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.
Though we were working on developer tools and developer run times, we were working closely with the SQL Server team. We were thinking about how we can enable people to write store procedures in .NET. In fact, one of the tools people can use against SQL Server came from our team.
Similarly for Azure, we ended up building all the developer tools and some of the run times for Azure as well. One of the advantages of being a developer at Microsoft is that you get to work with pretty much every platform team inside the company because you are sort of the glue that brings developers together on top of the platform.
When you think about the world through a platform lens, what you really are focused on is providing a set of services, a set of tools, that enable others to be able to build some phenomenal experiences on your platform.
There was nothing better than running the developer division. It really focused on how to take care of the developer audience, which is probably the most strategic and the most important audience for all of Microsoft.