Neo4j’s Plans to Be a Once in a Generation Database Company. Q&A with Lance Walter
Lance Walter is the Chief Marketing Officer at Neo4j and has more than two decades of enterprise product management and marketing experience. Lance started his career in technical roles at Oracle supporting enterprise relational database deployments. Since then, Lance has worked at industry leaders like Siebel Systems and Business Objects, as well as successful startups including Onlink (acquired by Siebel Systems), Pentaho (acquired by Hitachi Data Systems), Aria Systems and Capriza. Lance’s first experience with alternative database platforms was at Arbor Software, the pioneer of the multi-dimensional database / OLAP market.
Q1. You just announced a Series F funding. For those who are not familiar, what is a Series F funding?
Great question! Basically, once a business has developed a track record (an established user base, consistent revenue figures, or some other key performance indicator), that company may opt for funding in order to further optimize its user base and product offerings. Opportunities may be taken to scale the product across different markets. This is the point at which a company takes in funding from investors. The first such round is called ‘Series A’.
This most recent round of funding is Neo4j’s Series F, meaning that this is the sixth round of funding to finance our expansion.
Q2. This transaction represents the largest investment in a private database company. What do you plan to do with this new funding?
We plan to further accelerate our activity in three key focus areas:
- Cloud portfolio – Delivering a portfolio of multi-cloud services spanning individual developers through the largest global enterprises offering unmatched flexibility, agility, and performance at any scale.
- Graph data science – Powering a new era of intelligent applications, enhancing machine learning models to unlock otherwise unattainable predictions based on relationships.
- Market reach – Expanding Neo4j’s global footprint, and growing the company’s ecosystem of complementary technologies and expert service providers to deliver complete solutions and accelerate customer success.
Q3. Emil Eifrem, Neo4j’s CEO and Co-Founder, characterized the news as an “inflection point” in the broader database market. Can you please clarify this?
It is further confirmation that a new wave of generational databases and database companies is here to stay, and it will accelerate the evolution of Neo4j as well as the broader database market. Part of the ‘inflection point’ is market awareness and demand. As the ODBMS audience largely knows, demand for graph databases has grown steadily for years, alongside other popular NoSQL databases. But that adoption accelerated in 2020, driven by digital transformation, pandemic response, and a ‘graph epiphany’ among the world’s leading enterprises that led Gartner to call graphs and graph techniques “the foundation of modern data and analytics.” The funding makes it clear that Neo4j and graph databases are “here for the long haul,” and that graphs aren’t an API or an abstraction layer. Graphs are a standalone database model that has spawned a new database category.
Q4. According to Gartner, “By 2025, graph technologies will be used in 80% of data and analytics innovations, up from 10% in 2021, facilitating rapid decision making across the enterprise.” Source: Gartner, Top Trends in Data and Analytics for 2021, Rita Sallam et al., 16 Feb 2021. Do you see some specific domains that will profit more from graph technologies?
Part of why Gartner is so enthusiastic is that graphs are so “horizontal” – our customers do amazing things with graphs across all major industries. We do see concentrations of activity in certain areas – for example large banks using Neo4j to fight sophisticated fraud rings, or governments trying to more efficiently deliver services to citizens, or technology or telecommunications companies managing large networks or trying to find analytic “needles” in haystacks of machine-generated data.
Q5. You mentioned that you plan to use the investment to accelerate what you call “Graph data science”. How is it different from conventional Machine Learning-enhanced applications?
Data is inherently connected, but conventional machine learning applications do not support connections. Neo4j’s approach to Graph Data Science helps leverage highly predictive, yet largely underutilized relationships and network structures to answer unwieldy, intractable problems. To predict fraud through sequences of seemingly innocuous behavior, for example, we can explore the results of graph algorithms and then use the predictive features for further analysis or machine learning. In this manner, graph data science brings tremendous value to advanced analytics, conventional machine learning and AI.
Q6. Graph technologies are not the solutions for all problems. Is it possible to combine graph technologies with other database technologies in the market? If yes, how?
Absolutely! We see customers and users mixes Neo4j with a wide range of databases and platforms for some interesting use cases. People integrate Neo4j with Kafka for streaming data, relational databases for performance and scale improvements, Apache Spark for data science applications, and so much more. Our Developer section on Neo4j.com has some great resources.
Q7. Nathalie Kornhoff-Brüls, Managing Director of Eurazeo and has been appointed to the Neo4j Board of Directors. What would be her role?
Like our other Directors, her role is to advise, support, and direct the company as we grow. Starting with her firm, Eurazeo, we really liked that they “got graphs” and “got us” in terms of our strategy, personality, culture, and more. The fact that they included a Neo4j Bloom graph in their term sheet showed that they “got it” and wanted to do the same things for the database market and community that we do. With Nathalie, we get an experienced strategist and leader who understands international business and scale, ecosystems, market strategy, and more. We’re thrilled to have her on the team.
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
The database developer community has played an enormous role in Neo4j’s success since our inception. Our CEO Emil Eifrem spent some time saying thanks to our community as part of his closing keynote at our NODES conference. If you’re a Neo4j developer, thanks for being a part of our community. We are looking forward to another decade of excitement!
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