Another startup will continue the trend of early-stage funding activity in Pittsburgh over the last two months.
Modeling and simulation tech startup Epistemix closed a $5 million priced seed round led by Ecliptic Capital. The Austin-based fund focuses on early-stage investments with an open-ended structure that don’t push for business exits too soon in the commercialization process. Ecliptic’s cofounders include serial entrepreneur Mike Erwin, former Goldman Sachs Managing Director William Hurley and former Genentech Operations Director Adam Lipman.
John Cordier, Epistemix’s CEO and cofounder, said Epistemix and Ecliptic purposely held back on sharing a press release for the funding. (Technical.ly spotted the news via an SEC filing.)
“The way we look at it, the purpose of a startup isn’t to raise money, it’s to help people solve a problem. And [Ecliptic Capital] shares that same mentality,” he told Technical.ly. The thinking was “more so like, ‘Let’s take the funding and put it to work and start helping people make better decisions.'”
This most recent priced round follows a $2.5 million convertible note round last year for Epistemix, though the company is labeling this $5 million as its seed round. The new funding will go toward expanding use cases and markets for its signature simulation platform, FRED, which uses a synthetic population and realistic social dynamics to create agent-based models that provide tangible data on different decision outcomes. That computational software has so far been used mostly for understanding the safety of changing environments like stadiums, conventions, schools and more in the infectious disease space. Customers and partners for the startup include the World Health Organization, tech consulting firm Resultant and the University of Pittsburgh.
“All along we’ve been building our platform at Epistemix to be able to be applied in all sorts of challenges related to social determinants of health and broader social dynamics,” Cordier said. Rather than having key decision-makers in society rely on a “gut feeling,” he said Epistemix is “able to provide highly granular and detailed simulations that provide data to these decision-makers that enable them to make more confident decisions.”
The CEO has hopes of using Epistemix's platform to simulate conditions for business plans like product launches, or even what the future trends of the housing market might look like.
This new funding will help take Epistemix into new markets in need of infectious disease safety data and simulations as well as ones in the broader range of social health. Cordier said the company has plans to launch a product for school districts to assess plans related to safety measures in the midst of an epidemic, along with a platform that can assess “staffing needs for programs they can implement across their district that can improve health and educational outcomes for students that are much broader than COVID.”
Even further beyond health, the CEO said Epistemix has hopes of using its platform to simulate conditions for business plans like product launches, or even what the future trends of the housing market might look like. “There’s a number of other kinds of social dynamic-related products that we’ll be developing.”
In growing its product, Epistemix will continue to grow its team. The startup’s total employee count hovered around 12 to 14 people throughout 2021, but will double to between 25 and 30 employees by the end of May. Before the end of 2022, he expects the company to grow to a total of about 35, as Epistemix hires for new roles in cloud services, data science, front end user interface development and more. Outside of pure technical roles, the team will be looking to add product managers and product marketers with engineering or other relevant backgrounds.
Up next for Epistemix is not only revenue growth and plans to pursue a $15 million to $20 million Series A round at the start of next year, but a focus on maintaining a healthy and mission-driven company culture as it grows. Operating on a fully remote basis, Epistemix will be looking for top talent everywhere, Cordier said, though a number of employees are based in Pittsburgh.
“We’ve been very intentional about who we’ve hired,” he said. “Not only from [a perspective of] academics or what other companies they’ve worked at, but who they are, what they care about, and then, do they really fit in with our underlying social mission at Epistemix.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.