Startup Profile: Olera
While it may be true that nothing is certain but death and taxes, few people are prepared for the challenges of supporting loved ones at the end of their lives. Caring for aging family, especially those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, is often emotionally and financially draining. LaunchPad fellow Tokunbo “TJ” Falohun co-founded Olera, a platform that assists family caretakers with services ranging from creating individualized care plans to suggesting service providers like attorneys who can create advance directives. After participating in the Summer 2021 LaunchPad Fellowship, Olera won a $2.3M grant from the National Institute on Aging, which falls under the National Institute of Health (NIH). The funding will go first towards launching and testing Olera in Central Texas before scaling nationwide next year.
Olera was born out of Texas A&M Sling Health, an interdisciplinary student organization founded by TJ to bring together students intent on solving medical problems with entrepreneurship. After reading Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal, TJ was struck by both the inevitably of aging and the extent to which it is neglected in our society.
“I’m moved by the idea that this area matters so much but it’s overlooked. I don’t think that’s because people don’t care. If people really thought about it, they’d have more interest. Eldercare and aging don’t have to be something that’s shunned and overlooked.”
Olera is not the first successful med-tech startup that TJ co-founded with other Sling Health members — he is also the co-founder of Ai-Ris, a low-cost imaging device used to assess and prevent damage caused by diabetic retinopathy (eye disease caused by diabetes). TJ earned a spot in the Fall 2020 Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship for Ai-Ris before going on to win the $20,000 Silver Fox Advisors Mentoring prize in the 2021 Rice Business plan Competition.
After meeting through Sling Health, TJ and his co-founders Logan Dubose and Jesse Phipps turned to the TAMU LaunchPad for support for Olera and Jesse decided to apply for the Summer 2021 LaunchPad Fellowship.
“After TJ’s experience with the LaunchPad Fellowship, it was a no brainer for us,” Jesse explains. “One of my favorite parts of the program was interfacing with other entrepreneurs… I developed several skills, especially pitching. I got way better at that over the course of the summer. Getting feedback and seeing what sticks in a safe environment was really helpful.”
The Fellowship also prepared the Olera team to make the most of the funding they have since received from the NIH grant. They recently began Phase One of the grant, which is focused on developing the platform and testing its efficacy and usability locally, around Central Texas. Phase Two will entail scaling nationwide and studying how different populations and demographics respond to and interact with the platform.
“We really want to make sure that our platform works for underserved populations,” said TJ. “Eldercare resources aren’t usually catered to that audience. We want to change that.”