Startup lands key contract, wants to hire
By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Greg Wiles
A Honolulu-based company founded by veteran technology entrepreneur Lambert Onuma hopes to hire as many 200 people locally to help hospitals and drug makers work more effectively in developing new treatments and analyze treatments.
Onuma's Convergence CT already has several contracts and today is announcing an agreement it hopes will serve as a springboard for more contracts. The firm employs 25 people, 15 of whom are in Hawai'i.
"I think that the field is wide-open for us right now," said former Gov. George Ariyoshi, Convergence CT's chairman and a co-founder with Onuma. "We have a good software product."
The company wants to hire software engineers, computer programmers and others locally as it seeks more contracts with hospitals, clinics and pharmaceutical firms in the U.S., Japan and Europe.
Convergence CT, through use of its DB*Focus software suite, believes it can help healthcare companies identify patients for pharmaceutical company drug trials, while helping hospitals and clinics use data to determine best practices for treating illnesses.
"They've got something that is definitely marketable, especially with the way pharmaceutical companies are looking to get their drugs into the mainstream in the most cost-effective way," said John Hedlund, the Honolulu-based managing director and owner of Pemms International, a producer of electronic health records for consumers.
"It seems like they're on to something very good."
Convergence CT won a 10-year contract to provide Anceta LLC, a unit of the American Medical Group Association, to develop and manage a database that will help physicians generate reports uncovering the best ways to treat patient problems.
Members of the American Medical Group include some of the most prestigious practitioners, including the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and the Geisinger Health System.
The 300 AMG members serve more than 50 million patients in 42 states.
"They won out top-line, unanimously," said Jeffrey Hill, Anceta chief executive officer. He said Convergence CT competed against several larger organizations but was selected because of its technology and its philosophy of improving patient care was in line with AMG's goals.
Convergence CT will help in setting up of a database and data standards along with ways to analyze and share the information among AMG's members, Hill said.
"It's all about quality and efficiency these days," Hill said. While individual organizations might develop its own best practices in treating an illnesses, but having a broad database that includes ways other groups have had successes should improve healthcare.
For example, someone using the data could pull a report showing how many diabetes patients also had eye or limb problems, demographics and treatments. All of the data will be stripped of personal information so that privacy laws are not broken, Hill said.
Onuma, who worked in Silicon Valley before returning to Honolulu seven years ago, previously founded Pihana Pacific Inc., an Internet data center company that was sold in 2002 after he raised $236 million for the company.
Since founding Convergence CT in late 2001 Onuma has raised $8 million from a group of companies, individuals and venture capital funds that he declined to name. About $1 million of which was spent on consultants who spent five months looking at how best to approach the business.
What they found was that pharmaceutical companies were spending huge sums on research, including finding patients for drug trials, tracking outcomes, analyzing of who was using what drugs and effectiveness of drugs.
Since then, Convergence CT has tried to keep it's work quiet so that larger companies wouldn't try to develop similar software and systems. Its software, approach to privacy and other systems should help pharmaceutical companies cut research costs and also give hospitals a more effective way to search for patients for clinical trials and ferret out best-practice information.
"We don't know of anybody who is doing what we're doing," Ariyoshi said. "It's strange because there's such a need."
He said others may offer data, but not with the detail that DB*Focus can provide.
Onuma said the company most likely will hire up to 75 more employees by the end of the year, most of which will be in Honolulu.
While the company is trying to hire locally, it has had a difficult time finding software developers here, Onuma said. Within three to five years it may have as many as 200 workers in Hawai'i.
The company also has offices in Japan and is opening in Europe, areas where pharmaceutical companies also run drug trials. The company's software has been translated into Japanese.
"Everyone is looking for better data. What we're coming up with is better data," Onuma said. "This technology is going to be rolled out across the world."
Reach Greg Wiles at email@example.com.