November 19, 2012 / 10:20 PM / 8 years ago

Ex-Delta Force officer mixes special ops and data

(Reuters) - What do a former U.S. Army special operations officer, a computer scientist and an experimental psychologist have in common? Data.

James Reese first came across data analytics company Saffron Technology when he was an officer with the U.S. army’s Delta Force.

“I was first turned on to Saffron Technology while we were doing special operations in the Middle East,” Reese said in an interview. “It does predictive analysis a lot faster than you and in military terms allows us to think faster than the bad guys.”

Saffron Technology is a small data analytics company that uses technology that mimics the way the human brain connects between people, places and things, except at a much faster speed.

The company was founded by two former IBM Corp employees: Jim Fleming, a computer scientist, and Manuel Aparicio, who has a PhD in experimental psychology with a focus on biologically based neuro-computing.

Its technology was originally used in Iraq to predict where bombs would be located, but now it offers its products to corporations such as Boeing Co, which uses the technology to forecast when aircraft parts need to be replaced.

When Reese retired in 2007 to start security company TigerSwan he stayed in touch with Saffron Technology CEO Aparicio and eventually decided to partner with the company.

Reese, who joined the army after his football scholarship came to an end more than 20 years ago, now combines his expertise of special operations with data analytics for companies looking at mergers and acquisitions in emerging countries.

“I call it true diligence,” Reese said, explaining that his staff will vet executives and companies looking for anything from cartel connections to fraudulent entities beyond what accountants can do by using “human and artificial intelligence.”

The ability to forecast and identify patterns or behavior by analyzing structured data inside databases and unstructured data from social networks, mobile devices, meters or sensors is a rapidly growing market.

According to research firm IDC the business analytics software market will grow almost 10 percent a year to $50.7 billion by 2016.

TigerSwan, which Reese started in his living room, is now active in 23 countries with a staff of 250 and revenue of $35 million.

“I’d like to see us at $100 million in three to five years and become an employee-owned company,” Reese said.

TigerSwan and Saffron compete with much larger companies such as the privately held SAS Institute and IBM.

Asked if privacy issues ever come up, Reese said the company works with lawyers to ensure its methods comply with privacy laws.

Thanks to his past with Delta Force Reese says he can fall back on a network of trusted people to work with no matter where companies are looking to go.

“Someone can call me in the middle of the night and say we want go to Nigeria, Ghana and I can say got it, we got folks there,” Reese said. “You have to do it with a local presence; you can’t do it by bringing in a bunch of Americans.”

Reporting By Nicola Leske. Editing by Andre Grenon

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