In this series, TXi Editor Judge Gwyn sits down with students who have started a business or brand while in school to highlight the next generation of founders.
These days, a certain level of innovation is necessary to get through school, especially in competitive graduate programs. Studies show that the median time to complete a Ph.D. is 5.8 years, with some programs ranging as high as 7.1 years.
With grueling schedules, multi-year burnout, and persistence to create change, doctoral programs and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. Still, not many could withstand the pressure of achieving the highest levels of academia while starting a business (or businesses) at the same time.
Tokunbo "TJ" Falohun, co-founder of Ai-Ris LLC and Olera Inc, is currently a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University who has created two companies that improve people's lives through medical technologies.
Ai-Ris LLC provides a point-of-case ocular diagnostic system to help detect diabetic retinopathy early, which prevents those with diabetes from vision loss. Roughly 80% of people with diabetes for more than 15 years develop the condition. Last month, Ai-Ris LLC received a $260,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Olera Inc strives to modernize eldercare by streamlining the process of finding resources for those taking care of elder loved ones. There is an estimated 34.2 million Americans who either provide or have provided unpaid care to an adult aged 50 or older in the past year. Of these caregivers that are also employed, 56% of them work full-time, which is a challenging scenario over 30 million Americans face. In the fall, Olera was awarded a $2.3 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute on Aging.
While TJ faces a mountain of challenges, how does he approach each day as a Ph.D. student and still scale not one, but two companies?
Co-Founder TJ Falohun
Looking for more information?
2022 will be a pivotal growth year for both Ai-Ris and Olera. If you are interested in investing in either venture, reach out to TJ via LinkedIn.