Vancouver native Stewart Butterfield might seem like a fortunate person. He sold Flickr to Yahoo in 2005. Today, he’s building Slack, a startup that is transforming the workplace. In 2014 Slack raised a total of $180M with their last round valuing the company at $1B, making them a part of the unicorn club. While both are tremendous stories in their own right, they are in fact silver linings in Butterfield’s case. Both products emerged from the ashes of two failed gaming startups he dreamed up.
Slack is working towards building the same level of brand recognition in the business community that Flickr has in the photography counterpart. In order to do that, it will have to transition from being the communication channel chosen by many of today’s hottest startups to slower moving bigger businesses. As the company takes aim on conquering The Fortune 500, Butterfield admitted to Fortune Magazine that their valuation isn’t simply based on their monetary worth. “We’re a part of that conversation about companies worth $1 billion… It’s definitely a psychological threshold and it helps for certain kinds of customers.”
If you are running a business, you’ll realize that one of the most important tenets is to keep in constant communication as things change regularly.
Slack adds value, gets you hooked, and becomes an amazing organizational habit. If you are running a business, you’ll realize that one of the most important tenets is to keep in constant communication as things change regularly. If for nothing else, by saving us from emailing files back and forth and sending status updates, Slack is worth it. Additionally, the search function lets you search all of your past communications for the file, conversation, or link you are looking for. Integrations with your task management, development tools, customer service tools, and Google Hangouts save you from having to log in to multiple places to understand what is happening in your organization. This type of simplicity saves time and reduces context switching, which is more important than money, especially in younger companies.
With so many companies heading towards decentralized offices and remoteness, Slack helps cut down the barriers of physical distance by increasing the ease of communicating. Your team is right there, whether they are at your office, their home or halfway across the world. Being at work can often distract you from getting work done. If your dev team is anything like mine, they love working from home, find it less distracting, and more productive. Slack keeps the whole team on the same page and makes it easy for everyone to clock in without having to come in.
Other publications might argue whether Slack will be able to escape the tech/startup ecosystem and fix the way people work at larger more antiquated organizations. Regardless, be thankful that they are offering a product that keeps your team together for free. If you need complete access to the hive mind of your company you can spend $8/user/month for the ability to search for anything you’ve ever discussed with an unlimited number of third party integrations.
Slack was a byproduct of Tiny Speck, the makers of Glitch. Butterfield and his team created the tool as a necessity for managing communication across their organization and building their product. Slack isn’t just a great tool for entrepreneurs - Butterfield’s story should remind all of us that fighting through failure is a part of the job. While the word “pivot” continues to be the overused short form for “we got it wrong”, Butterfield exemplifies a founder who is willing to turn his failures into paradigm shifting products for everyone else.