Pol Valés has always embraced challenges head-on. His interest in international business began early on, particularly during his high school years, when, for his senior project, he decided to create an app development company. At that time, he faced his first challenge: He knew no developers. Taking matters into his own hands, he plunged into coding, eventually leading him to study software engineering at university.
Little did he know that developing lines of code would lead him to entrepreneurship, where he balances his passions for tech and business today. Pol co-founded Bloome, a Barcelona-based health tech startup transforming the medical aesthetic market.
Medical aesthetics has undergone a remarkable evolution. Recent years have witnessed an unprecedented surge in aesthetic treatments, driven by a combination of societal shifts alongside significant medical and technological advancements. Offering a comprehensive range of services, from hyaluronic acid and botox injections to chemical peels and hair mesotherapy, Bloome provides an advanced, digitally connected, and personalized experience catered to the demands of today's consumer.
Notably, In Spain, 40% of the population has sought aesthetic medicine procedures at some point, highlighting the appeal and demand for these services. Combining a compelling concept, strategic funding, and innovative technology plays a large part in Bloome's success, cementing its status as a leading player in the field.
The startup bug bites
How exactly did Pol transition from tech developer to entrepreneur and co-founder? It all began when he received an opportunity to work as a tech advisor at a startup. "That's when the entrepreneurial bug bit. I spent about five months helping out this startup, and that's when I realized that's what I really wanted," he recalls.
In this venture, he is joined by two other partners, Manu Caldas, whom he knew beforehand, and Juanfran Sánchez Arqués. Their collaboration can be attributed to a fortuitous mix of synchronicity and good timing. Pol had been considering the prospect of partnering up before they even initiated contact: "Both of them were deeply involved in the startup scene. I was actually planning to talk to them, and then they called me before I could even reach out. So, I figured it was the right moment, and we decided to embark on this journey together."
Hunting for the ideal niche
With an unquestionable determination to jump on the entrepreneurship wagon and the partnership firmly on track, there remained a crucial decision to make: the target market. "We wanted to create something purposeful, that was clear for us. And we were really drawn to the healthcare sector. So, within the healthcare sector, as we explored various verticals, we noticed that aesthetic medicine stood out significantly because of the remarkable growth it's experiencing," says Pol.
The annual revenue of authorized aesthetic medicine centers in Spain exceeded €3500 million in 2021, with a 30% increase in centers over the past three years. There are over 6,000 clinics in the country, most of which are owned by doctors who, though they excel in medicine, may not be as proficient in operations, technology, and marketing.
Beyond promising figures and notably favorable margins, Pol and his partners identified other significant opportunities. Primarily, the sector has high fragmentation, with the leading player holding an approximate 2% market share. Additionally, the industry faced a scarcity of technology, marketing efforts, and accessible treatment information, making it an ideal space for digitalization. "The sector was growing very fast, but there was no one properly discussing the treatments or educating people about how those treatments should be used," Pol adds.
This sector was new territory for all three founders. "I'm a software engineer, my other partner, Juan, is a civil engineer, and our third partner, Manu, studied Business Administration. So, we had no knowledge of medicine," he says. This, however, didn't stop them. Instead, they sought collaborative alliances that could support their growth. They contacted Dr. Jaume Tufet, vice president of the Spanish Society of Aesthetics Medicine (SEME): "He really fell in love with the project and decided to join as a partner and investor, too."
These opportunities paved the way for Bloome to create an attractive pitch for its funding efforts. The company set its sights on replicating the remarkable success stories of firms like Impress or Platanomelón, which have built strong communities around their brands and established trust with their customers. Both companies adopted an innovative user acquisition model, largely technology-based, with social media and social media ads at the center of their go-to-market strategy. Similarly, Bloome introduces a novel user acquisition model approach within its sector, aiming to set itself apart from traditional clinics that do not leverage technology as heavily.
With this pitch clear in mind, Pol and his partners set out to raise the funds to bring the project to fruition: "We started with the typical family and friends round, about a year ago, of €300,000," Pol explains. "We only had a PowerPoint with an idea and the founding team. And though some professional investors came in, most of the round was FFF (Friends, Family, and Fools)."
With this first investment, Pol and his partners set up shop in five markets, built the team, and developed the entire technological stack — proprietary clinic software, an app, CRM, and ERP.
Setting the standard
Bloome emerged to disrupt a sector with somewhat outdated practices, infusing it with modern ideas that reached a younger demographic. By skillfully integrating technology, brand image, and strategic marketing, it turns the aesthetic journey into a streamlined, accessible, and highly personalized experience meticulously tailored to the demands of the digital age.
The company defines itself as patient-centric, committed to understanding their needs and harnessing the power of data and advanced technology to enhance the user experience. The app offers patients diverse features, including facial scanning technology, appointment scheduling, pre and post-treatment information access, and progress tracking. Focusing on the motto 'Free Your Beauty,' Bloome represents a departure from traditional clinics, prioritizing innovation, personalization, and holistic well-being.
They also have a scalable business model, working with partner clinics and freelance doctors (who earn a percentage per treatment), and no stock requirements. The prices of treatments range from €199 to €699, with gross margins of approximately 60%. Another pivotal aspect of the company's strategy relies on medical boxes, or "co-working" spaces, which offer short-term, flexible alternatives to traditional medical office rentals.
Bloome's approach mitigates costs and allows the team to test potential markets while avoiding significant upfront investments until the venture's profitability is certain. "We don't buy a whole clinic and set it up. We rent a booth in a medical co-working space, and we start driving traffic there. Our doctors and advisors go there; the whole team is ours. So, we start with one day. If that works, we open for two, three, four days, until at some point, when we're confident, we take over the clinic and set up there," Pol says.
Bloome's goal is to defy the conventional approach taken by other clinics. "We don't see any impact on patient conversion or dissatisfaction due to not owning a clinic ourselves. We want to convey to people that Bloome goes beyond having a super fancy clinic where we give you a gin and tonic when you walk in. On the contrary, we want you to spend as little time as possible at the clinic. You come in, get your treatment, and we provide all the online support," he continues.
Tech and personalization
Operating with a hybrid online and offline business model, while sometimes advantageous, can also bring difficulties when it comes to data management: "When you have an online business, it's very easy to control the data because from the moment a lead comes in until they complete a transaction or become a repeat customer, everything is meticulously tracked. However, our business starts online, moves to an offline phase for the treatment, and then continues online. So data matching became quite challenging, something we couldn't find even in clinic software."
That's where his background in engineering came in. It turned out to be a key player in developing the technology behind Bloome — from the clinic software and application through the CRM aspect. "What we've done is create our own clinic software to have a tight grip on the data, provide a better patient experience, reduce waiting times, understand the no-show percentage within the clinic, and ultimately offer a more personalized patient experience," explains Pol. Bloome has compelling and valuable information for patients and medical professionals through this meticulous data integration.
Going into a sector fraught with taboos and stigmas also presented an obstacle, especially in specific demographics. Yet Bloome is slowly helping to disarm these barriers, inspiring a broader dialogue and reshaping the perception of aesthetic medicine. The company has received a remarkable reception, particularly among the younger generation, where there is a more open-minded outlook toward aesthetic enhancements. Appearing in the market in mid-2022, the company has achieved a turnover of between €500K and €800K in just one year. They have a monthly turnover of over €70K and positive contribution margins (+15%) in their first clinic in Barcelona.
The journey has brought with it innumerable lessons. In this context, Pol acknowledges his partners' support and highlights their essential role in maintaining equilibrium within the business. For Pol, diving into entrepreneurship as a team provides a stabilizing influence where solutions are found collectively. He also identifies his educational background in engineering as a critical contributor, helping him develop problem-solving skills to navigate the hurdles of the entrepreneur's life: "I used to solve software problems, now I solve all sorts of problems. When you're in entrepreneurship, especially in the beginning, you have to react super quickly and find solutions."
Concerning fundraising, Pol underscores the importance of maintaining continuous communication with potential investors. This ensures you can confidently initiate your funding efforts when the moment is right. "My advice would be to always stay in touch with investors and VCs. Keep them updated on how things are going. It's not a good idea to try to raise money in just one month when nobody knows anything about your company," he says.
With financial metrics validating the business model and the team's capabilities, along with the insights learned from the previous experience, securing additional funding became a smoother ordeal for Bloome. Their second investment round attracted several professional investors. Though the current state of the Venture Capital market in Europe and Spain, in particular, made it a somewhat lengthy process, it was an overall positive experience. "As we had very good metrics, we received several investment proposals. In the end, we chose the one we saw as the best fit for the type of business and the stage of the company. We could present our project to many VCs and professional investors, and the feedback was very positive," Pol shares.
A promising future
With a team of 15 people, plus 10 doctors, 1,400 satisfied patients, operations across five markets, and substantial revenue, Bloome has been growing remarkably since its establishment in 2022. But this is merely the beginning of the journey. As the company expands its horizons, setting its sights on international markets, it has recently closed a €1 million investment round. With this new capital, they plan to continue investing in technology, enhancing the patient experience, strengthening the brand, providing education, and venturing into new markets.
As for what's next, Pol looks ahead with optimism. Bloome envisions setting the gold standard in aesthetic medicine and overall personal health, diversifying and entering various health sectors in Spain and throughout Europe.
"And on a more personal note, [I want] to continue this project for many years because it truly fulfills us. To keep enjoying it as we do now, honestly. To wake up every morning wanting to go to work, that's the plan," Pol concludes.