HGN: Startup GraphStory raises $1M, continues to grow in Memphis
Memphian Greg Jordan is the founder of local graph database company GraphStory. Jordan said he and his team of five are on a mission to make everyone a “data consolidating badass”.
“That was the big thing for me. If I can build an application for my boss in a couple of weeks or a couple of hours, I’m going to look like a hero if I get it done faster,” he said.
The technology Greg and his team have created helps organizations better understand the relationships between all of their data in a faster way than traditional or relational databases.
A relational database looks like a spreadsheet with columns and rows of information. Relational databases try to take numbers and connect them to another spreadsheet to form a relationship. GraphStory speeds up that process in a way that Greg said is, “as easy as taking the iPhone out of its box and using it for the first time.”
Jordan said companies like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Amazon all use graphs to create relationships, which has economic value.
“For instance, Amazon uses a graph to do product recommendation and it’s 35 percent of their revenue,” he said. “That’s a big chunk. Whenever you go on Amazon and it says, ‘people who bought this, also bought that,’ that’s a graph type of technology.”
In some cases, GraphStory completely replaces a system and in some cases it runs complementary.
For example, Jordan said FedEx has a database that has a list of all the people that work there and that’s what a relational database is good at—having a list. But, when companies want to understand something like organizational structure and see how people have worked together in the past on previous projects, that’s when a graph is handy.
Terry Maready, chief information officer for Memphis-based Mallory Alexander International Logistics and a GraphStory customer, said that they are a company with a tremendous number of customer-facing web solutions providing reporting and supply chain visibility.
Maready said as some of the database requirements became more complex with his company, performance and speed became an issue.
“To accomplish these two goals will give us the ability to more quickly roll out new features and deliver the greater visibility to data that our customers demand and expect,” he said. “Additionally, we do believe the enhanced data relationship capability will allow us to provide more sophisticated reporting and dashboard capabilities to our customers going forward.”
Creating and growing the technology
Jordan became interested in graph databases seven years ago whole working on a social application called Slack that he and a team created. It was a messaging center for people working on group projects that used a relational database to do all the data. Today, Slack has over 4 million daily users.
After getting close to 50,000 different messages going in and out and hundreds of users, the application started performing slowly. As Jordan started searching for solutions, he saw graph databases. His idea led him to publish a book in 2014, Practical Neo4J, on the uses of new graph database technology.
His startup, GraphStory, was incorporated in 2014 and was part of several accelerator programs included StartCo and LaunchTN. It was through these programs that he networked and gained his first customers locally, nationally, and eventually internationally.
Jordan said that programs like Start Co. and LaunchTN helped him develop as an entrepreneur and question his assumptions and vision about how things should work, which lead to room for adaptation. Additionally, staying local and seeking an accelerator in Memphis as opposed to places like Silicon Valley, where there are companies like Apple, Facebook or Google in the backyard, made sense.
“In Memphis and by virtue of working with bleeding edge technology, we have become a destination point for tech talent,” he said. “In addition, becoming part of the local accelerator allowed us to increase our network exponentially. It has helped create relationships that might have otherwise taken much longer to begin and foster.”
Jordan said it took approximately six months to get his first customer, a finance company in New York. He said it was a big milestone when they reached 10 customers who weren’t family and friends.
His focus for finding new customers is based on content marketing, word of mouth, and testimonials. He said the best way to get new customers is to take care of the ones you have and be able to succinctly describe why businesses need what you provide.
Jordan now boasts 60 customers ranging from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies from as close as Memphis to as far away as Israel, India, and Sweden.
Andy Gaines, investor, adviser, and board member at GraphStory, said he decided to invest because the company is a growing business in a growing industry that, based on successes during the short time it has been operating, clearly has a product, customer service level and operating model that the market wants.
“The volume of data that companies work with, manage, and learn from has exploded in recent years and is expected to grow 10 times its current level in the next five years. GraphStory is on the leading edge and one of few companies that provides a multi-cloud, managed database as a service that allows businesses to efficiently and effectively manage this growing volume of data.”
Within the next eight months, Jordan said he expects to hit the $1-million-dollar revenue mark, “a huge milestone for a new company,” and to hit the $10 million revenue mark in the next three to four years.
Jordan said this success is due in part because of the demand for new technology in organizations that may not have upgraded since the 1980s and 1990s.
“It’s been said that ‘Data is the new oil,’” he said. “Just like oil was at the center of the industrial boom, data has changed how we look at markets, how supply chains function, and how commerce works. “
Jordan plans to hire five to six more people by the end of the year in sales and marketing. In three years, he said he hopes to have at least 100 employees.
Staying in Memphis
“I’m a fifth generation Memphian. I love the city. One of the reasons I started the company is that I want those folks that are going out to San Francisco and Austin to stay here. We don’t want to lose any more of that brain power,” Jordan said.
He encourages people to participate in the emerging and growing technology in the city including code schools that are helping the younger generation start early. Jordan said leaders in larger businesses can step up and invest in these kind of technology programs and invest in these smaller technology companies in Memphis, such as GraphStory.
Memphis, Jordan said, has some special advantages based on the many different industries the city has, such as a high concentration of healthcare organizations that constantly need new technology to help support their growth.
“I’ve had job offers to go to San Francisco, Austin, and Boston and while those are nice technology hub, there’s no reason why Memphis can’t be the same thing,” he said. “Investing in a core group that wants to have those kind of opportunities and technology is key.”