Key Takeaways

  • The initial stages of a venture require creativity and flexibility, particularly in overcoming resource constraints. Strategic decisions, including naming and budget management, can significantly impact a company’s trajectory.
  • Open source fosters a community-driven approach to technology development, enables collaboration, and accelerates innovation through shared knowledge and contributions.
  • Establishing a new product category can differentiate a company and create a new market space, emphasizing the importance of strategic positioning and narrative in engaging users and broader communities.
  • Facing societal and technological challenges with innovative solutions can lead to significant contributions, such as advancing scientific research or exploration and showcasing the transformative potential of technology.
  • Creating foundational technologies that are adaptable and robust enables a wide range of applications, underscoring the importance of versatility in fostering unforeseen innovations and solutions.
  • Achieving a balance between cultivating an open, collaborative community and maintaining commercial success is crucial for sustainable growth.
  • As organizations expand, maintaining a strong culture and vision requires intentional efforts, including strategic hiring and fostering intrinsic motivation.


In this episode of The Leader Show, Emil Eifrem, CEO of Neo4j, discusses transforming the company into a $2 billion graph database leader, inspired by neural connectivity. He emphasizes the role of execution, open-source commitment, and community engagement in Neo4j’s growth. This approach has positioned Neo4j as a Most Loved Workplace and fueled contributions to space exploration and cancer research.

Executive Summary

Hi everyone! Thanks for joining us on a new episode of The Leader Show with Lou Carter. We are joined by Emil Eifrem, CEO and founder of Neo4j. Neo4j is the Graph Database & Analytics leader that helps organizations find hidden relationships and patterns across billions of data connections deeply, easily, and quickly. 

Neo4j, celebrated for its open and inclusive culture, ranks 44th in the 2023 Global Top 100 and 37th in the UK’s Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces. So, without any further delay, let’s dive in and discover Emil’s insights on the company’s journey toward becoming a Most Loved Workplace®.

The Evolution Of Neo4j From Project Neo To A $2 Billion Enterprise

Emil sets the tone for the discussion by explaining the origins of Neo4j’s name and the innovative concept behind the company. Neo4j is a database company that invented a new type of database inspired by the human brain’s network of neurons connected through synapses. This Graph Database is designed to turn data into knowledge by focusing on how things are interconnected, which is essential for understanding and knowledge.

The name “Neo4j” was chosen to reflect this innovation, with “Neo” meaning new in Latin, symbolizing a new model and approach to data. Initially, the project was internally referred to as Project Neo. When it came time to establish it as a separate company, it aimed to acquire the domain but found it too expensive at $2,000, significantly more than its budget. 

Given its roots in the Java programming community, where it was common to name projects with “4J” to denote “for Java,” they settled on Neo4j. The domain for Neo4j was affordable at nine dollars, making it a practical choice. Fifteen years later, the company has grown to 700-800 employees and achieved a $2 billion valuation.

The Role Of Open Source In Neo4j’s Journey To Redefining Data Connectivity

Next, Emil discusses the foundational idea behind Neo4j and its execution, emphasizing the importance of open source in the company’s growth. The initial observation that led to Neo4j’s creation was the recognition of the increasingly connected nature of the world and, consequently, of data. Traditional tabular databases, analogous to Excel spreadsheets, were not efficient for managing connected data, which led to the development of Neo4j’s Graph Database.

Emil highlights that while having a brilliant idea is important, the execution of that idea is what truly matters. He acknowledges that many people might have considered the concept of modeling data as a network but stresses the execution of such an idea as critical to success. 

Neo4j’s strategy to execute its vision involved embracing open source. Open source not only meant giving away a version of their product for free but also making its source code available and encouraging the community to modify and improve it. This approach has fostered a massive ecosystem of developers who adopt, adapt, and integrate Neo4j with other technologies, contributing to its evolution and success. 

Emil attributes a significant part of Neo4j’s achievement to this co-innovation with the developer community, enabled by the company’s commitment to open source.

Neo4j’s Strategy Of Category Creation And Community Engagement For Sustained Innovation

Moving on, Emil shares insights on fostering excitement and innovation within the community, drawing parallels between open-source development and talent management. He emphasizes the necessity of having a core product or concept that inherently interests and engages people. 

For HR and talent managers, this translates to ensuring the company’s mission and the problems it aims to solve are compelling and meaningful to potential employees.

A significant strategy that contributed to Neo4j’s success, according to Emil, is category creation. Just as Levi Strauss did not merely market their product as “Blue Pants” but introduced “Jeans” as a new category, Neo4j combined “Graph” and “Database” to coin a new category. Thus, it not only highlighted the uniqueness of its product but also established a broader market segment that could grow independently of its specific offerings. 

Additionally, Emil argues that emphasizing the value of relationships in data, regardless of whether developers use Neo4j’s product or a competitor’s, contributes to a collective advancement in the field. The inclusive perspective, aiming to elevate the entire sector rather than just their product, is key to fostering an engaged and innovative community. 

Emil strongly believes that creating excitement is partly about presenting a revolutionary idea that resonates with people’s interests, thereby naturally attracting talent and fostering an organic enthusiasm for the work.

Transforming Challenges Into Triumphs

Emil also shares deeply personal and impactful success stories in this episode that highlight the significant contributions of Neo4j to various fields. One of the standout achievements is NASA’s acknowledgment that Neo4j has accelerated humanity’s mission to Mars by two years, specifically aiding Project Orion. 

Another profound area where Neo4j has made a difference is in cancer research. Emil mentions that there are 20 independent projects currently using Neo4j to search for cures for cancer. He personalizes the significance of this work by sharing the loss of his older brother to cancer at the young age of 24. It makes the work Neo4j does in supporting cancer research particularly meaningful to him.

Emil reflects on the fulfillment and motivation derived from knowing that Neo4j’s technology plays a role in addressing some of humanity’s biggest challenges, such as curing cancer and exploring space. Despite the pressures and challenges of leading a rapidly growing startup, these accomplishments serve as a reminder of the transformative impact of their work.

How Neo4j’s Foundation Paves The Way For Groundbreaking Achievements

Lou, impressed by Emil’s impact on ambitious projects, inquires about the ideas’ origins within his team and if Emil inspired this innovative thinking.

Emil responds by highlighting the transformative impact of building foundational technology and how Neo4j’s contributions to significant achievements emerged from the community and user applications of its tool. 

He references Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, to illustrate the philosophy behind attracting talent and contributing to groundbreaking work. Nadella distinguished Microsoft’s mission by emphasizing its focus on enabling others to achieve greatness rather than being the direct source of “cool” innovations.

Similarly, Emil explains that Neo4j does not solve specific end problems itself. Instead, it provides a foundational tool or “engine” that users and developers can leverage to address a wide range of challenges. It allows for unforeseen applications and innovations, such as significantly advancing space exploration and medical research. 

Emil’s reflections underscore the importance of infrastructure technologies in enabling a diverse array of breakthroughs. By offering a robust platform for data management and analysis, Neo4j empowers its community to explore novel solutions to complex problems, leading to unexpected and remarkable outcomes. 

Neo4j’s Strategy Of Open Innovation And Commercial Success Across Industries

Next, Emil explains the dual structure of Neo4j, emphasizing the balance between its open-source community engagement and its commercial impact. The company supports an open-source edition of its database, as well as a free tier of its cloud service, demonstrating its commitment to making its technology more accessible to developers. 

On the commercial side, Emil highlights Neo4j’s widespread adoption across various industries. The top 20 banks in North America, eight of the ten biggest retailers worldwide, and the systems behind 99% of air ticket pricing and Marriott property room pricing rely on Neo4j. Thus, it demonstrates the database’s significant behind-the-scenes presence in everyday transactions and decisions.

Neo4j’s team of forward-deployed customer engineers collaborates closely with clients—including large corporations and institutions like NASA—to integrate Neo4j into their database architecture. It aims to enhance decision-making and operational efficiency by translating business problems into data solutions. 

How Neo4j Cultivates A Resilient And Visionary Culture Amidst Expansion

Finally, Emil talks about the challenges and strategies for scaling culture within Neo4j amidst rapid growth. He highlights the importance of intentional focus on culture across different company sizes and the unique challenges posed by being a global company from the outset. 

Emil emphasizes role modeling and careful hiring as foundational practices for cultivating the desired organizational culture. He looks for “realistic optimists” who can confront the brutal realities of startup life while maintaining faith in a positive outcome, reflecting the Stockdale Paradox’s balance between optimism and realism.

As the company grew, maintaining culture required adapting strategies while keeping core hiring criteria consistent. Emil also addresses the importance of investing in the future and people, noting that technology sectors tend to have a non-zero-sum game view, promoting growth and collaboration. He stresses the value of intrinsic motivation, powered by mastery, autonomy, and purpose, as critical for fostering a passionate and engaged workforce. 

Mastery involves becoming excellent in one’s domain, and autonomy allows for self-direction within set goals. As for purpose, it gives meaning to the work done, such as contributing to curing cancer or advancing space exploration.

Thank you for your time!


Lou Carter : Emil Eifrem is CEO and founder of Neo4j. Neo4j is ranked number 44 on 2023 Global Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces, and number 37 in 2023 UK's Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces. Before founding Neo4j, he was the CTO of Wind AB, where he headed the development of highly complex information architectures for enterprise content management systems.

Committed to sustainable open source, he guides Neo4j along a balanced path between free availability and commercial reliability. Emil is a frequent conference speaker and author of NOSQL databases.

I'll be talking with Emil about the great culture he's created at Neo4j and all the success he's had with becoming a Most Loved Workplace. Emil Eifrem is so great to have you on today, we have Emil Eifrem. He brought this company to $2 billion and it is just amazing. We were talking about before his story of how he got the domain.

At first $2,000 was too much for him at that time, but now it's $2 billion. It’s kind of an incredible exponential change. We're going to learn about how we built the culture, how he has scaled the culture, how he enabled the success, the stories of getting a company to $2 billion in the software development space and being so successful at that.

Emil, we've got a lot to learn today. Let's get started. Great to have you on the Leader Show.

Emil Eifrem : Great to be here. Thanks, Lou.

LC : Alright, let's get started. Tell us, okay, Neo4j, how'd you come up with a name?

Revolutionizing Data: The Birth Of Neo4j And Its Brain-Inspired Graph Database [01:57]

EE : Yeah, it's frequently one of the first questions that people ask me, so maybe before we get to the name, what do we even do? So at the highest level, we're a database company, but we've invented a new type of database that's inspired by the human brain. So the human brain, I think everyone who's listening knows that the human brain is neurons connected to other neurons through synapses, it builds up a network.

Turns out that a lot of knowledge and a lot of understanding is figuring out how things are connected. So we've invented this new type of database called Graph Database that is great at turning data into knowledge. So that's the core of what we do and when we invented that thing, I guess circling back to your question about the name, we always thought of this as a new model for data, a new way of thinking of data.

And of course Neo in latin means new, and so we figured Neo would be a great name for it. Project Neo, we called it internally at first, and when we decided to spin it out, it's almost 15 years ago now into a separate company, we wanted to get and sadly as you alluded to, was outrageously expensive because it was all of $2,000, which was 1900 more bucks than we had.

And so in the end, we grew up in the Java community and so Java is the programming language and at the time it was common to call projects 4J blah blah, blah, four J. And Neo4j, we didn't love it, but the domain was nine bucks, so we could afford that. So therefore we got the domain and here we are, 700-800 people, 15 years later, with a $2 billion valuation and we're called Neo4j.

LC : And it started with your idea and work in Open Graph Database. This is incredible, Open Graph Database. So tell me, everyone says it's easy to have an idea, it's a lot harder to put it into action, and your idea was brilliant. So, let's talk about the idea first then. How do you place it into action with brilliant people?

Connecting The World Through Data: The Open Source Journey Of Neo4j [04:07]

EE : Yeah, so the initial observation was very, very simple, which is, we live in this increasingly connected world. We thought so 10-15 years ago, and boy, just think about where we are today. Here we sit across many geographies listening in over LinkedIn, Twitter, on, whatever, listening to this, having this conversation. But even back in those days, the world was becoming more and more connected. And if you work in data, then when you think about what data actually is, it's a term that many people throw around, Hey, I'll get the data, but what actually is data, right?

Well, data is a digital representation of the physical world. It's a way of describing the world. So we can shove it into the computers and then operate on it, compute on it. That's what data actually is. So then it follows that if the world is becoming more and more connected, then data is becoming more connected. So that's the realization that we had and it turns out that connect the data was this really bad fit to shove into the old types of databases, the tabular databases, the ones that work like Excel.

Now that database is really powerful. It built companies like Oracle, huge part of Microsoft and so on and so forth. So it's definitely powerful technology. It was just not good for connected data. So that was the original kind of OG idea if you will, 10, 15 years ago.

LC : It's crazy, the Open Graph idea 10, 15 years ago and you created kind of these new neural pathways for people because data in and of itself is unpredictable, it's chaotic, and we all seek order. We seek order, and all that you've written about with open source enables huge communities of people who are really great at developing to provide more to the concept itself. And that's really must be part of the success you build is enabling those communities to thrive and grow.

EE : That's a huge part of it and I guess that's a good segue into the second part of your question, which is, alright, so there's the idea, but honestly ideas are a dime a dozen. I bet there's been hundreds or thousands of people who've had like, wait, shouldn't we model data as a network instead? Maybe that's smarter, so how do we actually execute on it?

And a big part of that for us was being open source. And so if you're in technology, everyone will know what open source is, but if you're outside of technology, what does that even mean? What it is is that you take your entire product or a version of your product and you give it away for free. And not only do you give it away for free, you open it up so the source code is available. So this is like you open the hood into the engine of the car and you give people the ability to rewire the car and do whatever they want with it.

In fact, not just the ability. You encourage them to do that. And what this leads to is this massive ecosystem of developers that adopt your software, they adopt it and then they adapt it to other technologies. They integrate it with their favorite frameworks and not just that, they look inside of your product and say, you know what? I don't like this. I want to fix this or this thing over here.

How about can you do this in some other way? So it enabled this co-innovation with your community that has been a huge part of our success today.

LC : I love it. To have such talent and a large community be able to iterate on your concept is so much more exponentially powerful and we've seen that in different open source in crypto, right? In blockchain we see it just open source communities working heavily on improving the infrastructure, improving the nodes, and then also with open source of great software products.

So, GitHub is a great place, right? I'm sure you're a big GitHub fan for all of that to happen with the great community. So tell me, Emil, what I want to know because there's a great talent allegory to this talent management allegory.

If you're speaking right now to talent managers, HR managers, and you said to them, look, here's what I did with open source. Here's what you can do to create something that is more like open source. Tell them how you did it to get excited about it. Do you get them excited or do they organically become excited? How does that happen?

How Neo4j Redefined Data With Graph Databases [08:38]

EE : Yeah, first of all, you have to have the core product that is exciting and interesting to people that the core idea as expressed in software is something that people care about. And I guess the HR analogy there would be. Is the company that you work for even interesting, the problems that it solves, do they matter to people?

So I think that's the foundation to even be able to have the conversation. Then on top of that, I think at least what's worked really well for us is that not only did we invent this new type of database, but we also coined a category name for it. So this is one of the hardest thing to do, but ultimately the most rewarding things to do, I think in marketing or in go to market, which is category creation. My analogy for this is Levi Strauss, what is it, 200-300 year old company or something like this.

They invented this new type of product, but they didn't just call it Blue Pants or something like that. They said, no, no, no, we're not just pants, we're type of pants. We're going to call them Jeans. And that created this entire subsegment, this subcategory inside of their thing, and it allowed 'em to build something bigger than just their specific products. We've done the same thing where we put the word Graph and Database together for the first time and we said, you know what? What's really valuable, dear developer out there?

What's really important is that you use relationships in data because you're going to be able to build better applications, you're going to be able to get better insights, turn your data into information, into knowledge if you use relationships in data, that's what matters. Then of course, we love it if you use our product. We're not against that. In fact, we're in favor of that, but if you use a competing product, that's also fine. A rising tide lifts all boats.

So that's another key ingredients of getting this out and really creating a revolution out there around it.

LC : I love that. It's just so extraordinary about revolution. You're building this community, and I want to go to that actually about the better insights. Do you have a favorite success case of some developers who brought this to a rising tide and really brought everybody to a better place?

Neo4j's Role In Accelerating Mars Missions And Cancer Research [10:58]

EE : I have so many favorite stories like that, and it's a little bit like choosing your favorite child. I have three daughters. All of them are equally my favorite, right? Same with this one, right? I'll do a quick one. NASA is on the record saying that thanks to Neo4j, humanity is going to get to Mars two years earlier. So we accelerated Project Orion. So this is the descendant, if you will, of Apollo, the Apollo mission, the mission to the Moon, Project, Ryan, Mission to the Mars.

We accelerated that by two years, and as an old space geek like myself, that was just really freaking cool. But there's also 20 independent projects that right now use Neo4J to look for the cure for cancer.

I mean, not to be too much of a Debbie Downer on the call here, but I think every single person listening has someone who's either one step or two steps away of being impacted by cancer. I'll personalize it for a moment. I live in Malmo, Sweden right now. We just talked about that at the top of the call. As a teenager, I lived in Seattle, went to high school in Seattle, stayed with adopted American family, I'm very close with.

I call them my American mom and dad, had two brothers, very close. I was the best man at my little brother's wedding. My older brother died from cancer when he was 24. If there's, at the end of the day, if I've accomplished nothing professionally except I've increased the probability of humanity, finding the cure for cancer by anything that is going to be just sufficient.

LC : It's amazing story for life to come full circle and for your purpose and passion to come to play. And I'm sorry for your loss. That's an extraordinarily difficult loss and one that you have helped the world in, which must feel so fulfilling to you. So fulfilling.

EE : Yeah, and it's ultimately what motivates me. At the end of the day, when you're a 700-800 person startup growing fast, it's this vertical learning curve of being a founder, CEO, which is really rewarding. It's also really tough, and sometimes I have dark times like everyone else, and I go to myself and it's like, man, is it worth it so much hard work and so much pressure and that kind of stuff. And that is what I always go back to.

The transformative change, the amazing things that our customers do with our technology, and they're very, very explicit about it. They couldn't do it without us. There's a real probability that we're going to find the cure for 1, 2, 3, 4 types of cancers thanks to Neo4j, and the mission to Mar story was supporting investigative journalism in supportive democracy worldwide.

There's stuff like that that ultimately goes to what motivates me at the core.

LC : Lemme ask, Emil, because making it to Mars and curing cancer are pretty lofty goals. They're enormous, and it's incredible that you can place your dent in. It's not just a dent, it's a large dent in the universe with those two things. And I'm wondering, how did that come about in your community with your employees? How did they even think of it? Did you stimulate their thinking in this area? Did they come to you?

How Neo4j's Foundational Technology Powers Future Breakthroughs [14:27]

EE : Yeah, this is one of the amazing things about building infrastructure, right? So Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, an extraordinary CEO of Microsoft, he used to have this saying, I don't know if it's true for him and Microsoft anymore, but at least five-ish years ago as they were competing neck to neck with Meta, which I'm sure was called Facebook back then and Google and so on and so forth for hiring candidates.

And people ask him, so how do you compete? And he said, it's very easy, right? I asked candidates, and particularly he was talking about engineers. Hey, do you want to be cool? If you want to be cool, go work at this other big tech company, right? If you want to help others be cool, you should come work at Microsoft. It's exactly the same thing here at Neo4j. We build this foundational layer that in and of itself doesn't do anything.

We don't solve end problems. It's our users who do that. So we built this amazing hammer or engine or tool, whatever analogy you want to do. And the extraordinary thing when you do horizontal things is that you cannot foresee, you allow a thousand flowers to blossom, and it's impossible to foresee all the amazing things people can do with it, right? As when we invented this thing, we thought it was going to be widely adopted.

Never in my life could I have imagined that humanity was going to get to Mars two years earlier, thanks to it. So it's one of the extraordinary benefits of a horizontal technology coupled with that community co-innovation and open source that we talked about at the top of the call.

LC : Then the Mars, right? I want to talk about the Mars because you're helping Elon, you're helping the universe, you're helping us to all, and I say Elon, I meant the universe. Elon might be a bad word in Sweden, I'm not sure. So I'm wondering to do such a thing, how does that work within your ecosystem and Neo4j? Do you help developers to actually integrate that into NASA? Is that part of your service, your offering?

How Neo4j Balances Open Source Community Engagement And Commercial Impact [16:36]

EE : Yeah, so that's the two legs of our organization. One leg is where we started where we said there's a open source edition that we give away for free. It has a spiritual sibling in the cloud, or there's a free tier of our cloud service where we manage the database for you, but we give it away for free. And there we have people, they're called developer relations, people who are core developers, fantastic at working with data, working with Neo4j, who go out and help people in the community.

They help people, but even more important, they help people help themselves. It's the teaching a man how to fish type thing. So we have these community forums where you can go, you can ask questions and other people in the community answer those questions for you. So that's what's happening on the open source side, on the commercial side, so what we haven't mentioned here is that every single one of the 20 biggest banks in North America, every single one top 20 are now users of Neo4j eight of the 10 biggest retailers in the world.

Every single time you book a flight, 99% of all air tickets, the price has been calculated, thanks to Neo4j. Every single time you stay at the Marriott, the room price or Ritz Carlton, any one, the Marriott properties, the room prices have been calculated with Neo4j. So you for sure, if you're listening to this call for sure, you've used Neo4j maybe today, at least this week. It's just behind the scenes.

For that commercial motion, then we have forward deployed customer engineers who go out there, sit down, work with our customers, understand the business problem, translate it to data and help them get started, how to model. These are the NASAs of the world, but also the big banks of the world, the big telcos, the big retailers.

LC : And you're working with CTOs there and their tech teams to implement into their database architecture and infrastructure to make better decisions for their customers.

EE : That's spot on. Exactly right.

LC : It's extraordinary. And to have that community aspect of it as well just makes everything exponentially understood by the world and get to Mars sooner and cure cancer.

EE : That's exactly right.

LC : She's not a bad secondary consequence of such work. So there was a time when you had rapid growth and it's happening now too. You're growing. Tell me more about how you scaled your culture, how you built your culture, because typically when you have rapid growth, you have microcultures, they need to become the same, right? Or that you want to make sure that that beginning foundation, all wonderful magic juice, right, can be extended.

Tell me how you did that? How did that happen for you?

Scaling Culture And Innovation: Neo4j's Journey From Startup To Global Impact [19:13]

EE : Yeah, it's a question that has different answers for the different stages of a company size. The way you operate at size 20 versus size 200-500, it's just very different. And then if you're distributed, we were born as a global company. The technology was invented in Sweden, but we rapidly got an office in London, we're headquartered in Silicon Valley. We have tons of people across Asia.

So it's a very kind of global phenomenon, and when you can't meet and at the proverbial water cooler, it's a different thing. So the tactics, they differ, but what's always the same is you have to focus on it. You have to focus on it, you have to invest in it, you have to care about it. In the early days, it was primarily through role modeling. So in other words, I behaved the way that I wanted us as an organization to behave.

That was the primary one. The secondary one, and one is not more important than the other. Both are equally important is hiring where you're very, very explicit about how we hire and we have the no, a-hole rule type thing. I've always intrinsically looked for or intuitively looked for people who are what I used to call realistic optimists.

So there are people who are generally glass half full view of the world without being off in la la land. You need to be able to confront the brutal realities of where you are, especially in the early days of a startup, you're a 20 person startup. Your default mode is to die. Your default mode is to be bankrupt. So you have to be able to confront that. There's a concept called Stockdales paradox, which is an amazing articulation of exactly this like that. Being able to combine long-term faith in a fantastic outcome with the ability to have a very clear-eyed view of your current reality.

So that hiring criteria, hiring bar, hiring filter, those have remained the same, but then the tactics has shifted as the organization has grown in size.

LC : Emil, accountants hate the Stockdale paradox.

EE : Do they really?

LC : Now without it we wouldn't grow.

EE : Yeah, that's right.

LC : There'd be no growth because we just see the red and we'd see the money going out, and we wouldn't realize that when we pay the money, it's an investment toward growth and they're really investment in people toward growth, and everyone wants to make the bottom line look perfect. I see accountants, I don't know what your accountant team is like, but ours gets excited when it's specific. We made the numbers perfect. Congratulations. Let's try, let's think more like Stockdale paradox. How do you create that so you get people who all do that, including your finance team.

EE : Yeah, yeah. That's spot on. You have to invest in the future, and I think it's funny, right? As you grow up as a CEO initially, maybe you talk more to people in your own universe in technology, but as the company's becoming bigger, you end up selling maybe to bigger customers. You talk to CEOs from other industries like the technology sector has many pros and many cons. One of the things that is very built into people in technology is we have a non-zero sum game view of the world.

There are so many times where we actually win together, and I was just talking to a geopolitical strategist at an event a couple of weeks ago. Geopolitics is ultimately the battle over resources and power and influence. That is a zero sum game, and I think that mentality of, hey, we can all grow together and of course we compete as well. It's not all, and back to my lala land, it's not all that, but we can certainly grow together and I think that wires people to also think around the value of investing in the future.

LC : And the value of investing in people that are great at doing specialty, like creating this category of Graph Databases. If you want to do great Graph Database, right? Go to NEO4J, period, and there's others in there that do database in there, others that do IT. Others that contribute on a geopolitical sphere. Yet you want the great Graph Database and you want to improve the infrastructure, get to more sooner cure cancer use graph, right?

EE : Yes. That's spot on and I want to touch on one thing that you said in there, which is one of the key things that I've always both hired for and try to be very explicit in my leadership style around is enabling what I believe is maybe the strongest force in the universe, which is intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation. People who truly, genuinely care about doing something, no matter if you pay them or not.

Now, you should also pay them well when you have the means to pay them. Well, you should also do that and just take that off the table and that's a checkbox. You have to do that. But what truly matters is people who are deeply passionate about solving the problem, who would try to solve the problem even if you didn't dangle some extrinsic motivation in front of them. My belief around intrinsic motivation comes back to exactly what you said there.

That's one of the components. You talked about mastery. You talked about how for Graph Databases, we are the masters of that domain. We're the leader in the category. We invented it. We defined it. We have the best product. We also have the best people at that. I think in order to unlock intrinsic motivation, you have to give people mastery, autonomy, and purpose.

Mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Mastery is the ability to become really great at what you do, which is enable that, train people, but primarily it's about finding other people who are world-class because world-class people want to work with world-class people. Autonomy is leadership, it's management. Don't micromanage, set goals, measure people to achieving that goal. Don't micromanage the how. That's the autonomy piece.

Purpose, we've touched on that a couple of times here. Hey, our mission has help the world to make sense of data. If we can cure some cancer and get humanity to Mars along the way, I think that's a reasonably good purpose. The goal with those three things, mastery, autonomy, purpose is to unlock intrinsic motivation, and that is a really powerful thing I've found over the years.

LC : It's extraordinary, Emil. I am so grateful to have met you today and to connect it on the extraordinary things that you are doing. Emil isn't just a great guy, besides being a great guy, an amazing person, and curing cancer and getting us closer to Mars, he doesn't have much going for him. Emil, from what was an extraordinary talk. It was one of my favorites. You mentioned about favorites. This was one of my favorites.

EE : Awesome, thanks. Pleasure to be here.

LC : It was great having you here today and please look up Neo4j. This is really extraordinary, open graph. We're using it every day when you don't even know it. They're getting us closer to doing things on a geopolitical sphere to improve the earth, improve us all. These are people you want to look up, you want to check out and to check out what Emil is doing as well.

Being a most loved workplace in UK and global, this is an incredible person. Up to $2 billion. Emil is someone you want to understand more about, not just in the show, but otherwise. Man, I've enjoyed this and I hope everybody in Newsweek audience has learned a lot and also throughout our Most Loved Workplaces. Emil, great having you here today on the Newsweek show. Been a complete pleasure. Thanks.