For 29-year-old Krish Chopra, a first-generation American born to two Indian immigrants, becoming an entrepreneur was never on his radar, nor was reshaping what it means to be a nursing student. Today, he is doing both.

Graduate nursing students throughout the U.S. are required to complete six- to eight-week-long rotations under the mentorship of a working nurse practitioner to fulfill graduation requirements. Finding working professionals who are willing to teach, however, can be a colossal task. Without the kinds of formal rotations like those used by physicians in training, nursing students often postpone graduation. Instead, Chopra wants them to give NPHub a try.

The Atlanta-based company he co-founded in 2017 with Abhi Golhar, 34, automates the pairing of graduate nursing students with clinical educators in exchange for $12.50 per clinical hour of training. Students, on average, must complete 750 clinical hours to graduate. "We tell our students it used to take you six months to find a clinical rotation," says Chopra. "Now it will take two weeks." 

Though it is available in only 23 states--and the service has helped roughly 2,000 students secure arrangements--Chopra has big aspirations for NPHub. "We're in a hyper-growth mode," he says, adding that he anticipates his 10-person company will be available to nursing students in all 50 states by early 2020. He further expects NPHub's annual revenue to more than double, to $1.6 million, in 2019. And while nursing students themselves are now footing the bill for NPHub's services, Chopra's ultimate goal is to work directly with universities to build out rotations for their students.

An evolution in education 

The idea for NPHub was born not out of personal experience--Chopra is not a nurse--but out of a separate, related business. 

After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2012 with a degree in international studies, then 24-year-old Chopra landed a job in corporate sales at AT&T. Despite making close to six figures, within a couple of years Chopra began feeling antsy. "I was overpaid and underworked," he says. "I was the definition of unfulfilled." 

In 2014, Chopra's hunt for gratification led him to co-found Rehabber's Academy, an educational course aimed at teaching people how to invest in real estate. His co-founder was Golhar, then a radio show host and real estate investor. Rehabber's Academy flopped after only nine months, leaving Chopra with just $6,000 left in his bank account. That same year, Chopra tried again--this time founding a company called United Medical Rotations, which offered networking services for medical school students in the Caribbean. Golhar had worked at a company in a similar industry, so he told Chopra that he thought the model might work for Caribbean clients.

Then, in 2015, Chopra got a frantic call from a nursing student in the U.S. who needed help finding a nurse practitioner instructor. One turned into another and another. "One girl literally called crying" in frustration, says Chopra. He quickly hatched the idea for NPHub, which would connect U.S. nursing students with instructors. Golhar and Chopra are now phasing the United Medical Rotations operation into NPHub.

When the company first started offering its services to U.S. nursing students, one part-time college intern worked alongside Chopra and Golhar and virtually all matchmaking was done over the phone. 

Things picked up in January 2019, when NPHub launched its online matchmaking website. Students can now filter for available educators by location preferences and medical specialty. But expenses also ticked up. The price tag for developing the platform clocked in at about $100,000, says Chopra.

A $25,000 infusion from angel investor Danny Wong helped defray some of the costs. Ultimately, he sees the company as a smart bet in a burgeoning field. "Both the education and health care industries are ripe for disruption," he says, adding that NPHub is squarely in the middle.

Fixing nursing school

Of course, getting universities to sign on, which is how NPHub wants to eventually spin its model, won't be easy. The company initially tried selling its matchmaking services to nursing schools. Within a year of NPHub's launch, the company reached out to 40 graduate nursing programs. Chopra personally phoned 30 of the 40 universities to sell the service. "Twenty-nine of the 30 told me to f**k off," Chopra says.

Even so, the problems he and his co-founder identified five years ago still exist. While some programs provide resources, such as lists of local clinical educators to contact, a vast majority of programs do not, Chopra says--especially distance-learning programs. Students often resort to Googling, cold-calling, and dropping in to clinics to find working professionals--a method Chopra compares to door-to-door sales. When students find nursing trainers, they may have to pay them upfront, but there is no standard for compensation. Typically, nurse practitioners who teach students are not compensated even though it is required for students to get this form of training, Chopra says. 

NPHub, rather, offers to pay educators anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of what a student pays to use the service; NPHub pockets the rest. Chopra says NPHub typically costs students between $1,500 and $1,800 per rotation for a total of $7,500 to $9,000, on average. 

The company also screens the nurse practitioners in its network, which has grown to 340 instructors. Teachers must work in their own practice and NPHub assesses if they are fit to teach. Otherwise, there's no telling what kind of trainer you'll get--particularly when students keep striking out, says Chopra. "They are looking for someone to say yes to teaching them as opposed to finding someone with good credentials."

Chopra is convinced that universities will have to respond to these criticisms at some point. But even without their cooperation, he is bullish on the company's prospects. "Our goals are to solve the shortage for [qualified instructors] in nursing and then move on to something else that's plaguing nursing," Chopra says.