1000Farmacie, Italian innovation in online sale of pharmaceutical products

1000Farmacie is specialised in the home delivery of OTC medicine and drugs, which are those that do not need a prescription. Its system is based on a network of Italian pharmacies that make their products available on its platform.

The mind behind the entire project is a young entrepreneur, 29-years-old Nicolò Petrone. Before becoming CE0 of 1000Farmacie, he had founded Medici, a fintech marketplace that the American company Prove acquired in 2021.

Petrone created his new start-up together with two other entrepreneurs, Mohamed Younes and Alberto Marchetti.

Firstly, 1000Farmacie closed a 1.7-million-dollars round. Then, in February 2022, the company announced that its capital had increased by 15 million dollars. P101 SGR e HBM Healthcare Investments were the lead investors of the entire operation. Corisol Holding, Club degli Investitori, IAG, LIFTT and Healthware Ventures also invested in this new business.

1000Farmacie has reached a gross merchandise value of over 20 million dollars, on a yearly basis. Also, it keeps on reinforcing its partnerships with some of the major pharmaceutical companies in Italy. These companies chose 1000Farmacie to improve their delivery service.

1000Farmacie launched its business during the peak of the Covid pandemic

The story of 1000Farmacie began in March 2020. Petrone started developing an idea he’d had while living in the USA. He had moved there after his graduation in Economy at the University “Federico II” of Naples. In the USA, he had attended the Hult Business School in San Francisco.

That Petrone started thinking about e-commerce in the pharmaceutical sector when he was living in the USA is no coincidence, as the digital health market was already very developed there. According to him, the fact that in the USA they can sell prescription drugs online – an option that is still not available in Italy – helped this sector progress greatly.

However, the pharmaceutical business was becoming increasingly important in the European Union as well. And this, of course, was a pivotal element in the creation of the start-up. “In Europe, the pharmaceutical business had been growing massively, and we decided to enter the market”, explains Petrone.

While developing their new business, Petrone and his two associates considered another aspect. The Italian pharmaceutical market is very fragmented. It is characterised by independent pharmacies with no online platforms where they can sell their products. Furthermore, each of them has a limited variety of products.

Therefore, 1000Farmacie introduced to the Italian market a system that makes the inventories of many pharmacies available on a single platform. Thanks to that, it provides clients with a greater variety of products and a faster home delivery.

Over the last year, 1000Farmacie’s gross merchandise value has increased by 300%. Since its establishment, the company has formed a network of more than 100 independent pharmacies. Nowadays, 290,000 customers are using the platform, where they can choose amongst 95,000 products.

How does 1000Farmacie work?

When they were developing their start-up, Petrone, Younes and Marchetti understood that there were two business models they could employ. One was a pharmacy with stocks and a storage room. The other was something similar to a marketplace. They chose the second one.

In the e-commerce business, costs related to logistics have a huge influence”, says Petrone. “Working with a pool of pharmacies involves fewer expenses because you rely on their logistics. This model becomes scalable, and it nullifies the risk of having unsold goods or products that are about to expire. On the other hand, you can still have an ample catalogue”.

We have created a vertical integration with the pharmacies’ managements. It has been a complex process because the market is very diverse”, he adds.

Anyway, not every pharmacy is suitable for this type of business. “Our pharmacies need to have a wide workforce, since the amount of work may increase abruptly, and they might need more people and space right away to meet market needs”, explains Petrone.

Next steps 

1000Farmacie is planning to expand its market. Until now, it has only worked in Italy, but the idea is to start new partnerships in other European countries too.

The company also wants to improve the e-commerce side of its business. Their aim is to speed up delivery times. In a few months, the start-up will activate a service that will guarantee delivery within 24 hours. In the beginning, this option will be available in the major Italian cities, then nationwide.

The new funds will be used specifically for the technological and commercial improvement of 1000Farmacie’s platform. This process will focus on finalising an innovative model for the online sale of pharmaceutical products.

1000Farmacie will develop in a similar way to Pillpack, the US company that Amazon bought for 1 billion dollars in 2018, in order to integrate its technology. In fact, Pillpack has developed an e-commerce business of pre-dosed and sorted meds. Before that, Amazon only sold OTC drugs.

Last but not least, 1000Farmacie will also introduce new services. For example, from 2023, clients will be able to ask for health support through its platform.