Zenisys Technologies, a big data startup headquartered in San Francisco and Cape Town, announced today the closing of a $13.3 million Series B round. Funding led Hope Steel Foundationa non-profit organization that claims to be focused on finding and funding long-term solutions to some of “humanity’s toughest problems”.
Jonathan Stambolis launched the company in 2016 to improve the response of developing countries to humanitarian emergencies and help them improve public health.
Prior to Zenysis, he worked as a diplomat for the United Nations. His roles have included representing Australia in international negotiations on global health and humanitarian issues, and as an adviser to the UN Secretary-General on global health and pandemic preparedness.
At the UN, Stambolis’s work gave him insight into the day-to-day struggles that several countries face in their efforts to achieve ambitious global health goals. In an interview with TechCrunch, Stambolis said the UN’s formula for moving the scale around the world usually comes down to more money and political will. “What I saw after a while was the missing pillar, and that was technological innovation,” he said.
At the same time, Stambolis said it’s clear that more developed ecosystems like Silicon Valley don’t care too much about meeting local health and development goals. Therefore, Stambolis hoped that by launching Zenysis, he would take some of the talent and resources from Silicon Valley and South Africa, where the company has a second headquarters, and direct them to solving important problems.
Stambolis’ reaction was prompted by the 2014 Ebola crisis. “Watching how the world is trying to respond to the crisis showed at first that neither the affected countries nor their international partners, such as the US, have the software to effectively respond to this outbreak,” Stambolis said. . “And I realized that if we don’t create software to help them do it, no one else will.”
The co-founder and CEO stated that Zenysis’ mission is to deliver the software that governments need to deal with disease outbreaks, respond to large-scale emergencies, and provide healthcare to their citizens in a fair and efficient manner.
Zenysis currently provides its software to governments and partners in nine countries in Africa, South America and Asia. For Stambolis, the most challenging and rewarding job has been in Africa.
Take, for example, his efforts in Mozambique in 2019, when two powerful cyclones, Kenneth and Idai, hit the country. The catastrophic event triggered a rapidly spreading cholera outbreak that caused 400 cases of cholera every day with the potential to infect hundreds of thousands of citizens. Zenysis contacted the government of Mozambique and they quickly decided to use its software to create a virtual control room for emergency response.
Powered by the open source Zenysis offering, Harmony, the Emergency Command Center collected and collated data from disparate sources such as multiple government agencies, UN agencies, and NGOs and combined it into a single decision support system, providing decision makers solutions, a picture of what is happening in real time. flash and reaction.
“This is something that governments usually do not have in a crisis. Usually during such crises, many organizations are overwhelmed using various tools and systems to collect data, and the government becomes overwhelmed by the amount of information collected in these emergencies,” said the executive director. “So this virtual control room was creating real-time data for the government, which they used to quickly, efficiently and coordinately respond to the outbreak.”
By collating multiple data sources, the Zenysis platform helped the government of Mozambique design and roll out a data-driven vaccination campaign to stop the outbreak. In less than a month, the campaign reduced the number of cholera cases in the hardest-hit province to zero.
It was no small feat. When this crisis hit Mozambique, it was struggling with infrastructural problems, from electricity to access to telecommunications and health centers. But despite this, the Zenysis data platform and the government’s vaccination campaign have shown positive results. The big data company has provided its software to partners and governments in Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia.
These countries rarely embark on intervention projects alone or exclusively with Zenefits. They receive financial assistance and support from external partners and organizations such as the Global Fund, USAID and Gavi, Vaccine Alliance. And more often than not, it is these organizations that pay Zenysis for contract work.
Stambolis says one of his company’s exciting achievements in working with governments has been how flexible it can be on other tasks once it’s been called on to do one. “It’s great to see more responsibility placed on us when we get the opportunity to showcase our value proposition,” he said. “There is growing trust between us and the countries we work with, so we have become their reliable partner. I feel like the spirit of Silicon Valley over the past 15 years has been largely defined by the mantra “Move fast and break things”; we have shown that we are a different type of company. We like to move fast and fix things.”
In addition to the countries and international organizations it partners with, Zenysis measures performance in terms of the number of health care priorities supported by its software. These currently include programs related to HIV, TB, childhood vaccinations, maternal and child health, family health, and COVID.
The problem of data fragmentation and slow response to crises affects sectors other than health, such as education, food security and climate change. So, while the new funding gives Zenysis the firepower to expand its range of healthcare programs, it will also help the company move into adjacent verticals and help governments respond to crises in a multisectoral manner.
Zenysis, which raised $2.8M in 2016 and $5.8M in Series A in 2018, also plans to triple its geographic footprint over the next 2 years, with a focus on expanding its presence in Africa. Five of the nine countries in which Zenysis operates are in Africa, and the 6-year-old company currently has projects with ten more on the continent.
There are other plans for Series B investments. Stambolis said Zenysis will invest in strategic partnerships with other innovators in a way that promotes technology and talent development.
“We are also going to invest to help countries understand and respond to the complex relationship between climate change and human health,” he said. “This is still an area that is in its infancy. So we want to be at the forefront of helping countries get through this with data.”
Joe Exner, chief executive of lead investor SFFH, said in a statement that his investment will enable Zenysis to “focus on its core mission of developing the innovative capabilities needed to strengthen healthcare systems and prevent future pandemics.” The firm was launched at the end of last year. Investors participating in this growth round include Peter Thiel and US venture capital firm 500 Startups.
Stambolis believes SFFH made its first investment in Zenysis because the firm sees it as a platform to influence globally. “In addition to that, I think there is a very strong spiritual unity between the two organizations,” the CEO said, adding that SFFH did not require a seat on the board and completed the investment within 21 days of signing its terms sheet. “They want us to triple our core mission of improving public health in developing and emerging economies.”
Credit: techcrunch.com /