Dr. Kate Cordell of Opeeka

Kate Cordell makes a business of finding needles in data haystacks

Kate Cordell has a passion for finding ways to extract useful information out of data sets. It’s the basis of her company Opeeka Inc.

Opeeka, a 2019 startup based in Folsom, uses multiple data sets and past successful outcomes to create roadmaps for people in behavioral health treatment to measure success and to suggest paths toward beneficial changes.

The company earlier this year raised $2 million in seed financing.

In her eighth-grade yearbook, Cordell said she already knew she wanted to work in medical research, something that grew out of passion for math.

It’s not something that ran in the family. Cordell said she is the first in her family to go to college. She eventually earned a master’s and a doctorate.

A self-described mathlete, Cordell grew up in Vermont. She graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in biology, and her first job out of college was doing cell research at Acadia Pharmaceuticals in Vermont. While at Acadia, Cordell developed a robotics program to do more than a million assays a week. That increased the throughput from one assay a day to about 250,000.

“When you do a million assays a week you end up with a lot of data,” Cordell said. That led her to teach herself statistics to be able to evaluate all that information. “That’s when I fell in love with data,” she said.

Cordell moved on to develop software solutions for pharmaceutical research to be able to sort chemical structures being screened, and that led to developing artificial intelligence to make the work faster.

“That’s when I realized my self-taught statistics weren’t enough,” she said, so she got her master’s in biostatistics and epidemiology from San Diego State University.

“There is so much data out there that we are not using,” Cordell said. “Everyone thinks we have a data-in problem. But with all this data, we have a data-out problem.”

Cordell has been focused for years on finding relational data from multiple sources that can be useful. That is what Opeeka is doing now to provide individual care to people based on their own data history. That history can show an individual story map, which can include personal assessments, medical records, police records, foster system records, therapy records and others.

Story Map

Opeeka creates a framework to set goals and track the individual to see if interventions are progressing and are having desired effects.

The company then can use its mountains of data to see what methods or therapies worked for people who had similar story maps, whether that was exercise, therapy, medication or some other intervention.

“With her artificial intelligence engine, she is able to find useful data,” said Roger Akers, a local angel investor and one of the investors in Opeeka. “I fell in love with her thought process in terms of what she wanted to build.”

Cordell had a highly developed business concept, she knew what the value proposition was and she know who the customers would be, Akers said.

Opeeka’s target customers include veterans’ services, local government agencies, hospitals, care providers and community providers.

Cordell declined to discuss revenue with the Business Journal, but she said the company already has customers.

Opeeka has eight full-time employees and five part-time employees. They work in business development, marketing, technology, as front-end software developers and data scientists and in customer success roles. That employee count is up from just two co-founders at the beginning of the year. Chief Marketing Officer Ken Knecht is Opeeka’s other co-founder, along with Cordell.

That brings up some of the challenges of working in a startup, she said.

The first of those is building a team and delegating.

With a startup, you start out wearing all the hats, “and you try to get rid of them,” Cordell said.

Another challenge for the company is that its technology, and its whole method of care, is disruptive, she said.

“We are not replacing an existing technology or an existing expense,” she said. “We replace paper,” by which she literally means people taking notes on behavioral health patients, and then often failing to share them with others involved in treatment.

But since the technology is new, that means there is an education component to closing the sale that includes demonstrating the benefit of the client-centric approach, she said, adding that part of the sale is demonstrating how Opeeka fits in their existing budgeting.

Opeeka charges its customers per patient, as opposed to by user, she said, because the idea is to get as many sources of information (which can be agencies, services, health care, counseling and addiction counselors) to work together. The company wants to be able to get information from as many sources as possible who serve complex patients’ needs, she said.