The Instacart-Snowflake-Databricks Affair: Unraveling the Numbers and Rivalries

In the world of technology, where cloud, data, and artificial intelligence intersect, fierce rivalries and controversies can emerge. One such controversy recently surfaced due to a paragraph buried deep in Instacart’s IPO filing. The paragraph revealed a seemingly troubling decline in payments to Snowflake, a cloud-based data warehousing service provider. Employees of Snowflake’s rival, Databricks, took to social media to highlight this apparent decline and imply that it was due to Instacart’s shift to Databricks infrastructure. However, the true story behind the numbers is more complex and requires a closer examination.

Scrutinizing the Figures

The initial figures presented in Instacart’s filing showed a significant drop in payments to Snowflake over the years. In 2020, Instacart paid $13 million, which increased to $28 million in 2021 and $51 million in 2022. However, the anticipated figure for 2023 indicated a drastic decrease to $15 million, suggesting a 71% drop in payments. This decline fueled the social media uproar and intensified the rivalry between Snowflake and Databricks.

To truly understand the situation, it is essential to analyze the footnote in Instacart’s filing that clarifies the company’s actual usage of Snowflake. The footnote revealed that Instacart’s operating expenses accounted for $28 million in 2021, $28 million in 2022, and $11 million in the first half of 2023. While this still indicates a decrease in spending for the current year, on an annualized basis, the drop would be around 21% rather than the previously reported 71%. Therefore, the spending decline is not as drastic as initially depicted.

Snowflake’s Response

Amidst the mounting confusion and social media storm, Snowflake decided to provide its perspective on the matter. In a blog post titled “Snowflake and Instacart: The Facts,” Snowflake addressed the misrepresentation of Instacart’s usage figures on social media. Although they did not mention Databricks explicitly, Snowflake reiterated that their technology is extensively used by various teams within Instacart, including catalog management, machine learning, advertising, and logistics. They emphasized that the decline in spending was not indicative of a loss to an unnamed competitor but rather a joint effort with Instacart to optimize efficiency.

The Road Ahead

As Instacart proceeds with its IPO journey, it will have the opportunity to provide further updates and clarification on the matter. This controversy has shed light on the intense competition between Snowflake and Databricks, both valued at billions of dollars. Snowflake, the largest U.S. IPO ever for a business software company, boasts a market cap of over $50 billion, while Databricks, a highly valued venture-backed company, seeks to raise funding at a $43 billion valuation. The clash between these tech giants highlights the stakes involved in the rapidly evolving fields of cloud technology, data management, and artificial intelligence.

This affair serves as a reminder of the power of social media in shaping narratives and fueling rivalries. The online chatter amplified discrepancies in the initial figures and led to a contentious situation between Snowflake and Databricks. It also demonstrates the importance of transparency and clear communication during major corporate events such as IPO filings. As companies navigate the ever-competitive tech landscape, they must carefully manage their public image and address controversies promptly to maintain trust and credibility.

The Instacart-Snowflake-Databricks affair has shown us the complexities within the world of technology and the impact of social media-fueled rivalries. By scrutinizing the figures and understanding the true story behind the numbers, we can gain a clearer perspective on the situation. As Snowflake and Databricks continue to compete in the cloud, data, and AI space, the lessons learned from this controversy should serve as a reminder of the importance of transparency and effective communication in the modern business landscape.


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