Irewole Akande is an engineer and an international entrepreneur from Nigeria who is committed to spearheading products that can prevent potential problems in the society.
In this episode of the HealthTech Hustle, Irewole brings in a whiff of inspiration as he shares his journey of success as an entrepreneur in a place where he is considered to be a minority. He started off as an international student who had to juggle his studies with a full-time job, while working on his ideas of creating products that can resolve major problems in the society, particularly in healthcare.
“If you really want to get into the healthcare industry, instead of thinking of ways on how to fix a problem, start thinking of ways to prevent those problems.”- Irewole Akande [26:01]
What is your background? [00:50]
Irewole came from Abuja Nigeria, and came to the US to pursue engineering along with a dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur and inventor.
He was taken by the number of cold cases Americans are reporting each year and internalized on the value of hygiene like proper hand washing as the best preventive measure to address this increasing number of cases.
He met Ibraheem Alinur who was to become his business partner and together they innovated on a specialized sink that aims to teach people how to wash their hands properly. They further developed this product by doing diligent research on various handwashing practices.
He co-founded City Health Tech, a healthcare company that aims to develop products using technology that intends to build a community of healthier citizens and with a current goal of mitigating the spread of infectious diseases like the COVID-19.
Opal, the device that goes hand in hand with the faucet and sink is used to offer users a how-to guide and techniques on proper handwashing.
How did he identify the problem in the healthcare system and the first steps he took to offer solutions? [03:57]
It started with a friendly call out from a friend about not knowing how to do proper hand washing. Along with it are the nagging thoughts of how large the numbers that could be impacted if only individuals are observing proper hygiene procedures and have better education about the best techniques to clean the hands and how to build on that practice without feeling like it’s a mandatory routine. He worked with a partner, did a lot of research and utilized his background in engineering and developed an interactive device that gets people to immerse themselves in the whole handwashing process.
How did you get the word out about your company and reached the people you wanted to reach? [10:23]
He went out to the community and connected with people. He presented his ideas, got into conversations with people from office bases, restaurants, schools and corporate spaces, and made sure to be clear on his goal to let people know he cares about them. He and his team also did outbound calls, catered to inbound inquiries, and networked via social media to let their products be known by the people who are looking for it.
How did he put his team together? [07:50]
He worked with an engineering team, met together constantly to talk about the product designs, brainstormed about how they can make money and what are the things they can do next after successfully completing one project.
How did he overcome the problems that he encountered as an entrepreneur? [21:55]
The biggest challenge he faced is the difficulty to build his own venture as an entrepreneur while being a foreigner with a black skin. He had to work full-time jobs while working on his business while working on his visa. He had to go the extra mile by going back to school which was the easiest way to secure his visa and worked to earn a living and sustain the needs for the products he was building.
How did he earn the trust of people on his brand? [17:09]
He made sure the products he built are not just ideas and promises of good things to come. He dedicated time and effort on the products to make sure their features are visible enough for the people who need it and that it can really solve their problems. He performed tests to guarantee outstanding quality and really immersed himself into the process of understanding the actual problem.
What advice would he give to his 20-year-old self? [28:53]
Do it. That idea you’re thinking of, do it. That thing you are working on, work on it. Spend all the time, extend all the effort. Work on it, meet people, pitch it. Do every single thing to make it work because there's no better time than now to do something.
Irewole Akande answers the rapid-fire round of questions. [27:56]
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