Snowflake, a start-up whose cloud-based data warehouse for storing information companies can use for analytics and applications, is worth $12.4 billion following an investment led by Dragoneer Investment Group. Salesforce’s corporate venture arm also participated in the funding round.
The investment shows another enterprise software company becoming highly valuable before arriving on public markets. Snowflake raised $479 million in the round, after raising some $700 million in 2018, including one $450 million round. Snowflake sees an expanding market as it competes against cloud infrastructure providers like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, and has pulled customers away from those companies.
The involvement of Salesforce, which has invested in several other enterprise software companies that have come public in recent years, is mainly about fleshing out Snowflake’s “content strategy,” said CEO Frank Slootman, who took ServiceNow public in 2012. The idea is making it easy to have lots of data, or content, available in Snowflake, and Salesforce has lots of data on sales, customer service and other business domains.
Companies then send data from Snowflake to tools for visualizing data, like Salesforce-owned Tableau, or to smart applications, like a system for determining whether a hedge fund should buy or sell shares in a company, Slootman said.
He said Snowflake has probably taken out 2,500 customers using the Redshift data warehousing service from Amazon Web Services.
“We wouldn’t even exist as a company if we didn’t do that every day of the week,” he said.
As a result of the collaboration with Salesforce, data from that company’s cloud services won’t require even a single click for a customer starting to use Snowflake. “It’ll just magically show up. It’s pretty cool,” Slootman said.
The new round more than triples Snowflake’s $3.9 billion valuation from its prior round in 2018.
The company did well above $100 million in revenue in 2019, although the company won’t necessarily be profitable when it files to go public, because of equity-based compensation, Slootman said. It “takes quite a while” to cross that line of profitability, he said. He said that Snowflake still hasn’t started using money from its prior funding round.
The new venture round is large, but Slootman said it’s not right to conclude that the company wants to collect money to obviate the need for a direct listing, which wouldn’t ordinarily provide working capital in the same way an initial public offering would. Slootman said he doesn’t want to enter the debate about which method is better for getting shares available for public-market investors.
“We need to prepare the company for a trajectory whereby we have investors that can own multi-billion-dollar positions and own them for 10 years and longer and sign on to a journey,” Slootman said.