How Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman became a billionaire by ripping up the ‘nice guy’ Silicon Valley playbook

Frank Slootman
Frank Slootman

Technology executive Frank Slootman took software company Snowflake public in one of the biggest tech IPOs of 2020, raising $3.4 billion at a $33.3 billion valuation. By the close of Snowflake’s first day of trading, its stock had shot up as much as 165%.

Overnight, Slootman’s 5.9% stake became worth billions, and Snowflake was established as an elite Silicon Valley player – it was briefly valued more highly than IBM at one point not long after its IPO, though its stock price has declined more than 13% since the beginning of 2021. Experts say Snowflake, which today has a market valuation of nearly $77 billion, has been bolstered by the rise of remote work during the pandemic.

As for Slootman, he has reached nearly mythic status in Silicon Valley as he continues to captain the ship at one of the industry’s most prominent success stories of the past decade.

Insider spoke with 15 people who know Slootman, who is 62, including former Snowflake colleagues and those from Slootman’s past companies ServiceNow and Data Domain. Some spoke on condition of anonymity, but nearly all described a militant CEO who’s part of Silicon Valley’s less talked-about conservative wing, a group that includes Palantir’s Peter Thiel, Tesla’s Elon Musk, and Oculus’ Palmer Luckey.

Insiders said Slootman has torn up the do-gooder playbook of Big Tech’s liberal elite and replaced it with a hard-charging, profit-driven ethos that doesn’t pay lip service to things like diversity and social justice. And while some warn of a backlash, for Slootman, who has compared himself to World War II Gen. George S. Patton, his main concern is winning.

“CEOs can sometimes suffer from a kind of weakness where they want to be liked,” Asheem Chandna, a software investor at Greylock and a friend of Slootman, told Insider. “He’s not somebody who has a need to be liked.”

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