An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Luke Hejl (co-founder and CEO) of TimelyMD, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of TimelyMD – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
TimelyMD was born in 2017 as an idea among our three co-founders and longtime friends: Chris Clark, Alan Dennington and me. Alan and I grew up together in Austin, and we got to know Chris during our first year at Abilene Christian University.
What began as a dinner table idea soon snowballed into a yearlong research project into telehealth, specifically as it relates to higher education and the gaps in care that had been the norm for far too long. With my experience as an entrepreneur in healthcare, Chris’s background in pharma and sales leadership, and Alan’s background as an emergency room physician and business owner, all three of our founders share a passion for transforming the way healthcare is delivered to college students.
Our mission at TimelyMD is to improve the health and well-being of college students through virtual medical and mental health care accessible anytime, anywhere, and that’s what we do every day. In 2018, we introduced 24/7 virtual medical care, which offered students unlimited no-cost telehealth visits, augmented the student health center’s team, made treatment available beyond traditional office hours, and allowed students to connect from wherever they are and whatever device they have. Soon after, we added on-demand mental health support and scheduled counseling offerings to make sure students always had somewhere to turn and someone to talk to, no matter how big or small their concerns.
All the groundwork we’d laid in the previous three years positioned TimelyMD well for 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic quickly shifted telehealth from a nice-to-have to a must-have. We were ready to meet the higher-ed sector’s demand for an immediate telehealth solution that enabled students to access medical and mental health services when their campuses abruptly shut down. Telehealth platforms like ours quickly became the first line of response as the events of the world (the pandemic, racial injustice movement, and economic downturn) changed everything about the way students experienced the world. Over the last year, we have grown to support more than 130 campuses nationwide and have expanded our offerings to include a holistic suite of virtual well-being services such as health coaching, psychiatry, basic needs support, and faculty/staff guidance.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Staying true to our mission to deliver care for students requires continual focus and restraint. Given the meteoric rise in telehealth over the last year and a half, we made a deliberate decision not to get distracted by ever-present shiny objects, such as opportunities that have come our way to expand care to other populations.
Early-stage companies like ours can struggle with raising the capital needed. While that hasn’t been a significant hurdle for us at TimelyMD (we’ve been fortunate to attract great partners for our seed, series A (Argenta Partners), and series B (JMI Equity) funding rounds), it’s worth acknowledging. Being simultaneously opportunistic and selective about the process to find the right investors takes a considerable amount of any founder’s time, energy, and due diligence.
At TimelyMD, we believe in making healthcare better and more accessible for students everywhere. Doing that takes the brightest minds and biggest hearts. Building a rock star team and tripling the size of our staff during a global pandemic has been a priority. Similarly, building a provider network in all 50 states has been a challenge worth pursuing.
What does the future hold for TimelyMD?
With growth in a young company comes a lot of interest. We were fortunate to gain the attention of JMI Equity and, in January 2021, secured $60 million in funding to accelerate our vision to help students thrive. This infusion of capital has been integral to helping TimelyMD enhance students’ virtual care experience, scale our staff, innovate through technology, improve care delivery, and more. Our team moves quickly, so one could imagine what you might see from TimelyMD in months to come.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Fort Worth?
It’s booming, and it’s great to see other tech leaders recognizing a city I’ve known and loved for a long time. COVID has really accelerated the trend of companies relocating from places like California and New York to Fort Worth, and it shows in the level of talent we’re able to recruit and retain in the area.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
First, surround yourself with great people. I joke that it’s my leadership superpower, but it’s so important. Be crazy diligent about giving them the resources that they need, trust them, and ensure they are heavily incentivized to win with you. From entry level colleagues to fellow board members, people are the best part of TimelyMD, and they are the reason we have become as successful as we are today.
Also, have mentors. I’m particularly passionate about finding people who have done what I do on a much larger scale and developing informal mentoring relationships. I’ve learned so much from them, and I enjoy paying it forward to other entrepreneurs.