Startup Keona Health dials in to $2.5M in new capital

From Article in WRALTECHWire

Chapel Hill, N.C. — Entrepreneurs wanting a case study on how to build a company that ultimately wins customers and lands investors to trigger further growth might want to check out the story of Keona Health.

From humble beginnings as a startup at the LaunchBox Digital accelerator in 2011 to receiving an NC IDEA grant to winning a six-figure prize in an Allscripts challenge to $2.5 million in venture capital: That's the quick growth story of Chapel Hill's Keona Health, which aims to change how medical practices deal initially with patients.

The company, which has developed technology to help healthcare providers "triage" customer calls through its cloud-delivered "Online Health Advice" solution, disclosed $2.5 million in backing from a number of investors on Monday.

“Keona Health’s software tools are aimed at providing relief for what is widely recognized to be one of the biggest pain points in medicine today, patient call support” said Oakkar Oakkar, the co-founder and CEO of Keona Health. He helped launch the company while working on a masters degree in Clinical Informatics at UNC Chapel Hill.

The firm's "secret sauce" is a means of automating medical interviews with patients. The idea is to take pressure off staff - especially nurses - and also save money.

Kenona has been boosted by National Institute of Health research that shows the online health application saves 43 percent of a nurse's time in dealing with calls. UNC-CH conducted the research. 

Okkar, a veteran software developer, co-funded the firm along with Javed Mostafa, a professor of Information Science at UNC-CH.

The pain point for clients is dealing with 100 to 200 patient calls per day that take on average between 10 and 15 minutes, according to Keona.

Current clients include:

  • Tulane University
  • UNC Student Health
  • Chapel Hill Children's Clinic

“I’m greatly encouraged by news of Keona securing Series A funding, reflecting years of hard work and validating Keona’s prospects for significant future growth,” said Jim Kitchen, entrepreneur in residence at Kenan-Flagler business school and founder of UNC’s Venture Lab, in a statement “ They are one of Chapel Hill’s success stories and I couldn’t be more proud of Oakkar, Stephen [Dean, chief operating officer] and their team.”

Keona launched through the short-lived LaunchBox Digital accelerator program in 2011. It was one of seven firms that received $20,000 in startup funding. LaunchBox shut down shortly thereafter.

However, Kenoa moved ahead.

Later that year, the firm received a $35,000 non-dilutive grant from NC IDEA in Durham.

In 2013, Keona made major news when it finished second in the annual Allscripts Open Application Challenge and received a $100,000 prize.

Formal launch for Keona came last November.

The company's headquarters was at the Launch Chapel Hill shared office space complex.

Let’s Chip In Wins UNC’s Triangle Start-up Weekend

On Friday, Nov 15, entrepreneurial participants at Triangle Start-up Weekend voted for the top start-up ideas and then self-selected themselves into teams. The winning idea, Let's Chip In, was the brain child of Jeff Henriod, a second-year MBA student at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. This soon-to-be first time father had an idea to create a website and app that helps new parents raise friends-and-family money for significant purchases, such as a baby crib. Henriod’s concept did well in first-round voting, attracting potential teammates from among the 86 aspiring entrepreneurs in attendance. 

Annalisa Winther, a UNC Kenan-Flagler undergraduate student and Global Learning Opportunities in Business Education Fellow and  two local software developers, Andrew Ice and Leonel Galan, rounded out the team of eight and were critical in developing a working minimal viable product by mid-way through the weekend. This gave Henriod and Winther a chance to test the idea with potential customers and raise early revenue – a winning feature for the judges who awarded Let’s Chip In first prize on Sunday.

As the winning venture, Let’s Chip In will get a six-month lease at 1789 Venture Lab, an incubator for younger businesses in downtown Chapel Hill, as well as free consultation from marketing, social enterprise, accounting and legal professionals.  

To read more about this event and other winners and participants check out the article Let's Chip In wins UNC's Triangle Startup Weekend at


Triangle Start-up Weekend: A Chapel Hill Success

On November 16, Launch Chapel Hill hosted the Saturday Night After Party for Triangle Start-up Weekend. It was an opportunity for everyone involved in this entrepreneurial event to cool down and network. Startup Weekend is a global initiative that brings together passionate individuals with unique skill sets and experiences, then challenges them to turn their ideas into reality over the course of a weekend. The event had 86 participants and attracted amazing speakers and judges from Chapel Hill and surrounding Raleigh-Durham area, including Ted Zoller, UNC-Chapel Hill Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Judith Cone, special assistant to the chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship, and Alec Guettel, co-founder of Sungevity and Axiom Law and a Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UNC.

To read more about this event, check out Ann Johnston's article at Chapel Hill's Triangle Startup Weekend Has More Than Good Looks at

Launch Chapel Hill Now Accepting Applications

Launch Chapel Hill Now Accepting Applications for the January – June 2014 Accelerator Program 

Chapel Hill, NC, October 17, 2013 – Launch Chapel Hill is accepting applications for the Winter 2014 Accelerator program through  November 22, 2013.  The program, designed to build successful, sustainable start-ups,  runs 22 weeks from January 6-June 6, 2014 and kicks off with a three day “accelerator boot camp.  Information on the application process can be found at:   Interested ventures can tour the space and learn more about the program by attending an information session.  Information sessions will take place on Monday October 28th from 5:30  – 6:30  pm and Tuesday, November 12th from 5:30 – 6:30 pm  at Launch Chapel Hill, 321 West Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill.  The teams selected will join a strong cohort of current residents, including companies like ABAN, 80% solutions and 42 Local. 

The Launch Chapel Hill accelerator program helps entrepreneurs with high-potential, high-impact ideas of all types (commercial to social, high tech to no tech) take their venture to the next level.  Ventures accepted into the Launch Chapel Hill program receive personalized access to experts and mentors, broad networking opportunities, office space in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill and perhaps -- most importantly -- the opportunity to work side by side with other start-ups. 

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