With $20M, Neo Technology makes a case for the graph database

Neo Technology, the creator of the Neo4j graph database, has brought in $20 million in series C money, signaling that we are indeed seeing the rise of graph analysis in big data. The startup now has $44.1 million in total funding.

Unlike document databases like MongoDB, graph databases deal with the relationships between data points and are used by big social networking companies like Facebook and Pinterest to map out the connections of their many users. For example, Pinterest’s graph architecture lets the startup know which users are following other users as well as how their interests overlap with each other.

Similar to the NoSQL world where several companies and related projects like MongoDB, Couchbase and DataStax vie for the crown, there are many different graph database projects with no clear leader(s) yet. Some examples include GraphLab Inc. and the open-source GraphLab database, the Facebook-developed Giraph open-source database and the Cassovary big graph-processing library brought to you by Twitter.

Neo Technology CEO and founder Emil Eifrem said his startup stands out from other projects because of its large development community; the company claims it has 20,000 Neo4j Meetup members in 25 countries and has received 500,000 downloads since Neo4j 2.0 was released last year. Eifrem said that Neo4j now supports many different languages, frameworks and tooling through the help of community support and developers.

Neo4j was created from the ground up by Neo Technology’s founders back in 2007 and is not a rejiggered version of MySQL with some sort of relational layer built on top of it, he said.

Neo4j browser screenshot

Neo4j browser screenshot

As far as building a viable business, Neo Technology is following in the footsteps of other open-source-centric startups like [company]Docker[/company] in that it sells commercial software that functions as “operations and management tools,” but which is built atop open-source technology. While developers can download Neo4j for free, enterprises that want more-traditional IT features like monitoring and management and clustering will have to cough up some cash.

“I can’t see a big, serious company putting [the free version] in production,” Eifrem said.

The 80-person startup claims [company]Walmart[/company], [company]eBay[/company], [company]CenturyLink[/company], [company]Cisco[/company] and Medium as users of the Neo4j database.

Creandum and Dawn Capital drive the funding round along with Fidelity Growth Partners Europe, Sunstone Capital and Conor Venture Partners. Johan Brenner, a Creandum general partner, will join Neo Technology’s board.