As more doctors and health-related companies digitize their patient records, research, and data from clinical trials, venture-backed entrepreneurs have been rushing in to help them.
Now Zephyr Health, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based startup is promising to bring that digitally formatted — but disconnected — data together in ways that help healthcare providers more easily and cost-effectively identify and target treatments.
Zephyr has already convinced investors of its merits. This morning, the company is announcing a $15 million Series B round from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Jafco Ventures — funding that has drawn Kleiner’s Brook Byers and Jafco’s Joe Horowitz to its board. Now Zephyr, which has raised $16 million altogether, just has to get companies to sign up.
It already counts five of the world’s largest pharmaceuticals and device companies as customers, says founder and CEO William King, who spent much of his earlier career in sales development at Johnson & Johnson. We chatted yesterday afternoon. Our conversation has been edited for length.
Why start the company?
I’d spent a spent considerable amount of my career at Johnson & Johnson, focused entirely on life sciences, and what we saw there and still see is a huge amount of data that should be talking but isn’t. Consider an MRI image that could be talking with a blood pressure result, but instead those pieces of data are disconnected. We thought we could unify the data that isn’t talking and build a compelling visual front end for the analytics that’s specifically tailored for the life sciences environment.
Is the data you’re parsing public or private or both?
It’s data from the public domain — clinical trials, patient demographics, sales, interactions, medical publications — as well as proprietary data from our clients.
You have 40 employees. What are their roles?
We’re overwhelmingly an engineering [team, one that is focused on] data solutions and machine-based learning algorithms and ensuring that we can bring data together rapidly, accurately, and as inexpensively as possible. So we also have algorithm experts, data scientists, data researchers, and a few folks who are dedicated to client services and account management.
You mentioned a compelling visual front end for your software-as-a-service business. What are end users seeing when they use Zephyr?
We offer a platform as well as different data offerings and different applications on the front end. Just like on your smart phone, different users will purchase different apps for different reasons. Our Illuminate app, for example, is used by people who are looking at clinical trial information. Cocktail, an app that helps you mix the different data types together and strain them, might be used by a marketing director.
Our platform is designed for a broad spectrum of people, including people who aren’t accustomed to using analytical software.
What’s a recent example of how you’ve helped a customer?
Over the holiday, we heard from one customer who’d been trying to select a clinical trial site. Recruiting enough patients for a clinical trial is a big challenge for a whole variety of reasons. But we were able to take patient demographic information, [geographic] information, funding information and much more and combine it to create a refined view [that had helped the client make a decision]. As a result, this client’s recruiting was considerably ahead of schedule, which is meaningful because recruiting is a big cost and requires a lot of time and that has an impact on many other things.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge centers on “big data” as a term. There’s a lot of big data competition, meaning lots use the phrase. One of the big challenges that we try and overcome is clearly defining what we mean by it and how it lends value to a person’s business.
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