This transcript is edited from the TigerGraph Connections podcast episode published on April 14, 2022. This episode features TigerGraph COO Todd Blaschka talking about the upcoming 2022 Graph + AI Summit being held May 24-25, 2022.
Corey Tomlinson: All right, with me today is Todd Blaschka, the COO of TigerGraph. Can you give me a little bit of background on yourself and how you came to join Tiger graph?
Todd Blaschka: Yeah, happy to. I have been an industry veteran in Data Management Software Solutions for many years. And I’ve had a variety of roles. I started out in finance, moved over into marketing, ran all aspects of marketing, and eventually moved over on to the business side and have been running sales teams business development and partnerships. And I joined TigerGraph, right at the time it announced its series A and was commercializing its product, to build out the overall go-to-market team. So in essence, my role is all about delivering high-quality, customer experience for the long term. I’m responsible for sales operations all the way through customer experience for the company,
Corey: Talking about experience and marketing and everything, Graph + AI Summit is really the reason that we’re talking. As we record this, it’s about six or seven weeks out, coming May 24 of this year. Can you talk a little bit about how Graph + AI Summit plays an important role in the company’s marketing and overall strategy with its customers?
Todd: Yeah, well, actually, Graph + AI is not about TigerGraph customers. It’s about all graph users. The reason TigerGraph took the initiative was to organize an open industry event around graph and AI. It was because in serving the landscape, there was not an open industry event that allowed all practitioners of graph, from whether they’re users to other vendors, to be able to come in and talk and share best practices, innovation use cases, to help bring up the overall graph database market.
Graph database has been the fastest-growing category for many years. And the amount of use of it is so instrumental in this era of digital transformation. It is a foundational technology for AI and machine learning applications. And so during the pandemic, when events were being canceled and postponed, all the in-person events, we saw this as an opportunity to help bring the overall community together. We believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that’s really the overall premise for Graph + AI.
Corey: Well, that leads right into my next question. It’s a unique perspective, to say that we wanted to do an open conference. From a leadership perspective, can you go a little bit more into detail about why it’s so important to host an open conference and not focus just on our products? Because that seems to be the kind of the way that most companies go, is to is to focus on their software, their solutions, their customers. Why was it so important for you and the leadership of the company to go this open conference route?
Todd: Most companies will have their own customer event, developer’s conference, a user conference, and we do too. And we also have our own customer advisory board where key customers are providing strategic input and the product and direction of TigerGraph’s technology, but in the broader scheme of things, what we hear from the market and in all the customers I talk to and all the partners I talk to, on a day-to-day basis, want an open forum to be able to talk and share ideas and best practices because more and more companies are investing a significant amount of resources into this area.
Last year alone, nearly a billion dollars was invested into graph technology. That is a huge, huge statement when you look at where money is being put into technology companies’ investments. And that’s just a fraction of the investment that the system integrators, whether they are boutiques, to global SIs, to other ISVs in the ecosystem that interact with graph technology from where data comes in, to where data goes out, to how it’s being presented to the hyperscalers, where many of the applications are deployed.
And then also, there’s the partners in the systems and hardware space that also are very much committed, invested in this area as well. So when we look and I talk to all these different areas, they all had one thing in common, in that they wanted to be able to talk about how to grow the graph market, and educate more and more users on the business value of graph technology, and innovations and how it is essential for digital transformation. And so with that, we took a step back and said, you know what, there’s no industry conferences being set up, around graph technology. In the past, some of these now are defunct, because of the pandemic. Where you had the Strata conferences, and so forth, which were very much around horizontal tech, there was not one event that was open, to allow all these users to come in and talk and help drive the overall agenda for graph.
And so we just look at ourselves as we are the organizers, we’re helping bring everybody together. We have not only all these other partners, but there’s also other graph vendors that have presented in the past at the conference. And we believe that this is a big, big ecosystem, huge, huge opportunity that’s only growing bigger and bigger. And there’s a way that we can all help each other.
Corey: What are you looking forward to in the upcoming Graph + AI Summit that might be different from past events? Or is there a topic that you’re looking forward to hearing from a certain speaker on?
Todd: You know, there’s a couple really, really exciting areas. Graph has always been known to be extremely valuable in the areas of risk and compliance. That has always been its sweet spot. But what we’re super excited about is seeing more industries, showcasing how graph is being used, like gaming companies, which are using it to better understand their users; it could be hundreds of millions of users that are playing their games. And it’s asking questions to better understand the users, how can I better engage with all the users to provide a better in-game experience? What new features? Are they really attracting the gamers, as I introduce it into the gaming experience? Can I connect more groups of users that have similar interests? If one part of users has, you know, you find that there’s six characteristics? How can I find another group to sort of connect them to help build an even better community? In this is just terrific innovation that ties right into Customer 360 across many different industries and seeing that happen in the innovation in the area of gaming.
Another area that I’m very excited about as well is in the area of utilities, which is often known as a very slow-adopting industry. But the innovation because of climate change, is really becoming a great showcase for where graph and AI technology can really help in some of these more well-known industries that have been normally slow-moving to where they’re moving to adopt this technology, because it is so perfect, to help them make better decisions, better management decisions on the use of electricity and other forms of power and be able to provide a better quality of service to their customers.
Corey: I think we’d probably be remiss also in not looking forward to the fact that we’re announcing the winners of the Million Dollar Challenge and hearing from some of those winners at the event as well, correct?
Todd: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I’m glad you brought that up. The MDC challenge, the submissions, and the ideas that have been submitted for that or are just outstanding. The team and even the global judging panel have been blown away with not only the number of submissions but the innovation and the ideas around how graph can make a bigger impact in areas from social good to health care. And so being able to present the awards and recognize the winners from the Million Dollar Challenge will absolutely be a highlight of the conference for me.