Article in Expresso Journal with Group First’s president and CEO, José Correia de Sousa

Article by Maribela Freitas

FIRST is a Portuguese company that triumphed in creating, developing, implementing and supporting specialized software solutions for healthcare.
FIRST’s history dates back to 2001. At this stage it was still linked to a group where José Correia de Sousa was a partner. Three years later, he bought the whole of this structure and the following year he formed Group FIRST, which specializes in the creation, development, implementation and support of specialized software solutions in healthcare.
The adventure began at this point. In 2008, this entrepreneur launched himself in the international market and explains how to maintain and grow a business in Portugal and abroad.

José Correia de Sousa is 50 years old and believes that management needs to have the "capacity to adapt to market conditions, commitment to the customer and give equal opportunities to employees", he emphasizes. These are the principles of management that he follows and has implemented within FIRST, based in Porto. The entrepreneur says that when FIRST was created in 2001, it was called ATM Saúde. "In December 2004 I came to an agreement with the other ATM shareholders to buy all the shares. In 2005 the company changed its name to First Solutions – Sistemas de Informação. That same year, First Devices and First Capital (holding) were created, giving rise to Group FIRST”, explains José Correia de Sousa.

At the beginning of this process, the entrepreneur brought forward his own capital, but later had to resort to banks to finance the business’ expansion. "Along this route, the existing solutions in the enterprise were extended, particularly in the area of  clinical services computerized management, which initially was only possible for radiology", says the entrepreneur.

Currently, FIRST has a platform that allows you to manage information for 14 clinical areas. In addition, we created innovative solutions in the area of monitoring and control of infections associated with healthcare, in telemedicine solutions and in systems that manage the entire circuit of a population screening, currently available for screening of cervical, colon and rectum and breast cancers, and diabetic retinopathy. More recently we have created an information system for the control of budgetary targets for hospitals and local healthcare units. José Correia de Sousa explains, "Competition in this sector is very strong, with companies big in dimension and financial capacity. Therefore it was essential to focus on innovation and creation of niche markets that in some cases contributed significantly to the expansion of the market itself". In addition to Portugal, the conquest of new markets has always been an objective of Group FIRST who flung to this quest in 2008 with the entry in Spain through a network of local partners. He then went to Brazil, where "we immediately found a great business potential," he says.

The entry in Poland took place this year. "When you enter a market it is very important to understand how it works, the opportunities that exist, the competition, legal and tax system", explains José Correia de Sousa. After this phase it is fundamental to define products/customers with which/whom to begin the approach, and focus on the solutions that are more likely to be successful. He says that with FIRST it was important that its products had already gained maturity in Portugal, which reduced the difficulties of its entry abroad. To those who want to internationalise their business, the entrepreneur recommends knowing the market well and providing added value through a consolidated offer. To this recipe he adds the bet on local partners who know the country well and which are the best strategies to be applied. "The financial strength and ability is also crucial, because the return is not always immediate", he advises.

Vision, innovation and very rigorous management are, in the opinion of this entrepreneur, the key points to be successful in business. You must "have good ideas, but more importantly, have the ability to implement them in a continuous manner”, concludes José Correia de Sousa.

Business ID

José Correia de Sousa

Educational background:
Graduated in Mathematics at the faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto

Area of Activity:
Creates, develops, implements and supports specialized software solutions for healthcare.

Date of creation:

Jobs created:
70 jobs, 62 of which are in Portugal and 8 are abroad.

Turnover volume:
In 2010, the company had a turnover above 2.2 million euros.

Its main clients are the Ministry of Health, regional health authorities, local health units, hospitals, health centres and the main private sector groups.

International presence:
FIRST is currently present in Spain, Brazil and Poland.

Future prospects:
While in Portugal the economic scenario is not the most optimistic, over the last years FIRST has managed to increase its installed product base, with some stability in revenues. The company wants to grow internationally. It has great business prospects in Brazil and Poland and is considering entering new markets.