Eric Lefkofsky, while most well known as the co-founder and chairman of Groupon, has made a career out of entrepreneurial ventures that bring technology solutions to different industries. These ventures include publicly listed Echo Global Logistics, Uptake, venture capital firm Lightbank, and now Tempus. He co-founded each of these companies with his business partner, Brad Keywell, whom he met as a youth in Michigan.
In a recent interview, Lefkofsky was asked how he has been able to start several big companies. In response, he pointed to his problem and solution orientation. While giving his advice on maintaining productivity, he admitted that it can be challenging at times. The challenge lies in the fact that running a company means devoting much of your time to others, he explains, and jumping from meeting to meeting is both thrilling and testing. So what does a typical day look like for Lefkofsky? He has said he makes it a point not to have a typical day at all. Getting to the office early, when it’s still quiet, and working from home on Fridays are a few strategies that have helped him maintain a level of productivity that meets a demanding schedule. In fact, he finds that his days working from home, while often his shortest days, are actually some of the most productive.
Not all of Lefkofsky’s ideas have been successful. He has referenced a manufacturing business early in his career that he had to close after a few years. He sees failures as learning opportunities, and moments to look back to for reference when making future business decisions. A self-described daydreamer, Lefkofsky says that his business ideas have come from everyday experiences through which he has identified a problem and brainstormed solutions. He refers to this main focus as “solving real problems.” For example, the idea for Tempus came from his experience of being with a loved one over the course of her cancer treatment. While witnessing physicians in clinic throughout the course of treatment, he saw the lack of technology and data as a problem for which a company such as Tempus could provide a solution.
Tempus is a technology company focused on collecting and annotating molecular and clinical data, and providing an operating system for oncologists to use that data to determine the best course of treatment for cancer patients. Tempus is not the first company to provide genetic sequencing services, but it is unique in its combination of science and tech. The company provides a comprehensive solution; its partners can order sequencing panels from Tempus’ CLIA-certified lab and have access to its proprietary operating system to compare the results with patients who have similar molecular and clinical profiles. In reference to the value of Tempus, Lefkofsky has said that it isn’t enough to simply collect large amounts of data, you also have to make that data useful in a clinical setting.
Tempus has roughly 200 employees in its Chicago headquarters, with plans to hire more data scientists and engineers. Along with expanding its workforce, Tempus plans to continue to partner with hospitals and cancer centers across the country. The company recently announced a Series C funding round of $70 million. With this latest round, total funding amounts to $130 million at a $700 million valuation. Lefkofsky’s venture capital firm, Lightbank, as well as New Enterprise Associates and Revolution Growth, are a few entities that have stake in Tempus.
In addition to Tempus and other business ventures, Eric Lefkofsky is active in various areas of the Chicago community. He is on the board of directors at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. He is also chairman of the board of trustees at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. In 2006, he and his wife, Liz, started the Lefkofsky Family Foundation which aims to serve communities by positively influencing education, cultural initiatives, and scientific research.
He has also written a book, titled Accelerated Disruption. The book focuses on how technological advancement is shaping the current business landscape. Technology increases competition, he says, which means businesses must constantly be evaluating their solutions and making adjustments when necessary. Technological advancement can eventually lead to a paradigm shift, meaning the disruption of an entire industry, which is what Lefkofsky sees is happening in healthcare. This is precisely why Eric Lefkofsky is devoting all his efforts to his newest company, Tempus.