Through organizations such as Startup Grind Birmingham, entrepreneurs are given the chance to network, learn, and see what it takes to be successful.
In 1998, Otulana moved from his birth place, Legos, Nigeria, to the beautiful city of Birmingham, Alabama. Here he attended UAB, to study Engineering and Management Information Systems.
Clearly the perfect background to start a tech company.
While at UAB he also held a job as a student assistant for the “help systems” and then an internship with the City of Birmingham as a student engineer.
Looking back, Otulana mentions the balance you must have to continue learning, while living life.
Being asked the question, “what’s the one thing that stuck with you the most through your college experience?”
“Hanging out with people… they were more important to me than class, really.”
Finishing in 2003, he started the “routine” of work as a consulting engineer, on the IT side of things.
As a result, the itch of being an entrepreneur took hold. In 2004 he registered Zertis, the first “side hustle” for Otulana, as a company.
After balancing a day job and Zertis for many years, he finally decided to go into it full time – that’s when his entrepreneurial journey truly began.
From Zertis to TheraNest
Consulting was tough, and the industry Zertis was/is involved in was not as enjoyable for Otulana as the next.
Entrepreneurship is about taking many leaps of faith.
Otulana is a great example of one who not only took leaps of faith, but ran with an idea that followed a need – Mental Health.
For the past 19 years, knowledge about the market place in Birmingham, starting a company, and continually finding ways to innovate has been gained by Otulana.
Accordingly, he shares his thoughts about the “talent gap” with technical skills in our city.
One of the major things, which may seem small, happening right now to improve the “gap” and Birmingham is the Velocity Accelerator.
Otulana is a mentor to the 10 startup companies within the program.
Furthermore, this gives him a great opportunity to share advice, expertise, and simply a helping hand in the day to day operations for these companies.
“Entrepreneurship is a lot of experimentation and then something clicks. You just have to know when not to quite, but sometimes know when to quite.
I’ll advise them (the company founders) to get out and go talk to people in the community. Start selling…, it’s not a charity, but a business.
Success in business, sometimes, is about acquiring ridiculous amounts of information and processing it very fast…”
As mentioned, his experience, for almost 15 years (and simply his aptitude with being an entrepreneur) of running his own business has gained him tons of knowledge.
The questioned was asked, “Entrepreneurship, are you born with it, or can it be taught?”
Shegun and TheraNest:
“I started TheraNest because I felt like mental health, psychotherapy, etc. got the second class treatment, in health care.
We are dedicated to creating tools to make these people first class citizens.
Currently we’re in a good place, growing very fast, and as long as we keep our ego in check, we do what’s right by our customers, and keep looking for opportunities, we will be in a pretty fantastic place.”
Shegun Otulana is not only a through an through entrepreneur, but also quite a stand up human with a deep understanding about life and success.
In terms of giving advice, he wants fellow startup founders, or those aspiring to be one, to know the world is not against you. You simple ought to be kind and a decent person who is not afraid to seek out advice.
More than not, he mentions, people are willing to help.
“…with that kind of attitude, and learning new things, you can go far.”
Final thought – “what does failure teach you?”
After the first 2 attempts at starting and maintaining a business, before TheraNest, Otulana learned a lot, to say the least.
This round of Startup Grind Birmingham was hosted by Fetch Talent LLC in Southside Birmingham.