When Gil was younger, his grandmother developed a brain tumor. At the time, she was living in Barbados, and there was no appropriate treatment on the island, so she traveled from Barbados to Boston for the surgery and then again for multiple post-op appointments. The long and expensive journeys were difficult for his grandmother, and this was the impetus for Gil to want to solve the problem of limited access to health care.
"I wanted to build something that helps people, regardless of socioeconomic background, geography, or type of insurance," says Gil Addo, founder and CEO of RubiconMD, a health startup that offers on-demand e-consults with medical specialists. One in every three consults can be done remotely, he says, and that saves $400. Affordable health care is especially important for people in rural or under served communities, not unlike Gil's hometown.
"My dad is from Ghana and my mom is from Barbados," says Gil, "I grew up in a lower-middle class town and as a young, black male, it's not thought of as cool to be academically inclined." But his parents stressed the importance of education-his mother even took out loans to keep him and his brother in Catholic school. When Gil was twelve, his mother registered him for math classes at the local community college. Around the same time, his local soccer coach saw his talent and suggested that he look into more competitive soccer programs.
"Based on the level of affluence in the community around a sport like soccer, I was introduced to prep schools and I got an academic scholarship to go to a boarding school," Gil says, "My parents had never heard of a boarding school before. They didn't know those types of schools even existed."
"There's a challenge when you come from a background like mine," Gil continues, "And lot of [the other boarding school students] are used to that kind of rigor, so it was an adjustment for me, coming from where I was." He adjusted quickly, and went on to study biomedical engineering at Yale, where he took out student loans and managed the campus dining hall ("It wasn't sexy but it helped me to afford Yale"). After getting an MBA at Harvard and working in tech for a few years, he founded RubiconMD.
"I wanted to start the business two years before I actually started it but I had to create enough wealth in order to take that risk," says Gil, "I waited until my second year bonus cleared before I was able to leave and start a company. When I think broadly about entrepreneurship, people who don't have personal or family wealth...it makes it harder to pursue in a way that will be successful."
Getting investors wasn't always easy. "I had an investor I pitched the idea to, who lives in one of the wealthiest areas in Connecticut, who uses a [medical] concierge service," Gil remembers, "He couldn't wrap his head around the idea that someone couldn't get a doctor's appointment."
"Also, our team is very diverse", he says, referring to his two co-founders Carlos Reines (born in Spain) and Julien Pham (born in Vietnam). "There is a greater scrutiny for women and minority entrepreneurs. You have to establish your credibility earlier on in a way that you don't have to when you fit the profile more."
"I personally think there are a number of factors outside of an individual's control that influence the likelihood of success, many from before you are even born. If you work hard and leverage resources around you, you can create your own luck and put yourself in a position to succeed. I grew up as a black American. And all of the experiences I've had have contributed to my ability to execute on what I'm doing right now."