Empire Innovation Group has moved its growing operation from Harlem Road in Snyder to downtown Buffalo, settling into chic offices in the fifth floor at 410 Main St.
The company has grown from three founders – CEO Nicholas Knab, CIO Joshua Bishop, CPO Ryan Schultz – to 12 employees since it was founded about 2.5 years ago. The trio previously worked at health insurance company Meritain Health, where they saw a huge market opportunity for health reimbursement and flexible spending accounts.
Both HRAs and FSAs have gained in popularity with the rise of high-deductible insurance plans, but are generally not a priority from a technology standpoint for insurers and banks. The EIG platform includes a mobile app and website that easily integrates with existing insurance plans, its founders said.
“Payers do a good job servicing complex health plans, especially core medical, dental and vision,” Knab said. “But the technology around account-based health plans is weak because it’s of second-tier importance.”
EIG’s co-founders spent their first several years diligently building their software-as-a-service model, by which clients pay for the usage of the cloud-based platform. They initially landed four “whale” clients in trusts that administer such accounts for public-sector employees. The EIG system now manages about $1 billion in assets for 160,000 individuals.
Those accounts have bolstered monthly revenue to about $220,000, making EIG a notable early-stage success story without taking a cent of investment capital. EIG was supported by a $1.2 million Small Business Administration loan from Evans Bank, portions of which were slowly approved as the business gained traction.
The founders started EIG after working together at Meritain, the health insurance company that also spawned the growing EmergenceTek firm, which is headquartered in the downtown Brisbane building. EIG has been under-the-radar until recently as they have built the software platform, which will provided in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model to clients, along with the business model.
The plan now is to bring the platform out of the trusts niche where it has found early success and to the broader world of insurance companies, many of which administer healthcare plans that include HRAs. The company’s leadership team said the business is projected to grow to about 17 employees in the next year and to carefully manage growth to about 25 employees over the next five years, while pushing revenue up to four or five times what it is right now.
EIG’s leaders say they’re strong believers in the regional economic momentum in Buffalo, which motivated their move from the suburbs to the city’s urban core.
“In the past five to seven years we’ve seen the evolution that’s taking place in the city and we’re big believers in doing right by the local community,” Bishop said. “We felt it was important to have a downtown presence.”