In celebration of Black History Month, we are shining a light on the Business School’s outstanding Black entrepreneurs. Niyi Michael-Adenuga, MSc Business Analytics 2020, is the distinguished co-founder of Akoma Health, a health tech company in Africa.
Company and role: Akoma Health, Co-Founder
Education: Imperial College - MEng Chemical Engineering (2017) and Imperial College Business School - MSc Business Analytics (2020)
I’ve completed two degrees from Imperial - my undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering (completed in 2017) at Imperial College London and my Business Analytics Master’s at Imperial College Business School (completed in 2020). In the six years since my undergraduate degree, I’ve worked across upstream Oil & Gas, Telecoms, FinTech and now HealthTech.
Prior to applying for the MSc Business Analytics programme at the business school, I had been working in an Operations role in upstream oil and gas. My motivation for applying was primarily to transition into a data-centric/strategy role at a tech company, leveraging the data analytics skills I had been building at work and on my own.
My business: Akoma Health
I’m the co-founder of Akoma Health,a tele-therapy web application, providing thousands of Africans with access to virtual mental health consultations through our large network of psychologists, therapists, counsellors and coaches. Our core mission is to improve accessibility to mental health care (overcoming barriers around the cultural perception of therapy and stigma attached to going to physical clinics). One of the most significant ways we have achieved this is by integrating with leading Health Insurers/Health Maintenance Organisations on the continent in providing our services through their channels. Through these processes, we offer very customised user experiences via features like our preference survey, algorithmically matching users to providers based on their symptoms and desired traits in providers.
We have made tremendous progress in the last year, and we are proud to be one of the startups in the 2023 cohort of Google’s Black Founders Fund. We are looking forward to deepening our relationships with Health Insurers, Employers and other health care stakeholders, across the continent. Expanding the care modalities on Akoma Health is another priority for us - we’ve recently released solutions for asynchronous care through our chat feature.
What inspired me to become an entrepreneur
The first moment was in 2020, when I experienced a tremendous lack of resources available for mental health care in Nigeria. At the time, I was struggling with sleep and other anxiety-like symptoms. I know I needed some support, but I had no idea where to begin looking for trusted solutions or professionals.
In the process of discussing with others who had also been looking for solutions and tried them, therapists, and other stakeholders, I understood the broader context and realised this was a much bigger challenge than I had initially imagined. Beyond this, I noticed a sea-change in employers and insurers, who were looking for mental health solutions due to the demand side.
Challenges I have faced along the way
Given that Akoma Health operates in Africa, fortunately, there have not been many challenges I’ve that have been directly attributable to race. One disconnect was the experience of having to explain to foreign investors the context of mental health in Africa, and the progress made in recent years around consumers’ awareness and motivation to pay for solutions. Luckily, we have been supported by funds/angels with a lot of operational experience on the continent, such as Google BFF, Visible Hands, HoaQ and many more.
How Imperial College Business School has helped me
My MSc in Business Analytics directly prepared me for my role at Bamboo, an African WealthTech company, where I led data analytics and experimentation. I ended up working very closely with both founders and in the process, I learnt a lot about what it takes to be a founder of an early-stage company. They continue to be invaluable supporters and advisors of Akoma Health. I have also been supported by many members of the Imperial College Business School team such as Clare Turner and Dean Francisco Veloso.
My advice for Black students aspiring to become entrepreneurs
Spend time listening and be open to learning from existing operators and other stakeholders in your chosen area. They will almost have insights that are essential to creating a valuable solution.
Entrepreneurship is hard, so make sure you have a solid support network that includes people who are also entrepreneurs/have a lot of understanding of what the experience is like.
I’m fairly new into my entrepreneurship journey, but I’m happy to support you in any way and answer questions you might have. I’m available on LinkedIn.