Shegun strolled into the UAB iLab at Innovation Depot for our meeting wearing a soft blue button up and a smile. He’s humble and kind. Don’t mistake that for a lack of determination: he’s the successful Founder and CEO of TheraNest and he’s got spunk. Impressed by Shegun, I asked him to tell me when his journey as an entrepreneur began –
“Since I can remember, I’ve always been starting something. When I was young, I sold stuff to my classmates. One time I had a small game center…I put up a light tv with a video game. They paid me to play.”
We laughed: Shegun isn’t selling stuff to classmates, anymore. He’s selling software that helps mental health practitioners streamline and improve their operations. I asked him what he studied in school and how he found Birmingham: “I started college in Nigeria and during my second year, I moved to Birmingham do to engineering at UAB. I was 18. I ended up studying engineering and information systems.”
TheraNest is just over two and a half years of operation and, not only has the team grown from one to fourteen full time team members – Shegun expects to exceed 20 full time employees by the end of 2016. Actually, his company is experiencing such rapid growth that he’s participating in the Venture for America (VFA) program for which Birmingham is a major host city.
Shegun said, “We have grown very fast. We’ve only been in the market for two and a half years and have thousands of users.” TheraNest serves customers in mental health practices and organizations throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, China, Myanmar, Nigeria, Australia, Jamaica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Japan – and others. Each month, TheraNest processes several million dollars in payments for customers. “The challenge I have is identifying talent to support business operations. I spend 20% of my time on interviews and trying to recruit talent. We hire from everywhere. It’s why we support awesome programs like Depot/U, UAB iLab, and VFA, he said.”
I asked Shegun if TheraNest was like an EMR. He said, “Yeah, it’s like an EMR for behavioral health services. The goal is to change how mental health is delivered, how practices are run. The interaction between care providers and clients. We see opportunity with teletherapy.”
Before leaving, Shegun turned to look back over his shoulder and said, “We definitely want to stay here. I think Birmingham is coming up fast. I think there’s a lot of potential ahead. The future is very bright.”