Taking on Healthcare’s Biggest Challenge: An Interview with Ali Khan of Pillio

By Grace Williams | Berlin Founders Fund

I recently interviewed Ali Khan, an inspiring, eclectic Berlin-lover and co-founder of Pillio who, along with co-founder George Kyriakopoulos, is spearheading a revolution in healthcare provider workflow efficiency. In this interview, he shares valuable business tips and personal insights, providing a glimpse into his unique perspective on entrepreneurship and life.

Ali is one of our Berlin Founders Fund founders. If you're a founder looking to join a fantastic community of founders in Berlin, click here to join the waitlist for Haus, launching soon

So, tell us a little about your background, where are you from?

I was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, but I am ethnically from Pakistan. I went to University initially in Karachi (Pakistan). The culture shock was extreme but I loved it there! Then I came back to UAE and worked in Deloitte and PWC. Most recently, I went to INSEAD (France) for my MBA. Then I came to Berlin (which was my happy place!) and  I decided to do something that I wanted to, rather than something I should be doing.

Watch the video interview here

What do you like about Berlin?

Berlin for me was love at first sight! 😍 The one thing I really like about Berlin is the mindset of the people, the way people are over here: they are super accepting of every kind of person. It is the only city that I have been to so far where minorities can feel accepted to the point that they don’t have to coalesce to the majority. Whoever you are and whatever you do is fine! This mindset brings about such a diverse vibrancy to this place which attracts people like me.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I make my own perfume. And I have recently started playing Dungeon and Dragons which is a fun outlet for storytelling and it’s very different from my work life at the moment.

My fun fact is that I listen to YouTube videos on 2X.

What was your first job?

My first real job was at Deloitte: I was part of a professional program.

The one key thing that stood out to me was the amount of trust that the company gave to you as a newcomer. This is something I also try to do with people working with me at Pillio!

How did you meet your co-founder?

I met George at ANTLER. We were part of a simulation where a randomly chosen group of people worked on a business problem. I could immediately feel that he was the yin to my yang ☯️

He was bringing extremely different skillsets and a mindset which I immediately valued. We could both tell that, from a working perspective, we got along really well!

That feeling grew through the journey at ANTLER and at the end it was just inevitable that we would work on something together. After brainstorming and researching, we decided that we wanted to dedicate the rest of our lives to the healthcare problem. I knew that there would be no better person to do it than George!

What is Pillio and what problem are you solving?

Our vision when starting at Pillio, was for every end patient to receive a healthcare experience that far surpasses the current one. We were so focused on this problem, that it became our solution. But then the market told us of a different problem that needed to be solved: the healthcare system is bottlenecked because providers struggle with their manual processes which makes them unable to deliver the needed healthcare. So, as the first step, we focused on building a platform that really solves this problem.

Right now, providers are suffering from extreme burnout and stress because of all the amount of needed admin. Pillio makes health care more efficient by reducing the manual workflows between health care providers. We do this thanks to a platform which connects care homes with pharmacies. Our initial product automates medication refills and simplifies life of both pharmacists and nurses, by reducing their paperwork by 60%. In this way, not only we help them with that, but we also make sure that the patient has a seamless health care experience.

What I am most excited about at Pillio is our ability to bring date together in a way that’s meaningful to both the providers and the patients. We are setting up the goal for meaningful data to work through the system so that then the system delivers better health care to people.

What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

First of all, I think the startup journey is not for everyone and that is ok. The one thing that makes a founder stand out from everyone else is the ability to embrace uncertainty.

A founder’s journey is like driving a car at 140km/h in a dust road and no idea where the road is going. But that is the beauty of it. No one can tell you where the road is going and you need to bring the route to yourself. Although sometimes I wish for more clarity in life, I actually enjoy the uncertainty. Overall, it is the aspect I enjoy the most about funding. 🛣️

“A founder’s journey is like driving a car at 140km/h in a dust storm with no idea where the road is going. But that’s the beauty of it. No one can tell you where the road is going and you need to bring the route to yourself.

How was your experience with Berlin Founders Fund (BFF)?

My experience with BFF is that they are another member in your team! They have been immensely reliable, both as an aspiring partner (someone to look to for advice) and as a team that open doors for you both with network but also people from inside.

Which book do you recommend to us? 📚

I have recently been re-reading ‘The art of war’ by Sun Tzu. It was written in China in the BC and I think it is one of the best business books ever written! It says that: “the highest form of perfection in war is winning the war without even having to fight in the first place”. This means winning first and then entering the battlefield, instead of entering the battlefield and then trying to win.

From a business perspective, this means that you should first build a compelling product or story and only then start fundraising. In this way, people have no choice but to invest in you! 🏆

Interview and video by Grace Williams, write-up by Alessia Marchi.

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The Berlin Founders Fund is financed through funds from the European Union (European Social Fund) and the State of Berlin.