Snowflake rolls back growth estimates, wipes 30% off value

Plus $800m Streamlit acquisition – just don't expect a revenue contribution any time soon

Cloud-native data warehouse outfit Snowflake – once valued at a heart-thumping $120bn following its 2020 IPO – saw 30 per cent wiped off its value in after-hours trading yesterday as it lowered guidance on revenue forecasts.

Execs said part of the reason for reducing growth estimates was that new product features meant customers could use its platform more efficiently, doing more with less spending.

The distributed database company also found $800m for the purchase of Streamlit, creator of a framework designed to simplify and accelerate the deployment of data applications.

Revenue for Q4 FY22 ended 31 January was $383.8m, up 101 per cent year-over-year, but the company shouldered an operating loss of $152m, $48m down on the $200m operating loss over the same period last year.

Operating losses for the full year were $715m, worse than the $543.9m of fiscal 2021. Its full-year product revenue, meanwhile, was $1.14bn, up 106 per cent on the previous year.

However, Snowflake does not expect revenue to continue to grow at the same rate in the future.

For the first quarter of fiscal 2023, it said expected product revenues would be between $385m and $388m, a growth of 79 per cent and 81 per cent respectively.

For the full fiscal 2023, it said product revenue would be between $1.88bn and $1.9bn, representing year-over-year growth between 65 per cent and 67 per cent.

While more than 60 per cent revenue growth might seem healthy to some, it turns out that slashing 40 percentage points off forecasts is not how you impress investors. The company's value fell 30 per cent on Nasdaq in after-hours trading yesterday, although later recovered some losses.

Snowflake CFO Mike Scarpelli said growth estimates dropped because users can do more with the same investment in its pay-as-you-go model.

"Certain product improvements create a revenue headwind for our business. We undertake these initiatives because they benefit our customers and expand our long-term market opportunity. Last year, we called it improvements in storage compression that reduced storage costs for our customers. Similarly, phased throughout this year, we are rolling out platform improvements within our cloud deployments. No two customers are the same, but our initial testing has shown performance improvements ranging on average from 10 per cent to 20 per cent."

Snowflake had assumed a $97m revenue hit on its full-year forecast due to such improvements, although there was some uncertainty about that, Scarpelli told an investors' call.

"While these efforts negatively impact our revenue in the near term, over time, they lead customers to deploy more workloads to Snowflake due to the improved economics."

Other improvements include a "warehouse scheduling service", which yielded a $2m improvement on platform efficiency for one customer. "Using less but doing the same number of queries because it's much more efficient when you're scheduling queries to run them and rolling that out for next year," he said.

New acquisition Streamlit has built open-source frameworks to help developers and data scientists build and share data apps "quickly and iteratively, without the need to be an expert in front-end development," according to the company. But Scarpelli said Streamlit would not be contributing to Snowflake revenue any time soon. "We won't be having a product ready on Streamlit until the end of the year so we're not factoring in any revenue that could come sooner," he told investors.

Observers believe Snowflake could struggle to sustain growth as it faces battles on two fronts. Cloud platform vendors have their own storage-and-compute data warehouse products, which integrate well with their own data management and machine learning tools.

Meanwhile, data-warehousing stalwarts such as Teradata have also gone cloud-native in their own way, bringing technology in optimisation, query scheduling, and concurrency from the on-prem world, something it says helps managers keep costs down.

Although it was seen as something of a trailblazer in cloud data warehousing, Snowflake is still catching up with the incumbents in other regards. ®

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