Frank Slootman, CEO of Snowflake, on the day of his IPO in 2020. He is known as a demanding leader and straight shooter. “I’ve been to board meetings at other companies a lot and the CEO will make a list of 10 priorities … well, that’s the same as having no priorities,” he recently told CNBC.
With the hottest tech IPO of the year (and the biggest software IPO ever), SnowflakeThe cloud-based data warehousing company was on fire in 2020. At the center of this success, its CEO Frank Slootman has now brought three companies to the public market, earning a spot as one of the most respected CEOs of enterprise technology.
Nineteen months ago it was Slootman Appointed CEO of SnowflakeThis gives companies new ways to store and access data instead of relying on clunky databases tied to hardware. Before his arrival, the company, which was run by former Microsoft executive Bob Muglia, had already been rated about $ 4 billion by venture investors.
“He’s one of the most impressive, successful, and respected CEOs in enterprise technology.” Asheem Chandna, a software investor at Greylock Partners, said CNBC a few months ago. “He’s a leader who doesn’t take prisoners. He can point to a hill and inspire the whole team to follow him to take the hill.”
Greylock invested in the first two companies Slootman listed, Data Domain (later acquired by EMC and now part of Dell) and service nowThere he was President and CEO from 2011 to 2017 and brought the company from sales of around 100 million US dollars to 1.4 billion US dollars after the IPO.
There’s a question Slootman claims to ask everyone (including himself): “If you couldn’t do anything but one thing this year – one thing and you couldn’t do anything else – what would it be?”
Anyone who doesn’t have an answer to this question should be better prepared as it can mean the difference between focus and failure.
Slootman says he once asked this from a candidate for chief product officer while at ServiceNow, who stared blankly at him.
“It’s an incredibly difficult question to answer,” Slootman said last month CNBC Technology Executive Council Summit. “It’s very easy to find three [things]. It’s very hard to find one because you might be wrong. “
“I’ve been to board meetings at other companies a lot and the CEO will make a list of 10 priorities … well, that’s the same as having no priorities,” Slootman said. “When you’re in a leadership position, you have to train yourself to be very, very clear. [The answer to that question] means this is the most important thing, this is the most critical thing … and this arbitrage is what we have to do. “
The CEO of Snowflake also welcomes his contrasting style to many other technology leaders in Silicon Valley, and while he is reluctant to suggest not being exactly “warm and fuzzy,” it is factual and does not hide it.
“I wasn’t so focused on lattes and neck massages, but on making us successful as a team,” he told CNBC’s Jon Fortt in October. “Silicon Valley is a very fivefold congratulatory culture. They love to just do one winning lap. We’re not into that,” he said. “People want to be patted on the back and feel good – – I don’t like to feel good “
According to prior reporting by Ari Levy and Jordan Novet of CNBC “described some of the people who were at Snowflake for the Muglia to Slootman transition, a culture of fear that overcame the post-recruitment process, with employees, especially sales, just trying to head and keep their heads down the jobs are intact long enough for the company to go public and have the opportunity to transfer them. “
But speaking to Fortt at last month’s CNBC Technology Executive Summit, Slootman stated that his approach to breaking leaders and talent from what he calls “incrementalism” is to ask them what makes this one specific, most important curated question is:
“There’s a lot of things in technology that are incremental … that’s just the nature of developing a platform and fixing bugs and improving skills and so on,” Slootman said. “But when you completely fall into this mode after a while, there is nothing original or compelling about what you are doing.”
“You have to be a very abstract, very lateral thinker, a very integrated thinker to get to your priorities.”