By Gregg Archibald
Welcome to the second installment of a new series that focuses on companies that won the IIeX Competition. Over the next several months, we will be interviewing these companies to discuss their place in the insights industry – successes, growing pains, advice, and other good stuff.
This installment features Neil Seeman, Founder and CEO of RIWI. As CEO, Neil leads overall strategy for the company globally, with a focus on healthcare and international security solutions. He is responsible for overall company performance. RIWI won the North American IIeX Competition in 2013 for its disruptive online data capture methodology.
Tell us, in a few sentences, what your business is all about:
RIWI is a global survey technology and risk measurement company using its proprietary, patented methods to capture a new stream of opinion data in any region of the world. RIWI offers access to true market and citizen opinion data in all regions of the world – including in otherwise hard-to-reach markets. These data can, for example, be descriptive or predictive of emergent attitudinal trends in brand affinity, purchase intent, civil unrest, human rights, or economic, health policy and risk or other indicators.
What has changed for your business since winning the competition? (Listing on CSE: RIWI)
As of Aug 31, 2015, RIWI (CSE: RIW) was listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange. Listing on the CSE is a natural step for a company like ours. The CSE is a modern exchange that offers all the benefits of the public markets without the cost and burdensome attendant regulation for small companies. RIWI is a global data technology platform designed for rapid scalability and a public listing is a milestone enabling our reach, customer base, partnerships, and corporate professionalism to continue to grow.
The press release announcing our public listing on August 31, 2015 is here: https://riwi.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/RIWI-NR-Aug-27-15-Final.pdf
Winning the IIeX competition affixed significant brand value to our company, which, in turn, was instrumental in securing attention and revenue-generating contracts and strategic investments from angel investors in our pre-public company financing. Most important, I feel the IIeX events are self-selecting in terms of the attendees from other companies and clients who attend and who are therefore intent on seeking innovative solutions to short- or long-term data needs outside of the traditional boundaries of market research; this was helpful to me as an Internet and health policy researcher whose background in traditional market research was limited. I see RIWI as part of a growing ‘data ecosystem’ of diverse offerings that recognize that data solutions are often complementary. I attribute IIeX to cementing that vision in our strategic path.
Since winning the award, we have expanded our work in the global NGO sector, largely due, we feel, to the global recognition we have earned from the global data community that vouches for our reach into all parts of the world. The recognition from the award directly contributed to our data science in inferential analytics and geo-location that we worked on to support the 2013 and 2014 GRIT Consumer Participation in Research studies (published by Greenbook), which also reviewed the differential typology and respondent profiles of habitual vs. non-habitual survey respondents globally. We have expanded into the risk and security sectors, and, especially warm to my heart, have expanded into the global public health sector; this is pleasing to me since the roots of RIWI lie in pre-commercial work in government-commissioned pandemic surveillance in my former research unit.
Where do you see your business going in the next couple of years?
Our focus is expanding our customer base and growing our revenues. We expect revenues will, in 2015, be three times those of 2014 and we believe we have reached the stage where past efforts in development and sales, since 2012, are bearing fruit.
Like other companies in the global data ecosystem, we recognize that long-term partnerships and integration with other data suppliers and global analytics companies and in-market experts are critical to revenue-generating success. We see ourselves as the ‘plug-in’ that can enable any number of different companies in the technology and analytics sectors to expand globally, to reach more diverse and random audiences of non-panel respondents, and to reach voices that would not otherwise be heard. Specific applications include novel data-driven insights into issues ranging from human rights audits to the measurement of new global indicators to supporting research into the design of new policy solutions for human health challenges, such as the needs and gaps in caring for those with mental illness, Alzheimer’s or other diseases and conditions. We are, for example, very proud of a forthcoming academic paper that marks the first time researchers have measured mental health stigma globally and self-reported rates of mental illness in all countries. Although we have enjoyed many academic and expert reviews of our patented data collection methodology, this is a third party expert validation of the global replicability and falsifiability of our proprietary data stream in a prestigious scholarly journal (the Journal of Affective Disorders) and it is a data set of over 1 million people run over 19 months in more than 200 countries. Further, we know that it will help researchers understand baseline data in mental health stigma and surveillance, thus enabling intervention impact assessment.
What has taken you by surprise?
The large diversity of sectors that has expressed interest in our random global data stream. Further, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the global nature of our enthusiastic supporters. We now self-identify as a ‘micro-multinational’.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned since winning the competition?
It’s all about the people and the team; this includes every employee, client, board member, investor, advisor, consultant, mentor and friendly supporter. Our success is positively co-linear with the success of the global data ecosystem.
What advice would you give a company getting started in the insights industry?
Be wary of free and paid advice early on — nobody knows more than you about your vision. That said, I recommend ‘productizing’ your vision before anything else. Only bring people on board who share that vision passionately. Be confident but humble. Admit when you’re wrong and abandon innovations gone awry (credit to Steve Jobs RIP), yet, at the same time, be careful about leaning too heavily on the advice of anyone with impressive-sounding credentials despite the instinctive temptation to do so. This means being wary of advice from industry veterans, or from marketing mavens or self-proclaimed Internet ‘experts’. And it means asking a ton of questions.