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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Genialis Raises $2.3 Million Seed Round To Fuel U.S. Expansion

The Slovenian-American startup Genialis, the winner of this year’s PODIM Challenge, the investment part of the PODIM Conference, closed a 2.3M seed round at the beginning of October, having obtained it from an American and Swiss venture capital fund and a group of private investors. The fresh capital is intended to accelerate the expansion into the US and the commercialization of the Genialis Platform product, which answers the complicated challenges of biological data analysis with excellent software solutions. The investors were convinced by the excellent and dedicated team, in which half the members hold science PhDs, and innovative technology, which perfectly suits scientists biologists who can use Genialis’ software tools to analyse large amounts of data a lot faster and more effectively, especially in the field of genomics.
 
Since its foundation in 2013 until today, the Slovenian-American startup Genialis, based in Houston (Texas), Cambridge (Massachusetts) and Ljubljana, established itself as a leading provider of cloud software for the visual exploration of next-generation sequencing data (field of bioinformatics).
 
Spin-out from the Ljubljana Faculty of Computer and Information Science
The company, which came to existence as a spin-out from the Bioinformatics laboratory at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science in Ljubljana, is developing its products for researchers in pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, different research institutes, and anywhere where scientists work with sequencing or observing different genomes (human, plant, animal …). With Genialis’ software, such genomics data become accessible to scientists who otherwise can’t even research them without the proper tools, explains Nejc Škoberne, co-founder and CEO of Genialis.
 
Apple for biologists
Genialis thus effectively solves the serious problem of scientists who don’t have a lot of computer knowledge but face the fact that they need to become data analysts before they can even do their jobs. Most software available today is too complex, made mostly for computer-savvy biologists, or is completely specialized and solves a narrow problem of a small number of people. “We’re developing the platform, but at the same time, we use this platform to set up the tools with which we are planning to cover most of these problems in time. We would effectively like to be ‘Apple for biologists’, who can take our solution into their hands and already know how to use it without needing additional extensive training for it,” says Nejc Škoberne.
 
Planned search for investment, pivot, and benefit from the main prize
After winning this year’s PODIM Challenge competition, Nejc Škoberne announced that before them lies the challenge of finding a fresh investment round in the amount of $1.5M. The prize they received as winners of the PODIM Challenge was also dedicated to support this process, namely the all-inclusive weeklong business trip to Silicon Valley with the networking programme, organized by the ABC Accelerator, and a thousand euros of allowance, which was added by Nova KBM as the general sponsor of PODIM and the blue-chip partner of the PODIM Challenge competition.

Nejc Škoberne (third from the right) receiving the prize for winning this year's PODIM Challenge

However, since one of Genialis’ primary areas of activity is also Boston, where the company had already started establishing contacts with investors, organizers of PODIM came to an agreement with Genialis and “pivoted” the previously mentioned prize, covering the costs of the team’s business trip to Boston and Orlando. There, they attended two bigger conferences in their line of business and made quite a few staff interviews for new team members in the field of sales and marketing in the US. The additional benefit of this business trip was also a coffee meeting with one of the investors. During the concluding stages of closing the investment, he hadn’t been completely certain whether he should join or not, but after talking to Nejc Škoberne, he entered the investment as a business angel.
 
Respected institutional investors and angel investors
The excellent team of dedicated scientists and Genialis’ excellent technology managed to quickly convince both leading institutional investors – Redalpine Venture Partners from Zurich and First Star Ventures from Boston. The Slovenian company Pikas and several angel investors joined them in the joint investment.
 
They negotiated from the initial $1.6M to $2.3M
After a smooth and successful closing of the investment – from the initially promised $1.6M and planned $1.5M investment, they managed to negotiate for $2.3M – Michael Sidler of Redalpine Venture Partners remarked: “As an investor, I was most taken by Genialis’ dedicated and entrepreneurial team. As a biology Ph.D., I immediately saw the value and the technological savvy in providing beautiful software solutions to the complex challenge of analyzing genomics data.” Drew Volpe from First Star Ventures also strongly believes in Genialis’ vision and thinks that the “future of biological research relies more and more on teams of researchers and clinicians with diverse skill sets, working together seamlessly with huge volumes of data.”
 
Good expectations seen in comments by the PODIM Challenge jury
Good expectations for finding the investment could also be discerned from comments by the international investor jury that participated in this year’s PODIM Challenge competition. Enis Hulli, from the accelerator 500 Startups, commented that smart platforms are on the rise and that he believes in vertical mass data platforms in individual industries, automatizing a large part of the user’s work. According to Martin Pansy from Up to Eleven, Genialis won the PODIM Challenge because it’s an excellent team with incredible scientific achievements, and their solution presents a big business opportunity. Boštjan Špetič, the cofounder of Zemanta and one of the more visible representatives of the Slovenian startup community, also played an important role in closing the investment, selflessly helping Nejc Škoberne as his mentor with valuable advice, sharing experience, and moral support.
 
New line of SaaS products and tailored applications
This fall, Genialis began rolling out its SaaS product lineup, anchored by the flagship Expressions suite for dynamic RNA-seq exploration. Additionally, they collaborated with the American company Swift Biosciences to launch a tailored application for variant discovery by targeted genome sequencing. All Genialis' products are perfectly suited for scientists without computer knowledge and cater to researchers’ natural curiosity. “Our goal is to provide every life scientist the best possible experience with their data, so they can ask and answer whatever questions come to mind,” says Škoberne.
 
Resounding references and project with esteemed scientists
Early access users of the Expressions and variant discovery apps include researchers from Harvard University, CPMCRI, Johns Hopkins and Jackson Labs. Genialis also continues to deliver its comprehensive platforms for enterprise customers in need of combined workflows and additional bioinformatics, data management, and dissemination tools. One of such clients is also the Baylor College of Medicine, which is enabling collaboration with esteemed researchers such dr. Brendan Lee, Peggy Goodell, Gad Shaulsky and Charles Lin. “We look forward to serving as a knowledge hub for these top scientists and their fields of study,” highlighted Nejc Škoberne at this opportunity.
 
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About Genialis
Genialis is developing life sciences data software, bringing the best-in-class user experience for biologists, while ensuring robust and reproducible data analysis at scale. As pioneers in biological visual analytics software, they develop tools that are incredibly simple to use and perfect for biologists who don’t have a lot of computer knowledge. Researchers on four continents rely on its software to drive discovery, including scientists from top research institutes such as Baylor College of Medicine and cutting-edge industry R&D teams like Swift Biosciences and Diagenode.
 
For more information on the activities of Genialis Inc. and their newly obtained investment get in touch with:
- Nejc Škoberne, company CEO, nejc@genialis.com, +386 31 883 217  
- Rafael Rosengarten, company president, rafael@genialis.com, +1 843 991 3407
 
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About the PODIM Challenge competition
The PODIM Challenge competition for early-stage startups looking for a seed venture capital investment is the central event of the investment part of the PODIM Conference. In the past few years, the conference has developed into the biggest and most influential startup event in the Alps-Adriatic region. Partners of this year’s PODIM Challenge, convincingly won by Genialis, included Nova KBM, ABC Accelerator, and EIT Digital. The main organizer of the conference is Initiative Start:up Slovenia, led by the strategically connected Venture Factory and Technology Park Ljubljana. Otherwise PODIM is the event of the most active stakeholders of the startup ecosystem from Slovenia, Austria, Italy, and Croatia.
 
For more information on the PODIM Challenge competition and the PODIM Conference, get in touch with:
- Stanislava Vabšek, Initiative Start:up Slovenia, stanislava.vabsek@startup.si, 00386 31 707 204
- Urban Lapajne, Venture Factory, urban.lapajne@tovarnapodjemov.org, 00386 31 346 664