and um and we came out of covid stronger very very rough ride and seeing more patients than before covid but with half of the clinics with much more technology. And then finally we had the chance to take the next strategic step and become a health insurance which we did in 2021 and basically you know health insurance was a very um, very assertive move because people. Dream is to have health insurance so always serving the patient always serving the doctor understanding what they want and how can we do it in a viable way. That’s what drove us through the years um and so finally today. We were in a very interesting position growing strongly and still serving lots of patients.
Alejandro Cremades: Um, now obviously you guys have raised quite a bit of money you know for this business. How much money have you guys raised for doctor controlta.
Thomaz Srougi: Um, not mistaken about a $70000000 today
Alejandro Cremades: That’s incredible. That’s incredible and how do you go about raising that amount you know out of Brazil you know if you were in silicon valley I will be like okay but I mean in Brazil that’s a lot of money for a company like this.
Thomaz Srougi: Ah, yeah, it was really hard in the beginning. Um I think we’ve been always um, very very transparent and um, we’ve always been truly. Excited about building a massive business but also truly focused on patient pain points in doctor’s pain points and how to solve it. Ah and I think the investors that saw the opportunity to.
Thomaz Srougi: Improve Brazil also saw the how we should play how we could play Brazil in a sustainable way. Um, and and they got excited with our purpose and the way we wanted to do things so you know just if you get a couple.
Thomaz Srougi: High quality investors at the beginning if you set up a great team surround yourselves with amazing brains. Ah and deliver results. Everything else happens. Um, so yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: You know getting no kidding now in in in your case, you know after almost a decade you know, being at the Helm of the company and and leading the way then all of a sudden you decide that it’s time to step up as the chairman of the business. So what was that the. That thinking you know that thought process you know of handing over the reins and and what drove that.
Thomaz Srougi: Yeah I think ah you know when I was when I was in Chicago I read many cases about entrepreneurs that were ah substituted by ah, professional ceos. Because they didn’t have the ability or the skills or the competenies required for the new phase of the company and and I always knew that what were my strengths in my weaknesses and I’ve always put the company above my personal interests the same way. Um I want to help. Other brazilians that didn’t have the opportunities I had and build the business that is massive but also impactful you have to put the company above your interest and I’m completely incentiveed to do that because economically if the company does. Well I’m going to be better off. So it’s not you. So. So you know eaglegos and Eagles you got to have a low ego. We all have egos and but the short story is I’ve always knew was better at strategy technology vision and I wasn’t very suited to run. Operations and search for incremental gains day after day. Um, ah, much more I prefer to move fast and test and iterate than to be precise about.
Thomaz Srougi: Specific details of operations. So five years actually before I I I did the ah I brought in Ceo I actually invited him to join the company as an investor I brought him to the board. Thought he had a very interesting experience with b two b and I knew we were going to enter b two b at some point and I told him in 3 years you’re gonna you’re gonna have my place you run operations I’ll focus on the strategic side and and that’s what I think is best for the company and 2 years before I told. Ah, yeah, you know I told you know in a very direct and objective manner I wasn’t suited to run a network of clinics I didn’t think I could I would learn it if it was required because investors stressed myself and I felt responsible so I would learn. Ah, but I didn’t think it was the best move if we had someone better than myself around the clinics. So so that’s what we did we did the ah succession and and I went to ah to work alongside my investors on the board in a different capacity to. Help the company continue to achieve its objectives. So personally I think my goal is really to be ah useless for my team. Ah I think that’s ah, it’s impossible to reach.
Thomaz Srougi: Ah, but if you you know you never get there. But if you if you give yourself that objective it it it forces you to behave in a certain way and equip your team and empower them and help them be better and and to do that you really have to be at your best. So there’s a sequence of implications on your personal and professional life that are all connected and I really like that at the end of the day you know I’ll have the same economic incentive but I really like to see people flourish and succeed. And I love to do that alongside them. So what really gets me going is to build amazing things with amazing people better than myself to learn with them people that I admire things that will impact society in a positive way and if possible make money along the way. Ah, money is not my top priority is probably fourth or fifth on the on the line but ah so that’s how I am that’s how I think and I was a pretty natural and super well succeeded movement. We’ve made.
Alejandro Cremades: Um, yeah, know’m kidding especially doing doing it. You know so so ahead of time now you were talking about people home. How many people that’s saying Dr Construta have today.
Thomaz Srougi: Just around 3000 people
Alejandro Cremades: That’s absolutely incredible. You know, incredible. What you’ve built I believe you know top top line. You know it’d say about a 100000000 and and profitable the company. So really, really incredible journey and and then also you know like the the I’m just like like.
Thomaz Srougi: You know.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazed at the fact that you were able to really see what you were good at and what you were not good at even even though you know if you were able to educate yourself I mean having that foresight to bring someone else with so much time. Now on your end. You know you are obviously you know still involved with doctor control time and especially at a board level providing strategy and helping out the the management on the execution but but you’re not Stopping. You know you are right now you’re cooking something that is saying. A little bit still you know under wraps you know and we can’t really talk about it much. But what can we talk about? you know what you have right now incubating to us.
Thomaz Srougi: Well I’m working on a project. Let’s call it a scientific experiment with a small group of extremely talented engineers and scientists. Um, it’s a completely different play from Dr Kosuta but is it’s ah it’s ah it’s something that we all believe in and and also in Healthcare And Data Healthcare care is very different today. There are new possibilities in engineering. Ah, product ah data modeling. There are new new resources. Not only to to build better products but also to build way more efficient companies.
Thomaz Srougi: Ah, talk about Llm models and so on and so forth. Um, and in a way that is way better for users. So we’re running some experiments and let’s see what that where that gets us.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing and and I guess why going at it. You know this way where you’re more like incubating it under grabs like giving it the love that it needs before going to market you know instead of maybe just going at it right away like maybe you know you did with something like Dr Consula or with other projects that you have you know seen or been involved with.
Thomaz Srougi: Well, although I’ve been 10 years in Healthcare Healthcare Care is so complex and and and ah and the and the value chain is is every step of the every piece of the value chain is completely different. so so I think it’s I don’t know everything the team don’t know everything. What we know is that we have to develop and design with users. So that’s what we’re doing so they’re telling us what we need to build so. It’s a different mindset and something that I believe in so so that’s why we’re running small experiments and if it works um and then. And I think we won’t have a problem to ah to you know surround ourselves with more amazing brains and and capital.
Alejandro Cremades: Um, that’s amazing I mean is there any idea on when maybe the the people that are listening maybe able to hear you know a little bit more about it or maybe like a release or or anything that that you guys have in mind.
Thomaz Srougi: Now at this point we don’t know we’re basically running experiments progressing and I don’t know maybe end of the year let’s see it will depend on how well we work. So.
Alejandro Cremades: And well we’ll we’ll definitely I’m sure everyone is gonna keep an eye out. So so to us, let me let me bring you back in time. Let me put you into a time machine and let me bring you back in time. Let me bring you back to that moment that you were in Chicago and now you were. You know in those classrooms you know learning about business learning about case studies. Perhaps you know like putting your your final paper you know on on ah on a business that you were thinking about building or you know whatever you know those and Nba Programs you know they they have you go through and let’s say you had the opportunity of describing a chair. And sitting next to that younger to mass and let’s say you had the opportunity of whispering at the ear of that younger toma one piece of advice before launching a business but would that be ny. You know you know now.
Thomaz Srougi: I Think that having to make if you wanted if you want to succeed with something you have to sacrifice other things and. You have to sacrifice your Family. You have to sacrifice your personal interests and that’s how committed you need to be if you don’t sacrifice your personal and other interests you’re going to sacrifice your project your company. So There’s no easy Way. Just ah, make the right choices communicate well align expectations and go for it.
Alejandro Cremades: Um I love it so too much for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so um.
Thomaz Srougi: Um, I’ll leave ah I have a Linkedin page and so it’s probably the easiest way to contact me.
Alejandro Cremades: Wonderful! Well is he noble toma. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Thomaz Srougi: Thanks and alexander enjoyed it.
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