TEC Alumni Series: A Minute with Jason Skowronski
TEC News Stories
3/15/2012 10:37:00 AM
By: Lyndsey Taylor
University of Illinois alumnus Jason Skowronski has immersed himself in the software world since obtaining his master’s degree in computer engineering in 2007.
He has worked for IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, and is currently the president of his own startup in Raleigh, N.C. to help “optimize the healthcare admission process.”
Keona Health allows patients to chat live with nurses to get questions answered, which eliminates unnecessary appointments and wait times.
The health care system is currently used at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where all 28,000 students have access to it.
Skowronski said Keona is 50 percent more efficient than having patients come in for unnecessary doctor visits by answering questions ahead of time.
When he worked for Amazon, he traveled “all over the world,” even to the U.K. to distribute the final Harry Potter book.
“We had to ship 2.3 million of them in two days. Everybody had to have their Harry Potter book on release day,” he chuckled.
While working at Amazon he struggled with a health issue and went through the medical system as a patient. The process spawned new ideas on how to improve healthcare. He realized that some of the algorithms used at Amazon could be applied to his ideas, and so blossomed Keona Health.
After working for with Amazon, Skowronski moved back to his hometown in Raleigh to pursue Keona.
The Keona team received an SBIR grant, which gave the company the initial funding it needed.
“We were really fortunate to be able to raise funds,” he said.
Prior to his life as an entrepreneur and software coinsure, his student life lead him to explore entrepreneurship through the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC). Professor Brian Lilly’s class was one of his “first exposures to the startup world.”
Soon after, he and Shivani Jain created a virtual glove for video gaming for their company called Mobile Immersion.
Shivani and Skowronski were finalists in TEC’s Cozad New Venture Competition for Mobile Immersion in 2006.
“I felt like we achieved some moderate success with Mobile Immersion, which gave me the confidence to start another venture.” However, Skowronski did not go on to pursue this venture.
The entrepreneur said TEC and the University taught him how to write a business plan, evaluate markets and products, and how to develop partnerships and funding.
“I think what’s really great is to do something I’m really passionate about and I believe can make a difference in the world.”
Although acting as President of Keona takes up 80 hours a week for Skowronski, he said it’s worth the hard work.
“(The) Startup world is a hectic experience but I think what makes it really worthwhile is that I really enjoy what I do. I’d rather be doing something great to change the world rather than watching TV or doing something unproductive.”