Evidence Partners lands $20M VC round to fuel global expansion push

Peter O'Blenis
Peter O'Blenis

A Kanata software firm that’s streamlining the research process for scientists racing to learn more about COVID-19 and other diseases has raised millions of dollars in a bid to “double down” on its position as the market leader in a rapidly growing field.

Evidence Partners said Tuesday it has closed a $20-million financing round led by San Francisco-based Thomvest Ventures with participation from Vancouver’s Pender Ventures and Export Development Canada. 

Co-founder and chief executive Peter O’Blenis told Techopia the firm plans to use the fresh capital to expand its product engineering, sales and marketing, operations and customer service teams as demand for its platform continues to accelerate during the pandemic.

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“Essentially, the market opportunity is on us,” he said Tuesday morning. “It’s profound and it’s immediate and we want to be able to address it right now.”

Founded in 2008, Evidence Partners has pioneered software that uses artificial intelligence to sort through reams of medical research files and aggregate the most relevant studies in a fraction of the time it would take a human being to perform the same task manually. 

“We saw a significant uptake as a result of researchers trying to get ahead of COVID.”

While the product was originally designed for academic researchers, Evidence Partners really took off once the platform caught the attention of big pharma and other medical customers. Those companies now use the software to help prepare product studies for health regulators and monitor drugs and medical devices for potentially harmful side-effects or malfunctions.

O’Blenis said the software’s value proposition ​– automating the tedious task of reviewing scientific literature that used to take months for people to perform with pen and paper or Excel spreadsheets ​– has become more obvious than ever during the pandemic.

“Nobody knew what an epidemiologist was two and a half years ago, and now (the role is) pretty prominent,” he said. “They have a lot of work to do and a very short time to do it in. We saw a significant uptake as a result of researchers trying to get ahead of COVID.”

Today, more than 300 leading research organizations – including six of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies as well as six of the 10 largest global medical device manufacturers – use the company’s cloud-based platform, dubbed DistillerSR, to help analyze data.

But O’Blenis said DistillerSR is also gaining traction in government agencies and other organizations that use the software to stay on top of an ever-growing list of regulatory requirements.

Record sales quarter

While the Canadian VC market has shown signs of cooling off recently after a torrid run over the past few years, O’Blenis said the previously bootstrapped Ottawa firm had no trouble attracting investors for its first-ever outside funding round. 

Evidence Partners’ headcount has grown from 55 to 80 since late 2020, and its revenues have been rising more than 50 per cent annually.

“We’re not seeing any signs of softness in our market – quite the opposite,” he said, noting the company posted record sales in its most recent quarter. “We see tremendous greenfield opportunity in terms of new logo acquisition, but also within our existing client base. We have a very diverse customer base, and all of our markets are growing.”

O’Blenis said he expects that growth curve to steepen as it diversifies its product mix with additional offerings such as CuratorCR, a new “knowledge management platform” that helps customers organize the reams of reference materials they require to conduct research.

“That’s a much bigger space for us to occupy, but the early feedback from our lead customers is that’s exactly where they want us to be going,” he said.

Up to now, Evidence Partners has enjoyed a clear first-mover advantage in its space – “there isn’t really a comparable product to Distiller out there,” O’Blenis noted – but the CEO said the company can’t afford to rest on its laurels.

“My biggest concern is growing too slowly,” he said. “I want to make sure that we stay ahead of the game. This is our race to win, but it is a race.

“We want to emerge at the end of (the latest sales) cycle as the de facto market leader, and we are doubling down on all of our efforts and investments to make sure that happens. I think it’s going to be a very exciting couple of years.”

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