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People to Watch 2018

Emil Eifrem
Co-founder and CEO

Emil Eifrem sketched what today is known as the property graph model on a flight to Mumbai in 2000. As the CEO, co-founder of Neo4j and a co-author of the O’Reilly book Graph Databases, he’s devoted his professional life to building and evangelizing graph databases. Committed to sustainable open source, Emil guides Neo4j along a balanced path between free availability and commercial reliability. He plans to save the world with graphs and own Larry’s yacht by the end of the decade.

Datanami: Congratulations on being named a Datanami Person to Watch in 2018! Graph databases have been growing in use over the past few years. What do you expect out of the space this year?

Emil Eifrem: Thank you for the recognition, I’m very flattered and I’m excited about 2018 because we are all starting to see that connected data enabled by graph technology is the next great playing field for driving innovations and now all the players are in the game. I see it in my customers, who are creating incredible applications—like ICIJ who are following money trails, and eBay pursuing conversational commerce, and Comcast and Telia crafting smart home lifestyles.

Datanami: Neo4j has been arguably the most successful graph database on the market. Is there room for other vendors in this space?

Certainly there is room for more vendors and we welcome that. It’s been almost a decade for me, so I welcome the companionship of our new competitors, as they will teach me as much or more about growing a business as I will teach them about the importance of graphs.

Datanami: Like many other software vendors in this space today, Neo4j is a commercial open source venture. How do you balance the demands of the open source community with the requirements of enterprises?

Our open source user base is a delight. Their energy is so contagious, and their ideas are the springboard to what our enterprise customers are doing. The balance now is quite easy to delineate. Our open source community stretches the technology into new avenues like new programming languages — Go for example, and new standards pursuits like openCypher, the SQL for graphs, running not only on Neo4j, but also on Apache Spark, Gremlin and SAP HANA, or the GRANDStack (GraphQL, React, Apollo, Neo4j Database) development toolkit. The open source community is baking graphs into the modern engineering fabric. Meanwhile our commercial enterprise customers are turning us into a dependable, scalable platform and vendor because they are deploying “bet-your-business” solutions with Neo4j. We can’t and won’t let them down. What I find most interesting about both communities is that their speed of innovation is incredible.

Datanami: What do you hope to see from the big data community in the coming year?

I would really like to see the enterprise data hubs, which most organizations have embraced, recognize that their data management issues are not simply about collecting data, but rather connecting it and following newly revealed paths of those connections. When they experience the “connected data epiphany,” it will unlock transformative value in the data that’s been sitting right under their noses.

Datanami: Outside of the professional sphere, what can you share about yourself that your colleagues might be surprised to learn – any unique hobbies or stories?

Well, I’m recently consumed with my growing family, for whom I play piano. I can’t wait for the new Han Solo movie and I’m looking forward to visiting over ten cities across EMEA and North America as we embark on our Graph Tour stating later this month.


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