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When Snowflake started, it was all about building a data warehousing solution, built for the cloud. They started with a fresh design from scratch that’s a cloud-based service that takes advantage of all the attributes of the cloud. It was primarily a data warehouse installation.
Over a period of time, they started thinking about a huge problem in the world of data, which is the ability to share data across teams, companies, and organizations.
The first thing to release is now every company is thinking about digital transformation. Every company realizes that they need to be on the cutting edge of technology adoption to be able to better engage with their customers, to be able to do better at whatever they want to do.
The other realization that goes hand-in-hand with digital transformation is, people realize what a phenomenal asset they have in data and how they use data to advance their business in meaningful ways.
If you talk to an enterprise CIO or CEO, one of the problems they tell you about data is – they know they have a lot of valuable data, but their data is siloed. Every system has its own data and its own storage.
First of all, there was a certain amount of luck I had with investing in Snowflake, so I don’t want us to forget about that, but putting that aside, there are four things I can think of that gave us a very high level of conviction when we were looking to invest in Snowflake.
By intelligent application, we mean that every application is going to access some data, build a continuous learning system using that data through machine learning or AI, and continuously improve the application with more data. There’s a flywheel that builds a continuous learning system. We think every application in every vertical and every use case in enterprises and businesses is going to be an intelligent application.
It starts with thinking about the future of work – how do we build next-generation productivity tools for my employees, how do we better engage with our customers, how do we better understand our customers, or how do we better serve our customers?
About 3 – 5 years ago, we started thinking that we now have experience investing from day one for the long run with all these companies. We’ve seen a number of these companies scale to a considerable size and scope, get to the IPO milestone, and be publicly traded.
We also have experience in certain technology areas whether it’s cloud infrastructure (Seattle being the cloud capital) or machine learning or AI. So we felt as though we had some deep expertise in a few technology areas. We had seen enough companies go through a very early stage to a very late stage.
I call myself an ‘accidental venture capitalist.’ In other words, I wasn’t sitting around and dreaming someday like, ‘Oh my God, I really need to become a venture capitalist someday, how am I going to do that, when am I going to do that?’ No, it wasn’t like that at all.
I had been working at Microsoft for a very long time and I thought that I would probably retire from Microsoft and that’s it. After about 25 years or so, I started thinking about my career and life. I had done 25 years of my professional career and I started to think about the next 25 years.