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April 27, 2017

Elsen – Making the Complex Simple with nPlatform

Zac Sheffer and Justin White are two friends who met as freshmen while they were attending Northeastern University. Sheffer, who was a mechanical engineering major, ended up living with White, a computer engineering major.

“Justin and I had this really funny overlap in our schedules,” Sheffer remembers. “I would be going to work at 5 a.m. and he, for some reason, was still working at 5 a.m.”

When he was fulfilling his co-op requirement from the university, Sheffer started to make the steps towards what became his future career in Boston’s Fintech scene. He worked at Credit Suisse, one of the most well-known financial services firms in the world. Sheffer was working with a variety of clients in the financial services industry where he was analyzing data to help support investment decisions in different sectors like the airline industry. Sheffer was surprised when he noticed how the firm was not utilizing modern technologies for the analysis of this data. “It was almost scary how antiquated they were from a technology perspective,” says Sheffer.

Zac Sheffer, Co-Founder and CEO of Elsen
Zac Sheffer, Co-Founder and CEO of Elsen

When Sheffer eventually left his position at Credit Suisse, he and White began creating and developing an engine to crunch large volumes of financial data. “Justin has a background in high-performance computing, which was a great fit with my background in engineering and finance logic,” says Sheffer. While the two friends were developing intuitive technology that could be used as a software platform, they were missing one major feature; a solid user interface. This is where a former bioengineer turned product designer, Ryan Johnson, came into the picture. Johnson was in line to go into the medical field, but had a passion in another one.

“He [Johnson] didn’t want to become a doctor,” Sheffer says. “He wanted to design cool, new applications.” The combination of Sheffer’s experience with Fintech, Johnson’s eye for design and White’s knowledge of high performance computing resulted in the creation of Elsen in 2013.

The name, Elsen, actually comes from a mutual friend they had, who was also working as a hedge fund manager. The company was originally part of IDEA, Northeastern’s venture accelerator and managed to raise funding through introductions made by Bob Lentz, executive professor and chairman of the board of advisors of IDEA.

“We found a lot of investments from people who just believed in us,” Sheffer says. Vivjan Mytro of Hyperplane Venture Capital was the company’s first institutional investor who believed in the vision and opportunity. This relationship also helped Elsen hire Jane Hood, the company’s CMO, who is an advisor to Hyperplane.

Elsen’s product has been in development for four years and just a few weeks ago, the company finally announced the launch of its nPlatform, a Platform-as-a-Service for large financial institutions.

“We created a platform that is built on progressive technology and proprietary techniques,” the CEO says. “But we also took a human focused approach to the product in terms of its design, so that non-technical users can also quickly access and analyze data from their platform. We eliminated the need for a team of programmers.”

Beyond the product’s design, what makes Elsen’s nPlatform unique is the fact that the company has built its own proprietary programming language to replace SQL. The result is a 100X performance increase which doesn’t exist anywhere else.

As part of the launch, Elsen also announced a strategic partnership with Thomson Reuters, which the company worked with to buildt a new product called QA Point. It is the first commercial application built on top of nPlatform. QA Point will be sold to Thomson Reuters’ customers, which will allow financial services companies the ability to utilize Thomson Reuters’ valuable data, but on Elsen’s simple to use, modern cloud based architecture.

Thomson Reuters QA Point Screenshot
QA Point screenshot

In 2015, the company participated in the inaugural class of Boston’s FinTech Sandbox. For Elsen, this came at a critical time as the company had just raised funding. FinTech Sandbox helped the company build relationships with potential clients, one of which ended up being Thomson Reuters.

Elsen is at an interesting stage, where the company has 10 employees and is shifting from R&D to growth. Launching the first commercially available product on nPlatform, and doing so with a big and influential company like Thomson Reuters, is a key milestone.As the Elsen team looks at the competitive landscape, they feel well-equipped to continue this momentum and build a strong company which generates a lot of value within the financial services industry.

Sheffer is also confident on the Fintech sector in Boston and believes there’s only room for growth in this industry, based on the growing cluster of Fintech companies and large financial services companies in the Boston area.

“There’s a lot of startups doing cool stuff in Boston,” said Elsen’s CEO. “There’s more seed funding and things are trending in the right direction.”


Colin Barry is a contributor to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash.

Images via Elsen.