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Ask HN: How does a product like Snowflake pitch itself to customers
13 points by statictype 34 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 7 comments
Snowflake is, from what I understand, a database engine.

To get value out of it, a developer has to write sql and integrate some other reporting tool to actually view results.

How are they positioning the product to customers? As a tool for developers? For business analysts (will business analysts want to even write sql)?

How are they picking up million dollar contracts when the output of their product is essentially a stream of data that needs another tool to visualize it and the input needs to be written by an engineer?

Snowflake is solidly a B2B analytics app. It is, and I don't mean this dismissively, nothing new. They do it very well, and their market performance agrees with that notion, and they are innovating within their field, but data warehousing is complicated, especially at scale and they're not breaking new ground by providing a better solution for that. For a small company's analytics, I can download a CSV file and do all my analysis in Excel. But at a bigger company, when that "CSV file" is terabytes, possibly even petabytes of data, it's going to take a bit more of work to deal with it. For companies who's core expertise isn't shoveling around data like that and loading it into a database, it's reasonable to contract with a vendor to do that. Snowflake is just one among many other vendors who do this.

To answer your question, what's great is that anybody who can SQL can use this, developers and business analysts alike. Developers who want data to back up product decisions will use this to answer, eg, how many customers use feature A vs feature B, and then use that information to choose to build either feature C or feature D. Business analysts want answers about the business, and if they have to write SQL to do it, then they'll partner with someone who can, or more likely, just learn SQL. (This is why "data scientist" is a hot new career path.)

Corporations that are in a place to be giving Snowflake a million dollar contract most likely already have a similar system already in place, either homegrown or via a competitor. (Eg Amazon Redshift.) Thus, their positioning depends on the customer, but for customers that previously already had a million dollar contract just with a different vendor, their focus is on why their product is super-amazing-awesome compared to their competition. (Which, and the market agrees, it is.)

patio11 has a thread on just how unseen some of the niches of software is - https://twitter.com/patio11/status/1235919318329643008

Software is like an iceberg - there's a wild world of software that none of us have heard of. It seems strange that it's possible for Snowball to succeed given that it's "essentially a stream of data that needs experts in order to use it", but the same thing is true about the Internet in the 1980s.

> Corporations that are in a place to be giving Snowflake a million dollar contract most likely already have a similar system already in place

100% correct. We're in the middle of migrating to SF right now, moving from some very old homegrown systems and a patchwork of systems from the past couple of years of M&A. The real selling point for us was the unified interface, and the ability to plug in systems (new and old) just by creating connectors. There is a view layer that can look across various backends and make it look, to the user, like it's all the same data set.

I guess it also helps to be closer to the money than many other software systems. Business Intelligence systems seems like a quite lucrative endeavor for those that manage to position themselves at the right spot in the market.

They found me on LinkedIn last year and scheduled a sales call, which I agreed to. I'm in consulting, so I need to know about their product in case a client asks for it, or in case I need to recommend their product as a solution to a client's case. They specifically marketed to me its database performance and its use in the cloud, which I won't get into here, since I'm not their spokesperson.

To date, I haven't had a specific need for Snowflake, but that's down to my client's situations, not any issue with the company or its product. If that situation changed, it would indeed result in contracts.

Pretty much what the other guy said. I'm likely to be working with Snowflake soon hosted on Azure. Existing warehouse is on Oracle and is costing >1 million pounds per year in hosting and licensing. For enterprises with expensive licenses on Oracle or SQLServer and expensive hosting costs Snowflake offers a more attractive package to the business. Technically I'm not sure it will be too different, I'll update in a couple of months!

Snowflake advertises itself as a pay as you go complete data warehouse with a simple interface, primarily SQL. It can installed on Azure or AWS etc. It is self-tuning; no database admin required. It has built in COPY commands to ingest parquet files and Tasks and Streams to perform scheduled data transformation. That is it has all the tools needed to perform data warehousing out of the box.

That's a good question; I'm curious how the sales process works.

It's not winning on performance or price/performance. I suspect it's other features such as easy onboarding and an ETL (or ELT) toolchain. They claim it's self-managing, as so many products have before.

B2B over the web/cloud circumvents traditional enterprise sales (and billing!) channels, so I guess that's part of it.

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