Entrepreneurship wasn’t something that Tobi Bosede C11 initially thought she would pursue. Upon receiving her undergraduate degree in mathematics, she started her career in health care with electronic-medical-records companies, eventually leading her to work at Cornell University’s medical school as a data analyst. After completing her master’s in applied mathematics and statistics at Johns Hopkins University, she shifted her focus to AI and machine learning to solve complex technical problems. Now, Bosede is drawing on her passion for AI through Ilekun Health, a new startup she founded to bring transparent pricing to health care.
Penn’s Venture Lab caught up with the alumna to talk about her startup, the early days of her entrepreneurial journey, and more.
Venture Lab: How did you decide on Penn as your preferred school?
Tobi Bosede: Honestly, everything! When I visited the campus, I loved the diverse environment, and everyone was very nice and friendly.
It felt like a dream environment and, because I was focused on premed at the time, Penn was at the top of my list due to its highly regarded health-care system and medical school. I also loved the location and was looking at universities in smaller cities.
VL: At what age did you get started with entrepreneurship?
TB: I started really pursuing entrepreneurship at 30 — so, very recently — though in my late 20s, I pitched an idea for another company to one of my mentors. I also dabbled a bit in applying to business competitions to see if the idea had any traction.
VL: Can you tell us a bit about your journey starting Ilekun Health?
TB: I founded Ilekun Health after I suffered a personal injury playing soccer. I was unable to tell which of the sports-medicine doctors in my insurance directory could treat me affordably and with high quality. Ilekun Health is a marketplace app that lets you comparison shop for health-care prices, even without insurance. Our cash pricing allows patients to save money and providers to get paid faster.
VL: How did you validate the opportunity?
TB: The need for affordable health care is becoming increasingly clear as more and more people are struggling to even afford coverage for an annual physical exam. The lack of coverage has become even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, where many have lost their jobs and, therefore, lost medical coverage. Furthermore, most of us have little to no knowledge of the cost for medical services until after the fact, and you end up with situations where one patient who gets a COVID-19 test is charged $6,408, while another patient who saw the same provider is charged just $199 for the test.
To validate the opportunity, we have done 90 patient and provider interviews in addition to market testing with digital ads. Both yielded compelling results and proved the need for Ilekun.
VL: How is business going so far?
TB: The feedback from the market testing has enabled us to make marked improvements to our user acquisition process, starting with our website and messaging. We have a number of large clients, including CVS and Trustmark, in the customer funnel for future pilots. We made tremendous progress in the first year of the company’s existence, so I’d say things are going pretty well so far!
VL: What advice would you give to aspiring student entrepreneurs?
TB: Make sure you’re open to learning what you don’t know and check your ego at the door. Remember not to take any feedback personally; feedback is an opportunity to improve! One of my advisors even calls feedback a gift because it’s data that may make or break the business.
Taylor Durham is associate director of communications for the University of Pennsylvania’s Venture Lab.