Startup Spotlight: Snowflake tops LinkedIn list
Data warehousing company Snowflake has topped LinkedIn’s annual top US startups list, beating out the likes of Robinhood, Peloton Interactive and scooter company Lime.
In a blog post, Jessi Hempel of LinkedIn gave the methodology for the list as follows: “Our editors and data scientists parsed billions of actions generated by LinkedIn’s 645 million members — and looked at four pillars in particular: employee growth; jobseeker interest; member engagement with the company and its employees; and how well these startups pulled talent from our flagship LinkedIn Top Companies list.”
Snowflake only just qualifies for the list, which is restricted to companies 7 years old and younger, having been founded in 2012 by French ex-Oracle employees Benoit Dageville and Thierry Cruanes.
The company operates on a data-as-a-service model, offering data warehousing and analytics on the cloud – an approach which benefits companies looking for scalability without investing in their own hardware. Competing with the big beasts of Amazon and Microsoft on price and performance, the company has seen rapid growth, with Forbes reporting last month that revenues for the past 12 months were up 237%.
In a press release hailing the importance of data to the bottom lines of its customers, VP of Product, Christian Kleinerman said: “Relentless innovation is the way we approach product development and improvement at Snowflake. Our unique cloud-built architecture empowers users to fulfill a variety of industry-specific requirements and as their requirements evolve, we listen to customer feedback and use that input to continuously improve the product, making the technology work harder and better for them.”
According to Crunchbase, the company’s latest Series F funding round raised $450mn in 2018, bringing its total funds raised to nearly $1bn. Customers of its services have included Penguin Random House, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, Adobe and Capital One, and, as befits a technology startup, it is headquartered in Silicon Valley.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”