During his first semester at Sloan, Alberto Osio took a phone call from his dad, Dr. Alberto Osio Sancho in Mexico City. Dr. Osio, an internationally respected ophthalmologist, described his new approach to treating presbyopia, the loss of near vision common with age. Patients use personalized contact lenses and special eye drops for a week and then enjoy lens-free vision for up to several months before retreatment is needed. The new treatment could be prescribed for presbyopia, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. “I asked my advisor, Jonathan Fleming, if, instead of using an MIT technology for a business plan, I could use my dad’s,” Osio says. “I presented it to my class, and my friends joined the team.”
Working through MIT’s free Venture Mentoring Service, Osio, who previously earned bachelor’s and international baccalaureate degrees from Mexico’s Anahuac University, created teams of PhD students, each working for free researching topics such as competing products, financial models, and government regulations for his business plan. The plan soon won a semifinalist spot in the $100K MIT Business Plan Competition. That donated expertise was “the best thing that could ever happen to us,” he says. He named the company Yolia Health, using an Aztec word for “eternal life.”
Osio followed a common biotech strategy: seeking government approval outside the United States to build proof of concept. Financing the startup proved challenging, however. “The private equity chain in Mexico is broken for early-stage deals,” he says. The culture does not especially encourage entrepreneurs; rather, most Mexican businesses have been family-owned for generations. In fact, Osio worked in his own family’s business—the country’s largest food company—and then took a job with Hormel Foods before earning his Sloan degree. Yolia has raised $2.6 million to date and is now raising funds to pursue approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In 2008, to encourage Mexican entrepreneurs, Osio and Hernan Fernandez, MBA ‘07, founded Angel Ventures Mexico (AVM), a network that has grown to 97 investors in three offices. AVM has also been invited to help the government reform economic policies, and it’s now branching out into California’s Hispanic communities. “With Yolia and AVM, I’m navigating against the current, trying to do new things in Mexico,” Osio says.
CNN/Expansion named Osio one of the top 10 Mexican entrepreneurs in 2010. He lives in Coronado, California, with his wife, Marimar, who was his high-school sweetheart, and their two daughters.