Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus Among Chicago’s Few Unicorns Fueling the City’s Tech Scene

June 14, 2018 - By 

Tempus is a Chicago-based technology company that relies on big data analytics to collect and analyze cancer patient information as means to help physicians make more personalized cancer treatment options. Eric Lefkofsky, the founder and CEO, founded the enterprise in 2015, and it has since reached several milestones. For one, it has earned a spot among Chicago’s top ten tech companies. In March of this year, it has also secured $80 million in venture capital funding, which has increased its value to an approximate $1.1 billion. As such, Tempus has become Chicago’s newest “unicorn,” an industry term for privately held companies valued at $1 billion or more. This is a title that only few of the city’s startups hold. It joins six other unicorns on the local tech scene that hold the potential to fuel the city’s tech ecosystem.


Tempus relies on an interactive and analytical machine learning platform to gather all of the patients’ clinical as well as molecular data. The latter consists of genomic as well as transcriptomic sequencing information of cancer patients’ DNA and RNA samples. Tempus then combines that with the patients’ clinical information, structures the data and creates a library of all of that information. In some cases, data can be as simple as digitizing an originally handwritten doctor’s note so that it is in the database, searchable by all other physicians treating other cancer patients. According to their website, its team aggregates and structures clinical records, pathology images and radiology scans via optical character recognition, natural language processing and manual curation in order to to understand the clinical context for each patient case. These data are made available to cancer physicians so that they can make a data informed therapy decisions.  Tempus’ ultimate goal is to create the world’s largest cancer data library so that each patient can benefit from the treatment of others who came before by providing physicians with tools that learn as the company gathers more data.


According to Lefkofsky, the company collaborates with both individuals and organizations in all sectors of the health care system. This includes doctors as well as drug companies, who are searching for a way to use big data to treat patients more effectively. Tempus has partnered with about hospitals across the country, including Northwestern, University of Chicago, Rush University as well as the Mayo Clinic, the University of Michigan, the Cleveland Clinic, Duke University School of Medicine, the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and Knight Cancer Institute at the OHSU. The company also collaborates with nearly all of the National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers.

“Our goal at Tempus is to improve patient outcomes and one of the surest ways to do that is empowering researchers and physicians with data that can accelerate research and advance patient care,” Lefkofsky states. “After talking with oncologists across the country eager to usher in an era of precision medicine, we are committed to bringing technology and real-world evidence to the point of care, improving the lives of patients battling disease.”


Tempus is not Lefkofsky’s first unicorn. He co-founded online marketplace Groupon, which was valued at $12.8 billion when it went public in 2011, and is a founding investor at Uptake, a data analytics company that became a unicorn in 2015. When asked about his entrepreneueral approach, Lefkofsky says that he does not have a secret formula for success. “It’s like being a parent,” he comments. “The difference between a great kid and not a great kid is a thousand little decisions and a thousand things you did for years, and I think it’s a little bit like that in business.” Lefkofsky is also known for companies such as Echo Global Logistics, InnerWorkings, Lightbank, and Mediaocean. Each of his companies uses data analytics to generate actionable insights.


About Eric Lefkofsky

In addition to being an entrepreneur, Lefkofsky is also a philanthropist. He is the Trustee of the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry and World Business Chicago. He also serves as the Board of Trustees’ Chairman of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. He and his wife Liz co-chair the Lefkofsky Family Foundation that supports high-impact initiatives that improve lives in the communities served. Since 2013, the two have also been part of the Giving Pledge. Lefkofsky currently holds an adjunct professorship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He also authored Accelerated Disruption: Understanding the True Speed of Innovation, which discusses several critical startup concepts as well as business development evolving at the speed of the next technological innovation.


For more information on Eric Lefkofsky, please visit, LinkedIn: ericlefkofsky, Twitter: @lefkofsky or Facebook: @eplefkofsky. For more information on Tempus, please visit, Facebook: @TempusLabs and Twitter: @TempusLabs.

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