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Startup Spotlight: Fluree

Data management platform for data-driven applications.

Brian Platz is the co-founder and co-CEO of Fluree, a data management platform for data-driven applications. Fluree is a blockchain-backed data platform built to power next-generation applications, interoperable data sources, and data-driven ecosystems. It serves as a platform for emerging architectures and services that rely heavily on high-quality, trusted, and shared data, and has been adopted by the public and private sector companies building data-driven applications and blockchain ecosystems.

Brian was an entrepreneur and executive throughout the early internet days and SaaS boom, having founded the popular A-list apart web development community, along with a host of successful SaaS companies.

Previous to establishing Fluree, Brian co-founded SilkRoad Technology which grew to over 2,000 customers and 500 employees in 12 global offices.

— In a single sentence, what does Fluree do?

Fluree organizes blockchain-secured data in a highly-scalable, highly-insightful graph database. supporting the next web’s demands for data-centric trust, interoperability, and security.

– How did Fluree come to be? What was the problem you found and the ‘aha’ moment?

With over 40 years of collective experience, building successful IT companies, Flip (my co-founder and co-CEO) and I have applied our frustrations and knowledge in the space to forge a new path forward in data management. We saw the shortcomings of the traditional legacy three-tier architecture stack — with security vulnerabilities spread out across middleware, bloated webs of APIs to accomplish data sharing, and a complete lack of provable integrity to the very data that drives businesses today. We founded Fluree and brought to market Fluree’s data management platform, a modular “data sack” that brings unprecedented flexibility, scale, and security to data management; a marked departure from the legacy “black box” database server.

— What sets Fluree apart in the market?

Fluree focuses on being the foundation of data-backed apps, where most blockchain technologies focus on moving assets or transactions. Like some other blockchains, Fluree allows programmatic control with its SmartFunctions. Unlike those blockchains, Fluree always outputs structured data in the W3C RDF standard for rich data query and instant interoperability with other enterprise systems. Fluree assembles this output into a rich, time-traveling, queryable graph database. Fluree queries can combine data across blockchains to power full enterprise applications and entire connected ecosystem.

In sum, most blockchains don’t excel in data management — Fluree combines data managament with customizeable blockchain capability.

— What are people most excited by when they first see Fluree?

Folks are very excited about our “data-centric security” philosophy, where instead of deferring cyberscurity to APIs, we allow data to “defend itself” with co-resident security protection rules as code. Data-Centric Security emphasizes the security of the data itself rather than the security of networks, servers, or applications. By storing permission logic as meta-data alongside data at the source, we can securely leverage and share information with a zero risk of API leakage, opening up a world of data management and data analytics possibilities.

Folks building apps on the Fluree platform can build real-time data pipelines to highly secure data, without having to pass through an API discovery layer. Data-centric security is becoming increasingly important — 75% of total attacks in the financial services industry in 2019 were targeted on APIs. Your data is replicated, duplicated, shared, and vulnerable.

— Have you pursued funding and if so, what steps did you take?

Yes — we pursued a seed round and closed in June (4.74M). We leveraged our network from past work in the Enterprise software space and we recently closed a ~5M seed fund round bringing in some fantastic investors — 4490, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest, and most recently, Engage Ventures.

— What KPIs are you tracking?

For a company as foundational as Fluree, developer community growth and user adoption is key, and can point to promising revenue growth in the years to come. You can measure that growth in a variety of ways, “downloads” or “signups” being the most direct, but engagement is more nuanced and differs in every business.

— How do you build and develop talent?

We found it incredibly important to hire local right here in Winston Salem, North Carolina. We worked with a reputable human capital placement firm to grow our team post fundraising.

Developing talent takes a few things: good documentation, goal-setting, and an environment for growth. That last one — environment for growth — is key.

— What are the biggest challenges for the team?

Right now we are adjusting to our new normal in COVID-19 and working through a barrage of zoom meetings.

— What’s been the biggest success for the team?

We are quite proud of our work with the U.S. Airforce, announced earlier this year. https://www.computerworld.com/article/3519917/us-air-force-to-pilot-blockchain-based-database-for-data-sharing.html

— What advice would you give to other founders?

Focus on building a great product, and don’t get distracted by the shiny objects :)

— Have you been or are you part of a corporate startup program or accelerator?

No, but from my perspective they seem highly-beneficial for startups that have immense potential for scale in niche industries.

— Who is your cloud provider?

Our hosted version of Fluree runs on AWS, but we have partnered with the following cloud providers: AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Other cloud partnerships include Storj.io and Zeeve Platform.

— Anything else you’d like to share about Fluree?

Fluree is free to use and our developers are always active on Slack — if you are building a blockchain application for any industry, give us a try!

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