Marcin Żukowski combines experience in the scientific and business fields. His doctorate, prepared at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), was so widely recognized in the IT world that he was invited to co-found Snowflake, which has become one of the most renowned companies creating cloud database solutions.
Marcin Żukowski and Snowflake
The expert has been associated with the IT industry since the 1990s. He was the CEO and co-founder of Vectorwise, a Dutch company creating a database system based on research from his doctoral thesis. As part of Vectorwise, he was responsible for the development of the technology and the company, and also continued his scientific work as a supervisor of 7 master’s students. After the successful acquisition of the company by Ingres Corp. (today Actian) in 2010, he worked there until 2012, then moved to California in 2013 to become co-founder Snowflake. He is a board member of the Endeavor Poland community of technology company creators.
Snowflake is currently valued at $49 billion. Snowflake Data Cloud allows clients to process, collect and share data. The innovative nature of the company’s solutions involves replacing data silos with cloud computing located on a single platform. Thanks to this, the data of a company using the solution is easily available throughout the entire organization. They can also be made available – within the data cloud ecosystem – to third parties, if a company decides to do so. Snowflake also has offices in Europe, including Poland. According to financial data for the third quarter of 2023, the company serves 639 clients from the Forbes Global 2000 list.
– One of the most important reasons for Snowflake’s success was a critical approach and finding a new solution to a known problem, even “going against the tide”, something that scientists probably do more often than companies – says Marcin Żukowski. – For me, the most important lessons were from the first company, when we saw that the aspects of the product that attracted us most as engineers and scientists were not those most necessary for the company’s success. I see similar problems in many projects coming out of universities – turning technology into a product and a company is often much more difficult than scientists expect.
How will the experience from Silicon Valley help in assessing NCBR’s IDEAS activities??
Marcin Żukowski points out several key issues: – I think that what matters is recognizing real needs. I have the impression that research related to Silicon Valley is more often focused on real problems and practical applications. Moreover, Silicon Valley and the USA in general have much greater traditions and know-how when it comes to turning academic projects into companies. Many professors, in addition to their graduates, have several startups on their CVs. The transfer of talents between universities and companies is also important.
– Thanks to internships, young scientists can have better insight into what projects may be valuable to the market. I experienced this during my internships at Microsoft and Google, where I not only learned a lot, but also gained many personal contacts that would be helpful in my further career.
By joining the IDEAS NCBR Scientific Council, Marcin Żukowski – together with its current members – will review the research policy and planned activities of the organization, as well as present proposals for changes. The tasks of the Council also include giving opinions on the employment of leaders of research groups, giving opinions on the degree of implementation and results of research groups’ activities, as well as expressing opinions on all issues related to the activities of the center.
Żukowski expanded the group of the IDEAS NCBR Scientific Council, becoming its eighth member. The Council consists of: Marta Kwiatkowska (University of Oxford, Chairwoman of the Scientific Council), Marek Barwiński (Isomorphic Laboratories), Ran Canetti (Boston University), Zofia Dzik (Humanites Institute), Aleksander Mądry (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Tim Roughgarden (Columbia University), Wojciech Samek (Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute) and Marcin Żukowski (Snowflake).
– The Scientific Council of IDEAS NCBR includes representatives of the world’s most important research centers in the field of computer science and managers who have been successful on the international arena for years – says Piotr Sankowski, CEO IDEAS NCBR. – They decide who the leaders of new research groups will be and how our institution will develop. We want to benefit from the experience of people who have been conducting innovative research for decades and can share their knowledge on how to combine science with business applications. This fresh perspective from the outside is invaluable. The composition of the Council and its broad competences mean that many specialists from Poland and abroad want to conduct their research and develop projects in IDEAS NCBR.