As part of its work highlighting innovators in the dynamic tech sector here in Nebraska and the region more broadly the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center is reaching out to local tech leaders to ask them a few questions about their work, how they got started, and where they see their company headed in the future. Today we are featuring Neil Emeigh and his company Sprious, a multi-faceted tech company that provides ethically-sourced data and scraping infrastructure, data intelligence, and a number of other integrated product offerings.
Tell us a little about Sprious and the work that you do.
Sprious is a company dedicated to forward-thinking software - our long term mission is “turning passion projects into world-class projects.” I’m a tinkerer by heart and I’d love to see us eventually expand into every industry that technology can improve - which is presumably all of them! :)
At the moment, our two largest products provide ethically-sourced data and scraping infrastructure to large enterprise customers. We provide anything that a company involved in data collection could need, from IP addresses and proxy manager software all the way up to our own scraping API.
What led you to found Sprious?
In the early 2010s I was doing my own web scraping and became frustrated with the options available for proxy providers. Not only were the IP addresses provided often of low quality, but many providers sourced their proxies via unethical or illegal methods, so you never knew what you were getting. I figured I could provide a better alternative, so with the help of a couple of team members who are still with us today, I founded Blazing SEO (which was the first product as part of the broader Sprious umbrella to come).
How did you develop the concept?
After recognizing the need for an ethical, and higher quality, proxy network in 2015, I posted a job on Elance (at the time) for a freelancer to create such a product. When I look back at that original job posting I can’t help but laugh: I had no idea what I was talking about! :). But a talented agency submitted a proposal for the job and the rest is history.
What early barriers did you face?
When I started Blazing SEO, it was during my last semester of college. It happened to grow so fast in two months that it became my full-time job. Having very little business experience, I had to struggle through the growing pains of building a company by trial-and-error. For example, I didn’t work with an attorney for almost 3 years after starting the business - which horrifies me looking back now!
What is the business climate like for tech companies in Nebraska?
In 2022, tech companies in Nebraska are going to face the same problems as companies everywhere - we all have to work harder to obtain and retain top talent while building a culture that works even as more people choose to work remotely. Some folks want to downplay the effect these things are having in Nebraska, or in the more remote-friendly tech industry, but the fact is that the impact of the pandemic is ongoing and impossible to avoid.
However, I still believe that Nebraska is a great place to found a company and would encourage any of my fellow entrepreneurs to do so. Lincoln has been very good to us. We’ve benefitted from a very friendly investment community, a great talent pool from UNL, wonderful local organizations where CEOs and COOs can meet up and learn from one another, and a great location downtown. But heck, you don’t need me to say it - just take a stroll around the Haymarket and see for yourself how friendly this town is to tech!
What advantages or challenges does Nebraska pose for a tech firm?
I listed the advantages above, so I’ll stick to what I see as one of the biggest challenges. The simple fact is that people, particularly young people, don’t want to stay here. Not only are we fighting an uphill battle against our state’s reputation for being an ugly, unexciting slice of flat whitebread, but young professionals have what I see as valid concerns about the state’s low wages and lack of worker protections compared to other tech hubs.
What companies can do in the face of this challenge is to provide such a great environment within the company that makes up for the real or perceived deficiencies of the state. Among those are the kinds of travel opportunities we provide at Sprious. I myself am writing to you from sunny Central America, where I will be working throughout the month of January - we provide encouragement and “experience stipends” for our other employees to do the same. If providing the freedom to work whenever and wherever you want isn’t a core value for your company, I don’t think you’re going to do well in the modern work environment, in Nebraska or anywhere else.
Where do you see Sprious heading over the next five to ten years?
In the next 5 years, Sprious will continue leaning into our current suite of products, while also entering new verticals that make sense to our company. I’ve always been adamant in saying that what we sell today will not be what we sell ten years from now. I don’t want Sprious to be a one-trick pony (for example, a car company like Ford), but rather an umbrella that encourages and fosters innovation in many industries (for example, a tech empire like Google).