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It took only 4 years for this CEO to build a small cloud-computing startup into a $3.5 billion business — here’s how he did it

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Bob Muglia Snowflake Computing

  • When Snowflake Computing CEO Bob Muglia joined the company in 2014, it had yet to bring in any revenue; today, it’s a $3.5 billion firm.
  • Muglia says the company’s success can be attributed largely to its founding ideals: Put customers first, and value integrity.
  • Now the company is considering going public in 2020.

When Bob Muglia joined enterprise-technology company Snowflake Computing in 2014, the company was a small, 30-person startup that had yet to bring in its first dollar of revenue.

Four years later, Muglia, who became the company’s CEO after working nearly two decades at Microsoft, has helped build Snowflake Computing into a multibillion-dollar enterprise with 650 employees and customers like Netflix, Adobe, and DoorDash.

Just last week, the company, which offers a cloud-based database to store software information, announced the closing of a $450 million funding round from investors including Sequoia Capital, Altimeter Capital, and Capital One. Its new valuation? $3.5 billion.

In an interview with Business Insider, Muglia said that Snowflake’s success isn’t what he would describe as a turnaround story.

“We’ve always been consistent,” he said. “Since the very first day Snowflake was founded, we’ve been able to ride up a straight line.”

The company’s steady progression can be attributed largely to its underlying values, which Muglia said were instituted in a collaborative process early on.

“Our values come from our people, not from our founders,” he said. “Really, they come from all of us.”

In the company’s first years, Muglia and Snowflake’s founding team encouraged employees to contribute to an ongoing discussion regarding what they believed should be the company’s core values.

After much deliberation, Snowflake settled on its primary beliefs: Put customers first, and value integrity.

“Our values are really straightforward,” said Muglia. “Companies that have been around for a long time and understand the importance of putting the customer first are building on a solid foundation.”

Instituting these values hasn’t always been easy

Muglia recalled a moment in recent memory when Snowflake’s founding values clashed with its short-term profits. There’d been a error in the company’s installment process for a client, and it wasn’t clear who’s fault it was. Over the course of several months, the error had racked up a growing sum of incremental costs, which now amounted to $350,000.

“There was a big debate over what we should do about that,” said Muglia. “Ultimately, we absorbed the costs. We decided to put the customer first. It builds goodwill. Now, this customer is talking about this experience and how Snowflake resolved it.”

While not everyone at Snowflake agreed with how the company handled the situation, Muglia said that any disagreements were resolved by referring to the company’s fundamental value: put customers first.

In moments like these, Muglia said that it helps to think big picture and have a set of values to fall back on.

“In the end, that customer has the potential to be much a bigger benefit when you absolve these sort of costs short term,” he said.

It’s the steady adherence to these values that’s paved the way for Snowflake’s exponential growth, Muglia said.

“But this is only the beginning,” said Muglia, who added that the company is considering going public in 2020. “We’ve had incredible, successful customers, and we’re only just starting out.”

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