Snowflake Inc. signage is displayed on a laptop computer in an arranged photograph taken in the … [+]
Snowflake enjoyed a boffo IPO last September. Since then the shares rose — peaking on December 9, 2020 — before plunging. As of March 12 they traded a whopping 42% below that peak and considerably below their first day closing price.
After its fourth quarter earnings report yielded a larger than expected loss, Snowflake announced an investment in ThoughtSpot, a big data analysis and visualization service.
Does this bode well for Snowflake investors? In a word, maybe. Snowflake exceeded revenue expectations in its latest quarter but reported a higher than expected loss. What’s more, investors see Snowflake’s valuation as too high.
If ThoughtSpot can grow faster due to that partnership, Snowflake might generate the extra revenue it needs to exceed investors’ expectations and justify a higher stock price.
Snowflake sells software that companies use to run a data warehouse on public cloud platforms such as AWS, Microsoft, and Google. Customers pay based on how much they use the software — rather than paying a flat subscription fee, according to SiliconAngle.
Snowflake enjoyed very strong revenue growth in the most recent quarter. Barron’s reported that its fourth quarter revenue of $190.5 million was 117% more than the year earlier and 7% above the Wall Street consensus estimate. Its product revenue of $178.3 million rose 116% from the year before — which was and 8% higher than the midpoint of its guidance range.
The problem in Snowflake’s report was that its loss was much larger than Wall Street had anticipated. As SiliconAngle reported, Snowflake’s adjusted net loss per share of 70 cents was a whopping 53 cents a share above the 17 cents that Wall Street had forecast.
Snowflake offered a stronger than expected revenue growth forecast for the current quarter. With Wall Street anticipating $196 million in revenue for the first quarter, Snowflake said it expects product revenue in the range of $195 million and $200 million. For 2021, Snowflake’s expected revenue range of $1 billion to $1.02 billion was inline with the consensus forecast of $1.01 billion.
Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman expressed pride in the company’s “strong performance [— including its] triple-digit product revenue growth.” He added that the results “indicate that customers across multiple industries rely on the Snowflake Data Cloud to mobilize their data and enable breakthrough data strategies,” noted Barron’s
ThoughtSpot is going after the global Business Intelligence (BI) market. According to MarketsAndMarkets, BI is expected to grow at a 7.6% compound annual rate from $23.1 billion to $33.3 billion by 2025.
Market growth is due to many “factors including digital transformation, rising investments in analytics, more demand for data visualization dashboards, and increased cloud adoption,” notes MarketsAndMarkets.
Snowflake — which has been partnering with ThoughtSpot since 2019 — announced March 9 that it had invested $20 million in the company. According to CRN, the funding will be used to “accelerate development of its search and AI-based analytics software that can access and analyze cloud-based data.”
Christian Kleinerman, Snowflake senior vice president of product, said that the investment “showcases our continued partnership with ThoughtSpot and commitment to helping our customers get better and faster insights while leveraging the power of the Snowflake Data Cloud.”
ThoughtSpot previously raised $543.7 million with its biggest investment — a $248 million Series E funding — taking place in August 2019 valuing the company at $1.95 billion.
ThoughtSpot is in the middle of transitioning to a fully cloud-based business model. It is enjoying considerable growth in this part of its business. For example, annual contract value (ACV) for its cloud deals has grown 213% in the last quarter. In the last year, 54% of its ACV came from cloud products, according to Business Wire.
ThoughtSpot did not take funds from Snowflake because it needed the money. As CEO Sudheesh Nair told me in a March 9 interview, “We raised $248 million in 2019 and we have that much in the bank today. The $20 million was not raised because we needed money. It is a validation of what customers are seeing. This partnership is [complicated by the fact that our competitor, Tableau] uses Snowflake as does Microsoft — whose business intelligence (BI) service competes with ThoughtSpot.”
Nair envisions the partnership as helping to achieve a shared vision for the future. “There are two things about Snowflake’s CEO — Frank Slootman — and its CFO: they are focused on how will we do it best for the customer and they are always [bold]. They have customers like Capital One and Hulu/Disney DIS +0.2%. Putting ThoughtSpot and Snowflake together will work because we share the same values,” he said.
Snowflake sees a large opportunity and concluded that ThoughtSpot was well-positioned to win a large piece of the pie. “Snowflake is a $60 billion to $80 billion company. What is in it for them? They know where ThoughtSpot is going and they realize that we are moving beyond traditional BI services — which only do a quarter of what ThoughtSpot does. We offer a massively personalized service enabling organizations to act quickly on insights generated by analyzing data,” said Nair.
ThoughtSpot’s product can be much more useful for business decision makers than traditional BI. How so? Both ThoughtSpot and traditional BI products can generate reports. As Nair said, “For example, I am in Los Altos. 10,000 people got vaccinated here. Business intelligence can report on it — producing pie charts.”
ThoughtSpot can do three other valuable things for organizations that BI can’t. Here’s how:
ThoughtSpot is making progress towards an IPO which it believes its customers will appreciate. As Nair said, “The last quarter — the first full one since the transition — we are 21% in the cloud. We want 100% of demand from the cloud by July 2021.”
To satisfy the requirements for an IPO, the company must “be predictable and [we must complete our] transformation to the cloud. We will have $100 million to $150 million in ARR and growth of 40% to 50%. We will need to be good on margins and customer net retention,” he said.
I do not know whether the partnership between ThoughtSpot and Snowflake will add enough revenue to Snowflake’s top line to enable it to make analysts comfortable with its high valuation.
Analysts’ views of the company suggest that many see great growth potential for Snowflake. For instance, Deutsche Bank’s Patrick Colville boosted his price target to $300 based on his perception that Snowflake has a large market opportunity and “clear product/market fit.”
Other analysts think Snowflake’s valuation is too rich. Citi’s Tyler Radke cut his target price to $295 — from $325 — because he thinks Snowflake’s 2021 revenue guidance implies slower growth — “a deceleration of 38 percentage points in the company’s growth rate,” according to Barron’s.
Meanwhile Bernstein analyst Zane Chane is not bullish on the stock due to its “healthy valuation and macro/rate risk facing high-multiple growth stocks.” Canaccord Genuity’s David Hynes said that the stock “remains a valuation-based Hold.”
If Radke’s right, Snowflake needs to speed up its growth. Boosting profitability would also be good.
The next year will tell whether its partnership with ThoughtSpot can help with that.
I ditched corporate America in 1994 and started a management consulting and venture capital firm (http://petercohan.com). I began following stocks in 1981 when I was in