June 29, 2021

Frank Slootman, the most controversial CEO in SF, stirs the pot again on diversity.

Frank Slootman causes another controversy by weighing in on the diversity vs merit debate.

Frank Slootman of Snowflake might be the most controversial man in Silicon Valley. Technically, he’s not even in Silicon Valley, as he and his company were a part of the exodus this past year. 

But the sentiment remains true. 

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Slootman declared that his cloud company valued ‘merit’ over ‘diversity.’ 

As to be expected, a wave of backlash ensued.VCs from Chris Sacca to Arlan Hamilton came out strongly against Slootman's binary take on diversity. 

Gary Tan of Initialized Capital chimed in as well, saying that he envisioned an ecosystem where both were emphasized. 

A few days later, Slootman came out with a public apology. He exclaimed that he was deeply apologetic for the miscommunication. Somehow his belief system had done a complete three-sixty within a few days.

But hidden in both the original comment was a statement more important than the original quote or the half-hearted apology: that other CEOs had expressed a similar sentiment to him privately. 

Slootman is the flagpole for the more traditional beliefs of Silicon Valley and Corporate America. But every time he or someone similar is compelled to apologize publicly in lieu of a real public discourse, their ideas calcify. 

The ideas don’t lose their power, but simply seep further underground and become more ingrained among the establishment. Perhaps next time we won’t see a glib public apology but an actual public exchange.  

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