Here is an interview with a really interesting startup Linkurious and it’s co-founders Sebastien Heymann( also co-founder of Gephi) and Jean Villedieu. They are hoping to making graph databases easier to use and thus spur on their usage.
Linkurious (L) -A lot of businesses are struggling to understand the connections within their data. Who are the persons connected to this financial transaction? What happens to the telecommunication network if this antenna fails? Who is the most influential person in this community? There are a lot of questions that involve a deep understanding of graphs. Most business intelligence and data visualization tools are not adapted for these questions because they have a hard time handling queries about connections and because their interface is not suited for network visualization.
I noticed this because I co-founded a graph visualization software called Gephi a few years ago. It quickly became a reference and the software was downloaded 250k times last year. It really helped people understand the connections in their data in a new way.
In 2013, this success inspired me to found Linkurious. The idea is to provide a solution that’s easy to use to democratize graph visualization.
What does it mean?
We want to help people understand the connection in their data. Linkurious is really easy to use and optimized for the exploration of graphs.
You can install it in minutes. Then, it gives you a search interface through which you can query the data. What’s special about our software is that the result of your search is represented as a graph that you can explore dynamically. Contrary to Gephi or other graph visualization tools, Linkurious only shows you a limited subset of your data and not the whole graph. The goal here is to focus on what the user is looking for and help him find an answer faster.
In order to do that, Linkurious also comes with the ability to filter nodes or color them according to their properties. This way, it’s much faster to understand the data.
L- Linkurious is largely based on a stack of open-source technologies. We rely on Neo4j, the leading graph database to store and access the data. Neo4j can handle really large datasets, this means that our users can access the information much faster than with a traditional SQL database. Neo4j also comes with a query language that allows “smart search”, locating nodes and relationships based on rules like “what’s the shortest path between these 2 nodes?” or “who among the close network of this person has been to London and loves sushi”. That’s the kind of things that Facebook delivers via Graph Search and it’s exciting to see these technologies applied in the business world.
We also use Nodejs, Sigmajs and ElasticSearch.
L- There really are a lot of use cases for graph visualization and we are learning about it almost every day. There are well know applications that are connected to security. For example, graph databases are great to identify suspicious patterns across a variety of data sources. People using false identities to defraud bank tend to share addresses, phone numbers or names. Without graphs, it’s hard to see how they are connected and they tend to remain undetected until it’s too late. Graph visualization can be triggered by alert systems. Then, analysts can investigate the data and decide whether the alert should be escalated or not.
In the telecom industry, you can use graph to map your network and identify weak links, assess the potential of a failure (i.e. impact analysis). Graph visualization helps understand these information and better manage the network.
We also have clients in the logistics, health or consulting industry. Every data oriented industry needs data visualization tools, and graphs offer powerful ways to ask new questions and reveal unforeseen information.
L- There are a lot of challenges with creating and sustaining a challenges. I think the bigger ones are not necessarily location-related. The main issue is to build something people want. It’s certainly been our biggest challenge. We’ve used a lean startup approach to ship a prototype of our product as fast as we could. The first version of Linkurious was buggy and didn’t much interest from customers. But we did get feedback from a few people who really liked it. Since then, we’ve been focusing on them to develop our vision of Linkurious. We are pleased with the results, I think we are on the right path but it’s really a journey.
As for the more location-related challenges, I think France usually gets a bad rep for not being start-up friendly. Our experience has been quite the contrary. There are administrative annoyances but we also benefit from generous benefits, access to great engineers and a burgeoning startup eco-system!
The mission of Linurio.us is to help users access and navigate graph databases in a simple manner so they can make sense of their data.
Some of their interesting solutions are here.