Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Julien Artu

Health & Wellbeing

We caught up with the founder of France-based Hôpital Affinité to hear what inspired him to develop a social network that helps patients connect with each other during their hospital stays.

When patients are admitted into hospital for lengthy stays, it can be a lonely experience. Factor in the times when family and friends aren’t able to visit, not being able to leave the hospital and not being in the best of health, hospitals can sometimes be no fun at all. One of the things they do have going for them is that they’re full of different kinds of people, and this is something Hôpital Affinité founder Julien Artu wants to take advantage of with his social network for patients.

As well as enabling hospitals to deliver important news to guests, users can find fellow patients that share their interests and develop relationships through their smartphones or tablets – making their time in hospital more enjoyable and more social. We caught up with Julien to find out how he came up with the idea and how he’s growing his business.

1.Where did the idea for Hôpital Affinité come from?

The idea came to me really simply. Just after a big car accident in Sept 2011, I was at the hospital for 5 months. All my friends were working or occupied with their children and jobs, and I was not in a hospital near my family, so I was just alone there. And – the cherry on the cake – I was bedridden in this hospital for about 2 months. So the question was: how can I communicate with the other patients to talk about the experience at the hospital, and also shared interests? In my personal opinion and my experience, it can help a lot in recovery if you feel happy there and if patients can help each other through.

2. Can you describe a typical working day?

My working day begins with a good cup of tea! The first thing I do is take care of our twitter account – @HopitalAffinite. Then the day gets busy! I am spending my time between calling hospitals to arrange meetings, check all the contract who are in the pipe, debugging the website, and developing new products! The end of the day which is around 10pm, I respond to patients and all private messages they have sent me. Twice a month I take a half-day to meet some of them who are following us, just to take feedback or to help with thinking about new ideas for the platform.

3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Hôpital Affinité?

I’m very lucky to live in Paris – near the Trocadéro – so I can spend my free time walking outside in the city. I can enjoy the sun on a nice terrace and we are also lucky to have so many museums to visit. Also, once a month, I spend a couple of hours to go to the Paris Creative Mornings. It’s always nice to hear a talk from interesting speakers, historians etc. For me, it’s a way to find inspiration for creating new products.

4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

I think the best way to get success is to listen to people with experience. I have a successful business partner who’s giving me some advice about strategy and how to develop my product. And I’ve also got a successful entrepreneur who is helping me with the finance and he’s really active in our daily operation.

5. What excited you when building your business?

I love it when the international media speak about us! And using the real-time tools on Google Analytics to see where our visitors come from and how many! That really makes me excited! 🙂

6. What motivates you to keep going?

My most motivation is the patients! I’m so happy to receive messages everyday from patients or people who work at the hospital sending me encouragement! I feel so grateful when all of these people are complimenting me and my business.

7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I had to start again, I would have had a partner at the beginning of the project to help me for selling my product to hospitals. I would also think twice about how to find a partner and with who… divorce can be hard if you don’t choose well.

8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

For sure, in 5 years we will be internationalised with products other than Hôpital Affinité.

9. If you weren’t working on Hôpital Affinité, what would you be doing?

I have been always interested in the web industry, even though I originally come from the luxury hotel sector. So I could combine both. I’m self-educated in web development so I think I could have worked for a web agency or something like that.

10. Tell Springwise a secret…

We’ve got a product for seniors which will be amazing! Taking care of their domestic, social life, etc… Keep your eyes peeled 😉 And the super secret is Hôpital Affinité has happened because of my girlfriend! It’s her who has pushed me to create it and not keep it as just an idea. So a very big thanks to her!

11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

The first thing is to be open to the world and make a simple and logical product. The second thing is to really find a way to make money from your product. Third and final thing is you have to be happy to work everyday on your product even if it’s hard and a lot of people are against you.