Lapetus Secures Funding, Plans Pilot Tests

By V.L. Craven, posted Jun 8, 2015
Lapetus Software, which was incorporated in June 2014, became Lapetus Solutions Inc. in April after receiving an undisclosed amount of funding from a European investment firm.

Co-owners and founders Karl Ricanek Jr. and S. Jay Olshansky got together after Olshansky cold called Ricanek three years ago.

“Two faculty members from two different disciplines discovered that they were working on the same problem – understanding aging – but from totally different perspectives,” Ricanek said in an email. “These perspectives seemed disjointed, but after 15 minutes of discussion we realized that they weren’t. At the end of the day we were interested in finding ways to measure and observe aging.”

Ricanek is a professor of computer science at University of North Carolina Wilmington as well as the chief technology officer and chief scientist facial analytics for Lapetus. (Until recently, Ricanek also was filling in as interim director of UNCW’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization. Craig Galbraith, a professor of technology, entrepreneurship and corporate strategy at UNCW, has been named the office’s new director.)

With the Lapetus project, Olshansky, a biodemography researcher, is the company’s chief
scientist. He is based in Chicago where he is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“Jay Olshansky was looking for someone who had the ability to analyze faces for senescing rate, which is a measure of biological aging. I am internationally recognized as a leader in this area of research,” Ricanek said about their initial partnership.

The company currently has nine employees. Five are UNCW alumni, current students or faculty.

“Lapetus has offices in Wilmington and Chicago, however, all software development is performed in Wilmington,” Ricanek said. “We hope to bring on a few summer interns from UNCW and possibly UNC. If we hit our projected growth, there will be dozens more high-paid development and marketing hires over the next 18 months.”

The team hopes to combine its work in facial recognition and age modeling with people’s aging process and longevity to create business products.

A range of companies will participate in the first round of pilot tests, Ricanek said.

“There are several large life insurance, reinsurance, hedge fund and pension planners that are lined up to participate in a pilot of the Lapetus Solution for effective (efficient, noninvasive and highly accurate) longevity prediction and healthy life estimation,” he said.

The second round of pilots is expected to take place with a large life insurance company, Ricanek said.

Last summer, the company launched its Face My Age website. Using a photo of a person’s face and information from a few basic lifestyle questions, the software predicts the person’s current age and remaining lifespan. The site has had over 3 million visitors since then and 1 million photo conversions, Ricanek said, who added that Face My Age was built in six weeks by UNCW students under his guidance.

Ricanek said the work Lapetus is doing could reshape the way life insurance is evaluated.

“Lapetus will change the landscape of life insurance segment due to its total disruptive nature,” he said. “Currently underwriting can take two weeks to several weeks and require invasive questioning by medical professionals, blood and other fluids and full medical/psychological examinations. Further, Lapetus is developing solutions to evaluate health status and duration.”
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