Social Web Revolutionary

STORY BY Fred Bauters
PHOTO BY Gary Rohman

Sitting on a pillow while staring at a wall. Meticulously dusting triceratops fossils. Gazing at celestial bodies. Tending to his garden. Building a fully functional R2D2. These are fragments of time used to focus Rich Neal’s teeming mind.

Seventy-two hours without a wink of sleep is commonplace for the insomnious founder and CIO of Temetic Research, but he’s put the problem to work, spending his nights building algorithms to solve what he describes as the “online hive mind”—what people are talking about, why something becomes viral, what’s the susceptibility of that message.

“We’re getting true contextual meaning,” Neal says. Temetic’s new social intelligence product, PACE (perception, action, change, element), breaks the mold of social Web metrics that target general sentiment and buzz. It sifts through public information passed around by roughly two billion people worldwide—on the social Web, news media, consumer review sites, blogs and more—to provide companies with the ability to track, manage and interact with what is being said about them.

Businesses are then able to streamline their relationship with endless conversations on the wide-open Web by creating a customized set of indices and platforms to track and initiate alert systems and artificial intelligence to respond in a timely, appropriate fashion. “Businesses have left themselves exposed when they don’t answer the ‘why?’” Neal says. “PACE takes out the need for humans without it being robotic.”

It’s difficult to summarize the breadth of what Temetic and PACE provide, but that’s for good reason. Neal spent five years crafting the solutions and more than a decade working as a consultant on Wall Street and with Microsoft. His associate’s degree in psychology, along with his Master of Science and MBA degrees, create the perfect amalgamation to understand human interaction, build a system to measure it and maintain a successful business.

His passion for the digital sociology and science that is behind Temetic’s resources has opened the door for a revolution in the way that online social intelligence is understood. “Lock me in a cave and give me a whiteboard,” he says. He’s become an extrovert for business reasons but believes strongly in the theory that solitary leaders are more successful. “We’ve lost a way to be with one’s self.”

That singular focus has translated to the product. He began building Temetic in 2008 and has since declined offers from three venture capital firms, one of which was from Silicon Valley. “I did not make any friends with that decision,” he says. “I wasn’t going to enslave myself to a venture capitalist. No. 1, because I’m weird, and  No. 2, because this has been bootstrapped by me. My idea of freedom does not include them.”

Excitement has soared at the company as all the beta users of PACE have remained for the polished product, which went live this year in January. Neal is forecasting revenue of $200,000 per month by the end of the year, with clients in industries including agriculture and automotive. But there is plenty of value for small businesses—PACE can be molded to match any need.

Temetic’s solutions have even attracted the government. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a research agency under the Director of National Intelligence, is eyeing a custom version of Neal’s concoction to act as a terrorism warning system, highlighting the limitless value companies could reap. And Neal is ready, sitting on his pillow.