Today, I have a visual treat for you. The architecture of the Epic Systems headquarters. But that’s not the point of the story. I received an email from a second grade friend from St. Monica’s Elementary School, in Santa Monica, with a SmugMug link to photographs from a recent trip to visit her son in Madison, Wisconsin. (For the uninitiated, SmugMug is the photo site used by photography enthusiasts and experts.)
I can’t display the photos of Epic Systems, as I don’t have permission from the photographers. However, some links to the photos are included in this blog. Google “Epic Systems” in Google Images and page through the reams of pictures. This has to be the most visual and enjoyable corporate campus in the world, literally. Sorry, Google.
Now, I have always considered myself somewhat “in the know,” especially when it comes to technology companies. And here was a company of which I had never heard, which seems to be sizeable, and is in the software field. Too say that I felt a both flustered and curious would be an understatement.
Epic is over $1.5 billion revenues company that makes software for mid-size and large medical groups, hospitals and integrated healthcare. The solutions span from the clinical and into the home. Think of this as an athenahealth, but for a different market segment. Users include Children’s Medical Center, the Deaconess (in Boston), Kaiser Permanente, Stanford University Medical Center, and Texas Health Resources.
Epic is in the Health Information Systems (“HIS”) and Electronic Medical Record (“EMR”) field and installed in hospitals and healthcare systems. The Company is private, and from all appearances intends to remain private. Though at $1.5 billion in sales, it’s tough to remain hidden from public view.
Epic was founded by Judy Falkner in 1979. Ms. Falkner was an undergraduate math major at Dickinson College, and graduate student in computer science at University of Wisconsin, Madison. The software was written in MUMPS (out of MGH) and migrated to Caché. Epic and Cerner, another giant HIS and EMR vendor, were founded at the same time. Cerner was also founded by three Arthur Anderson employees in Kansas City, and went public in late 1986. The Company is now over $2 billion in revenues.
Epic, like a lot of technology-centric companies, is known for not paying much attention to marketing. It is said, though not verified by me, that customers, so far, have beat a path to Epic’s door. Allegedly, Epic will turn down a customer if it doesn’t think the customer has the technological capability and sophistication to install and maintain the system. Boy, that dog food must be pretty durn good!
Epic has a novel 385-acre campus with 1.5 million square feet of office space. Each employee has a private office, which they claim increase productivity by 40 percent, There is an on-campus restaurant that subsidizes food at $4 per day per employee, keeping employees on campus. Epic estimates a productivity gain of $70,000 per day from the in-house cafeteria. Parking is underground, to minimize disturbance to natural vegetation, and there are 1,576 geothermal wells, and other green features to the campus.
Buildings and meeting rooms have motifs. My favorite is the farm portion of the campus, where the building is literally built to look like a barn. The sign that says “Intergalactic Headquarters” puts a smile on your face, and harkens to back to StarTrek. You can tell that management, while reclusive, has a great and quirky sense of humor
Enough. What does all this say about Epic? The emphasis on creating a pleasant work experience says that employees are valued, and they are expected to contribute their best. It’s a contract. We take care of you; you take care of the customer.
It also says that the Company is immensely profitable. Having built a house, I can tell you that all those features at Epic’s headquarters are incredibly costly. Not achievable by just any Company. In fact, people tell me that the Epic campus is more impressive than either Google’s or Yahoo’s campus.
My guess is that the Company will stay private for a long, long time so that it can continue on its current path with its own unique culture. Or at least as long as Judy Falkner is in control. Epic’s motto echoes Google’s” “Have fun. Do good. Make a fair profit”
Which brings us to other impressive companies in the hinterlands, at least ‘hinterlands’ to those of us near coastal metro areas. Take Garmin. Who woulda’ thought? Garmin is based in Olathe, Kansas, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. Garmin was founded in 1989 and went public in late 2000, with well North of $200 million in revenues. The Company is now over $2.7 billion in sales.
On the venture side, I came across The Resumator, founded by Don Charlton. While the Company is still small, it recently accepted an investment by Salesforce.com. I remember well when Don Charlton called in for advice to “This Week in Startups” with Jason Calcanis. Calcanis’ first piece of advice to Don was to move the Company—to the Bay Area. Charlton eschewed that piece of advice, but did benefit from other pieces of Calcanis’ advice. To Jason’s credit, a few years later Charlton was the featured guest on one of the show’s episodes, and that “move” advice was discussed.
It is much more difficult to create a Company outside of areas known for startup expertise. The challenges are larger: you have to cobble together your own capital, marketing, sales and technology capabilities. While you may have the technology and IP, you don’t have the startup infrastructure and culture. It’s harder. On the flip side, once you get going, you probably are in a lower cost of living area, your employees are less easily pilfered, and your success feeds on itself.
It’s gone over to the freezing side of life. A glimmer of snow this morning. Enjoy.
Founder & Chairman
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