Emilian Popa is a serial investor and entrepreneur with over ten years of experience in founding, launching, and funding over 20 startups in different sectors in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Russia.
This has been further made possible by his proficiency in seven languages, such as English, French, Romanian, and Dutch.
How he got his start
Investing in new and existing businesses has always been the forte of Emilian Popa. His business skills are further harnessed through the different business schools he attended.
Between 2008 and 2010, he attended Columbia Business School and London Business School, earning a master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in Business and Management, respectively.
Popa’s vast knowledge in the business space has seen to his investment and establishment of some of the notable startups in Africa.
Some of these are Zando, an online clothing retailer in South Africa; Jumia, an eCommerce and logistic company in Nigeria; Groupon in South Africa; and DiGAME in the United Arab Emirates.
In 2019, he founded Ilara Health, a Kenya-based diagnostic solutions company, where he serves as the Chief Executive Officer.
Venturing into the health sector in Africa
While investing in DiGAME, an investment company, Emilian Popa noticed that the healthcare sector in Africa has very few startups despite the continent’s lack of quality healthcare service.
From his research, he found that out of more than 500 companies in Africa, only a few were health-tech based. According to him, this is because “Healthcare is difficult. But if one identifies a sustainable and economical model in healthcare, it can be super impactful and also super-profitable.”
With the shortage in the sector, Emilia Popa saw an opportunity that led to the birth of Ilara in 2019.
One of the problems mitigating quality healthcare service in Africa is finance. This is because most of the necessary medical facilities are capital induced, and the existing healthcare service providers have little or no access to the needed capital.
With the identification of the problem, Emilia Popa thought of a feasible way of providing private clinics and pharmacies in low- to middle-income communities with inexpensive revenue generating diagnostic equipment.
Through Ilara, a Nairobi-based health tech startup, it was made possible. In his words, “Ilara Health makes common diagnostics accessible and affordable to the 500 million people in Africa who today struggle to access even basic blood tests.
We do this by partnering with companies using robotics and AI to lower the cost of diagnostics, integrate their devices into our tech platform, and sell this bundle to doctors with financing”.
The financing option gives private healthcare access to medical equipment to provide quality healthcare service to people. This will be paid in instalments for two years (24 months). All the equipment are wired to a device that allows Ilara to turn off the medical equipment if there is any defaulter.
Journey so far
Ilara has come a long way under the leadership of Emilia Popa. The platform launched and partnered with five clinics in 2019 and, within three years, increased that to over 800. This has made healthcare facilities accessible to over 100,000 patients per month.
With an initial limited market size of African countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco, it has expanded to more than 43 countries. This is with the intent to try out new markets across East and Southern Africa.