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Snowflake’s Frank Slootman, CEO of this yr’s hottest IPO, units targets with one ‘extremely exhausting’ query

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Frank Slootman, CEO of Snowflake, on the day of its 2020 IPO. He is called a demanding chief, and straight shooter. “I’ve often been in board meetings at other companies and the CEO will put up a list of 10 priorities … well, that’s the same as having no priorities,” he lately informed CNBC.


Boasting the most popular tech IPO of the yr (and the largest software program IPO ever), Snowflake, the cloud-based data-warehousing firm has been on fireplace in 2020. And its CEO Frank Slootman, on the heart of that success, has now delivered three corporations to the general public markets, incomes his place as some of the revered CEOs in enterprise expertise.

Nineteen months in the past, Slootman was named CEO of Snowflake, which provides companies new methods to retailer and entry information, moderately than counting on clunky databases tied to {hardware}. Before he arrived, the corporate, guided by former Microsoft government Bob Muglia, was already valued at about $four billion by enterprise traders.

“He’s one of the most impressive, most accomplished, most respected CEOs in enterprise tech,” Asheem Chandna, a software program investor at Greylock Partners, informed CNBC a number of months again. “He’s a take-no-prisoners leader. He can point at a hill and inspire the entire team to follow him to take the hill.” 

Greylock invested within the first two corporations Slootman took public, Data Domain (later acquired by EMC and now a part of Dell) and ServiceNow, the place he served as President and CEO from 2011 to 2017, taking the group from round $100 million in income, to $1.four billion post-IPO.

Before going public, Snowflake ranked No. 40 on this yr’s CNBC Disruptor 50 checklist.

There’s one query Slootman claims to ask everybody (together with himself): “If you couldn’t do anything this year except for one thing — one thing and you couldn’t do anything else — what would that be?”

Anyone who doesn’t have the reply to that query must be higher ready, as a result of it could possibly make a distinction between focus and failure.

Slootman says he as soon as requested this of a candidate for chief product officer throughout his time at ServiceNow, who stared at him blankly.

“It’s an incredibly hard question to answer,” Slootman stated ultimately month’s CNBC Technology Executive Council Summit. “It’s very easy to come up with three [things]. It’s very hard to come up with one, because you could be wrong.”

“I’ve often been in board meetings at other companies and the CEO will put up a list of 10 priorities … well, that’s the same as having no priorities,” Slootman stated. “If you’re in an executive position, you have to train yourself to be very, very clear. [The answer to that question] means that’s the most important thing, that’s the most critical … and doing that arbitrage is what we have to do.”

People need to be patted on the again and really feel good — I’m into not feeling good.

Frank Slootman

Snowflake CEO

The Snowflake CEO additionally embraces his contrasting model to many different Silicon Valley tech leaders, and whereas he bristles on the suggestion he’s not precisely “warm and fuzzy,” he’s no-nonsense in strategy and doesn’t disguise it.

“I put all the focus not so much on lattes and neck rubs, but on us succeeding as a team,” he informed CNBC’s Jon Fortt in October. “Silicon Valley is very much a high-fiving, self-congratulatory culture. They love to just do a victory lap. We’re not into that,” he stated. “People want to be patted on the back and feel good — I’m into not feeling good.”

According to earlier reporting from CNBC’s Ari Levy and Jordan Novet, “some people who were at Snowflake for the transition from Muglia to Slootman described a culture of fear that took over after the reshuffling, with employees, particularly in sales, just trying to keep their heads down and their jobs intact long enough for the company to go public and their options to vest.”

But in dialog with Fortt ultimately month’s CNBC Technology Executive Summit, Slootman defined that his strategy to breaking leaders and expertise of what he calls “incrementalism,” is asking them to decide on what’s most necessary by that one particular, curated query:

“There are a lot of things that happen in technology that are incremental … that’s just the nature of evolving a platform and fixing bugs and enhancing capabilities and so on,” Slootman stated. “But if you completely fall into that mode, after awhile, there’s nothing original or compelling about what you’re doing anymore.”

“You have to be a highly abstract, very lateral thinker, very integrated thinker, to arrive at your priorities.”


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