Innovating the pharmacy industry

TelePharm founder and CEO Roby Miller got the idea for his startup when his family, who owns small rural pharmacies in eastern Iowa, was forced to close down two stores. Miller, who is an Iowa native from Kalona, knew he had to step in. His interest in entrepreneurship began during his time as a UI student, when he took entrepreneurship courses. The entrepreneurship classes taught him how to be a lifelong learner and the material connected with him more than his other coursework. Just two years after graduation, Miller created TelePharm, a retail pharmacy software application, in 2012. Miller and two other individuals rented a small office in downtown Iowa City and got to work. Miller welcomed the chance to use his entrepreneurial education and passion for self-driven learning to help his community.

Iowa is the ideal place to startup

In Miller’s eyes, Iowa is the ideal place to start a business. He explains, “I’ve lived in other parts of the U.S., and the reason I came back to Iowa to start TelePharm was that I saw the need in Iowa first.” In addition to the need Miller saw in the community, he discovered a lot of support in Iowa early in the business creation process.

“Iowa is an entrepreneurial state where it’s small enough that you can get the attention of regulators and state legislators. The other part, too, is that there are a lot of other state resources, like the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC). You have Venture School and pitch competitions, which basically give you free money to start your business,” Miller says. In fact, during his time as a UI student, Miller won several pitch competition awards that provided seed funding for TelePharm.

Although TelePharm has expanded beyond Iowa’s state borders and was recently acquired by Ohio-based Fortune 500 healthcare company Cardinal Health, Miller has no plans to leave Iowa. He says, “In Iowa’s entrepreneurial community, there are a lot of cheerleaders on the side that have no stake in any company but are working very hard to make sure that entrepreneurs have the resources to help their businesses grow.” This unique environment has helped support Miller and many other innovators in their entrepreneurial journey.

Giving back to the UI Community

Aside from TelePharm, Miller plays an integral role in Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through mentorship and his involvement with Built by Iowa (BII), an early-stage venture fund where he serves as Managing Director. Miller remains well-connected with Iowa JPEC, where he found his passion for entrepreneurship. He actively guides student entrepreneurs through the startup process, providing valuable advice to the next generation of Iowa innovators, and holds a position on Iowa JPEC’s Alumni Advisory Council.