Eric Lefkofsky is an American entrepreneur who co-founded Groupon, among other ventures. Perhaps his most enduring contribution to the world is his efforts as co-founder and CEO of Tempus, a big data start-up dedicated to using cutting edge technology to fight cancer.
If that seems like a tall order, it is. But, that is nothing new to the serial entrepreneur who took a relatively obscure e-commerce site and turned it into one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms. The idea is simple. Compile a massive genomic database that doctors can use to cross-reference and develop individualized cancer therapies. Hospitals, he discovered, weren’t able to take full advantage of technology designing initiatives to fight cancer. As a result, their ability to sequence patients and compare the data was limited. It needed to be scaled up.
So, Lefkofsky did what he has always done when he sees a gap in the market. He found a way to fill it. While Tempus isn’t the first company of it’s kind, it is unique in that it presents an end-to-end solution to the problem of genomic mapping and cancer. Doctors and researchers are provided with testing facilities, access to databases, and a quick and easy way to cross-reference the information.
Eric Lefkofsky stepped down from his post as CEO of Groupon in order to devote his time to Tempus. The extent of Lefkofsky’s involvement in the day to day operations of the company is unclear, as is the exact amount of his initial investment. It has been reported that he was prepared to invest up to $100 million. He is currently listed as the company’s CEO. Like all of Lefkofsky’s ventures, Tempus rely’s heavily on the big data component, channeling it into a force for good.
In an interview with Chicago business, Lefkofsky said that after establishing five successful companies, choosing to start Tempus was “very personal”. Perhaps this move isn’t a surprise to those who are familiar with the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, a charitable trust he and his wife established in 2006. It’s stated mission, “to advance high-impact programs, initiatives and research that enhance the quality of human life”, has helped to fund more than 50 organizations to date. It focuses on using technology, education, and science to improve the lives of people in the communities it serves.
Will Tempus revolutionize the way we treat cancer? That is hard to tell, but if anybody knows how to make big data work for humanity, it’s Eric Lefkofsky.