Entrepreneurship according to Franck Le Ouay.

For our second episode of the What Health podcast, we welcome Franck Le Ouay, co-founder and CEO of Lifen.
Through this article, we would like to share with you Franck Le Ouay's vision of entrepreneurship.

Published on 16 June 2022 at 09h02


This article is based on the second episode of our What Health podcast, with guest Franck Le Ouay. To listen to the episode go to Spotify and don't forget to subscribe to receive a notification when the next episode is released, as well as put 5 stars to help us emerge.     

For our second episode of the What Health podcast, we welcome Franck Le Ouay, co-founder and CEO of Lifen.  

So first of all, Lifen, what is it?   

It's a startup that helps all the players in the healthcare ecosystem to care together, by enabling them to mobilize the most relevant health data and innovations for care. For example, Lifen helps healthcare professionals manage all their electronic and postal mailings in a single solution, or to organize and automate their on-call and service schedules, or to facilitate or even accelerate and secure the deployment of e-health solutions within HIS thanks to a unique integration.  

Finally, Lifen is a trusted partner, an expert in health data, which allows to improve the care pathway and the patient's management, by facilitating the work of health professionals.  

Behind Lifen there are hundreds of employees and three co-founders Franck Le Ouay (co-founder of Critéo, listed on Nasdaq), Alexandre Huckert and Etienne Depaulis (founders of a start-up in the health sector). We had the chance to exchange with Franck, to know his entrepreneurial mindset and his journey from his studies to today.  

This exchange, animated by Vincent Puren, allowed us to learn a lot about Franck's life. From his different business experiences, to the fundraising he has gone through, to his international growth experience, we got a detailed view of the life of this successful entrepreneur.  

Through this article, we would like to share with you Franck Le Ouay's vision of entrepreneurship, an overview that allows us to understand how he got to where he is today and what lessons he should take into account when embarking on an entrepreneurial adventure.  

 Entrepreneurship is above all a human adventure  

One of the main traits that emerged from our exchange with Franck is humility.  

"You have to have the humility to recognize your weaknesses, to find the people who can complete you, bring the missing expertise to the project, without which the adventure inevitably misses something.  

Franck confides to us that what he appreciates above all in entrepreneurship is the human adventure that it involves. It is the meeting with women and men who then share his path, to build something.  

Franck tells us that entrepreneurship is often full of pitfalls. It's a journey that requires you to navigate without really knowing the destination. In the end, you need a certain amount of carelessness, a large amount of resilience, but in a particular state of mind, because you have to believe in it and be positive, despite the obstacles and bad experiences.  

This is why, six months after the birth of the idea of Criteo, Franck's first startup, he was joined by a friend, Romain Niccoli, whom he finally convinced to join the famous Agoranov incubator, allowing them to attend and participate in events, pitches, and exchanges with other entrepreneurs.  

6 months later, listening to Jean Baptiste Rudelle pitch a project identical to Criteo's, Franck and his colleague and friend decided to continue the exchange with this entrepreneur. That day marked the meeting point between tech, as represented by Franck and his colleague, and business, as represented by Jean Baptiste Rudelle, which they would put to work for Criteo.  

They could have decided to go their own way, considering that they were competitors, but chose to combine their expertise, to create something stronger, each recognizing that they needed each other's know-how to go further. A great example of humility.  

This professional encounter was one of the first that really had a considerable impact on Franck's life, but it was far from being the only one, since following this, the entrepreneurs moved to New York, Criteo went public, and Franck left this adventure to launch a crazy project: entrepreneurship in health, with Honestica, which later became Lifen, a medical coordination platform for health institutions and private practitioners. 

Making a difference, having a real impact.  

When Franck decided to let Criteo live on its own in 2015, in the same way that a child leaves the nest to live its own life, he decided that his next adventure would not be in advertising.  

It was important for Franck to embark on a meaningful project, one that would have an impact, one that would change things because we would really need it. It is therefore quite natural that he tackles into the health sector.  

He goes back to the way he apprehended this sector, the actors who make it up. Being an extremely difficult sector to penetrate, it is necessary to convince the players who are already present and involved.  

Moreover, it is a sector that has been in crisis for years and tensions are constantly increasing, which leaves little room for maneuvering and taking part, even less when one's will is to drastically change things.  

But all this did not discourage Franck and his two partners. They decided to hang on, to present their project, to work hard. They managed to convince and bring on board Philippe Douste Blazy, former Minister of Health, who believed in the project enough to invest in it, which gave it a particular boost.  

However, the question of legitimacy remains. The health sector is complex and the requirements are more important than in any other industry. This is why he confides to us that it took a lot of listening and humility to move forward and operate in this field, to get started and take off.  

"Too many brakes, not enough innovation" is what motivates Lifen to develop today. In a system where everything seems unchanging, it is obvious that innovation is the key. It is then step by step, by trying to convince actor after actor that Lifen is advancing towards its goal of being a trustworthy, viable, reliable and intuitive third party for healthcare professionals, in order to improve the care pathway.  

3 obstacles to solve to help e-health entrepreneurs   

After several years on the market and with the benefit of hindsight, Franck Le Ouay notes a few obstacles that can be overcome to make life easier for all e-health entrepreneurs.  

  • Defining the limit of the State's involvement with the industries.   

Franck reminds us that the logic of the state is necessary in our society, but how can we define the extent to which it does not hinder innovation ?  

Industry needs trust, space to develop and create change, especially in the health sector. According to Franck, a better definition of the limits would only be beneficial for the system as a whole, since the players are interdependent and must work together, in a logic of evolution.  


  • Calls for tender are a brake on innovation, firstly for the State, but also for entrepreneurs.  

Too rigid, too framed, they do not allow entrepreneurs to go to the end of what they could imagine, create. At the same time, it implies that the State cuts itself off from an enormous potential of innovation, which could be in the service and interest of all.  

Indeed, already confronted with calls for tender, Franck confides to us that it is a complicated experience, since it leaves little room for creativity, the driving force for entrepreneurs who wish to innovate and move the lines.  

  • European harmonization  

Franck confided to us that at the French level the rules and instructions are already not very clear, especially on the subject of health data storage, a major issue for the health industry and especially for Lifen.   

There is a need to clarify things, to harmonize the rules, to know exactly what is necessary to put in place according to one's needs and ambitions. This is all the more true in Europe, where the rules are still different from one country or even from one region to another.  

Trust at the heart of the system and innovation  

Trust is crucial. It is even more so when you decide to tackle a sensitive subject, such as health data, the the core business of the Lifen startup.  

When the subject is of public interest, trust must be at the heart of the process. For patients in particular, who are the end users of innovations, and with the actors who contribute to making the system work, in the first instance.   

In a system like healthcare, where it is difficult to get things moving, many people are resistant to change and it is more difficult to build a climate of trust with them, which makes it difficult to see innovations through to the end.   

However, Franck confides to us that when these same people are convinced, by dint of evidence, use cases, feedback, and time, then these same people become the ambassadors of change and of the innovation itself.  

This is why it is important to build a product, a service, that first and foremost meets the needs and expectations of its users, to build trust and create innovation.  


Through these few lines, we share with you part of the entrepreneurial mindset of Franck Le Ouay, co-founder of two companies, one of which is now listed on the stock exchange, Criteo, and one of which is present in the famous Next40, Lifen.  

An inspiring journey, which allows us to get some keys to understand the construction of a company and the potential obstacles in the life of an entrepreneur.  

To view the podcast in images it is here, otherwise, go to our Spotify page for the audio version.   

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See you soon for the next podcast.