Backed by a $1.25M Seed round, Temnos gives publishers deeper contextual understanding of their content

By Editor September 19, 2013
Temnos logo

Temnos logoA Q&A with Temnos founder and Executive Chairman Tim Musgrove. The San Francisco-based startup, which offers a content intelligence platform for improving site visitor engagement, closed a $1.25 million Seed funding round last week from a group of undisclosed investors. It spun out of Federated Media as an independent startup earlier this year.

SUB: Please describe Temnos and your primary innovation.

Musgrove: We provide scalable content intelligence services on a PaaS [Platform-as-a-Service] model. In essence, you send content—documents or URLs—to our API and we give you back metadata or metacontent for each item of content that was processed by our platform. Armed with this information, you will gain insight into what your pages are about, which pieces of content are most relevant to each other, and why, and the various ways that pages can be characterized or re-packaged to your benefit.

SUB: Who are your target markets and users?

Musgrove: All of our target markets are related to large repositories of digital media. This would include larger publishers and content networks, authoring and curation platforms, aggregators and content portals, and all the app makers and advertising platforms that are connected to all of these.

Temnos-Platform_DiagramSUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Temnos from the competition?

Musgrove: There are some competitors who offer point-solutions to some of what we do, such as OpenCalais for tagging, Peer39 for classification, etc. But our APIs are far more rich and flexible than these, meaning for example that we have more switches and options to let developers customize outputs to their needs; not to mention that we are practically a one-stop-shop for every sort of page-level metadata and metacontent you could wish to extract or generate from your text collection.

SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?

Musgrove: We spun out of Federated Media, into stealth mode, in January, 2013, taking with us a technology stack that had over 120 man years invested in it. Our first step was to sign up some private beta customers, such as Disqus, Flite, and of course Federated Media themselves.

SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Temnos? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?

Musgrove: There was an ‘aha’ moment when I realized that several associates in the industry, who had heard about the kind of things my team was doing, were contacting me while I was still employed by Federated asking if I could help their company. I had to say, “not right now,” to them all, but I realized that the platform we had created for FM’s various development teams to use would work just as well for any number of outside companies—so why not spin out?

SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?

Musgrove: The famous ‘Five Ws’ (Who, What, When, Where, Why), which are used today in journalism, education, criminal investigation, rhetoric, and other fields, have a specific historical beginning in the ‘Seven Circumstances’ originally established by Hermagoras of Temnos, an influential teacher of rhetoric in ancient Rome, and predecessor to Cicero.

Rather than five interrogatives, Hermagoras actually had seven, because in addition to our familiar five, he added ‘by what means’ and ‘in what manner.’ They mostly were Qs, not Ws, because in Latin the corresponding words are ‘quis,’ ‘quid,’ etc. This model for capturing the essence of any subject matter was one of the earliest content intelligence methods in human history, and therefore we are proud to derive our company name from this apropos historical reference.

SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $1.25 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?

Musgrove: We have several paying customers that prove our platform has unique value, but [we] needed more runway to get things to really take off before seeking an A round from VCs.

SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?       

Musgrove: Primarily to expand the marketing and business development team—our engineering staff is already quite strong.

SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?

Musgrove: We will do a secondary closing of this round in 60 days or so, but that should be it for a little while.

SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?

Musgrove: Honestly, it’s that everybody and their brother over-uses words like ‘semantic’ and ‘concepts’ for simplistic tools that are not worthy of the description. It dilutes people’s expectations of what we have to offer. So, there’s a communication challenge to get across, along the lines of: “Hey, our technology is for real; it’s both broader and deeper than what’s often touted as ‘smart technology.’”

SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?

Musgrove: We’re generating revenue on a volume-based, subscription model. Customers subscribe to one of several packages—based on how rich the metadata or metacontent is that they want to receive—and then pay for any additional document processing volume beyond what is included in a particular package.

SUB: What are your goals for Temnos over the next year or so?

Musgrove: Our current focus is on expanding our business development footprint and establishing ourselves as the best and most reliable content intelligence provider at scale.

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