Econ 325 Speaker Series: A Day with Oakkar Oakkar
One day Oakkar Oakkar's nose began to bleed severely, and, after calling several of the closest hospitals with no response, he was dropped off at the emergency room. Following four hours of waiting and a nurse merely asking “were you picking your nose?” Oakkar decided there needed to be a better, more efficient way of handling phone calls. His decision to create a triage platform was not due to a “eureka moment,” but because of his own experience with doctors and emergencies. Thus Keona Health was born.
Keona’s creation was not void of challenges. Most poignant to me was Oakkar’s description of balancing his time between running a start up and studying for his Master’s degree. He spoke about “the outliers” Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who decided it would be more beneficial to leave school. However, Oakkar decided he was the opposite. “I don’t like starting something and not finishing it,” he told us. Oakkar finished his degree much to his own joy and to many investors’ astonishment. Moreover, his status as a student gave him access to mentorship and resources within the UNC community.
Oakkar handled questions with poise, jokingly saying “You guys sound like investors!” He fielded my question about how his product would work with some people of older generations who are not as good with computers. “The thing is we knew that they were not the customers we were after. If we were able to strike a certain innovative, capable group of customers then the rest would follow from there,” he responded easily. Oakkar totally believed in his product, and this belief has been a pillar in his journey with Keona.
After lunch we all departed to class in the FedEx Global Center, and he gave his presentation to the class. Once again highlighting his struggles such as fundraising, finding time for the startup and school, and staying focused when it would have been easy to quit. In addition to his struggles, he provided crucial insight on team building, the entrepreneurial atmosphere at UNC, which was so important to him, and becoming better at managing time and thoughts. Although the insight he provided was amazing, the best part of the presentation came when he opened the floor to the class. Oakkar turned what was just supposed to be a lecture into a totally interactive experience where students asked questions and he asked questions of his own. The class converted from a lecture hall into a hive of ideas as to how we thought Keona could improve. This day with Oakkar led me to realize the true reasons we all take the Minor in Entrepreneurship: to create these hives of innovative thinking and to solve the problems that are before us together. We collectively use the tools that entrepreneurs like Oakkar share with us.