I wrote this a few months ago, but I think it deserves a repost today, in light of the recent news of Slack’s impressive growth - 85,000 paying customers, with 10+ million DAU.
Slack is one of the fastest growing technology companies today, and perhaps the fastest growing product in the small business and enterprise software market. This is a short post is about the broader potential I see for Slack, outside of the obvious fact it is a group chat product aimed at the workplace.
Slack is a new way of getting work done. Today’s knowledge work requires coordination and communication, and a larger portion of our jobs is connected work. With Slack and the app ecosystem, workflows that used to live in separate web applications are now inside the conversation itself. Users don’t have to switch contexts to change the status of a bug, to advance a deal in a sales pipeline, or to respond to a customer - it all lives within one app. Slack’s slogan is “where work happens” - which I think speaks more to it’s app ecosystem than it’s capability as a group chat product. This is why I believe Slack’s biggest competition is not email - it’s the entire web browser. I do not believe Slack will absorb all workflows - only the ones for which there is coordination, information sharing, or handoff between people. Knowledge work requires a balance between connected work and deep solitary work.
Slack is a new way to launch business software. With workflows embedded inside conversations, business software is being unbundled and widgetized. These widgets are not as functional as working in a web browser, but are quickly getting better. Eventually, Slack’s platform capabilities will include common components of the SaaS stack. Using Slack login - which provides access to the users and channels in a workplace, business software developers no longer have to worry about building a login/signup flow, user, team and permissions model. Another part of the SaaS stack is pricing - I believe Slack will (or should) launch a pricing or payments service for it’s app developers to charge individual users or channels. This pricing model would be native to Slack apps are used. All this reduces the R&D effort required to build business software. On top of this, Slack provides new distribution dynamics not available in the world of business software. This is because of meteoric growth and the ability for app developers to add software inside a conversation. I imagine a new crop of SaaS companies will be created that are “Slack-first” vs Browser-first. This is a paradigm shift and will require a change of thinking in the world of SaaS.
Slack is a new professional network. Slack’s user-channel-workspace structure is a more realistic model for a professional network. The channel model is a great way of encapsulating the connections and structures at work. The addition of shared channels between workspaces helps to create connections between users and teams across workplaces. One user can also join multiple workspaces, which helps to build an interest graph. For example, a Product Manager could be on their work Slack, but then also a Product Management Slack workspace, an alumni workspace, etc. This is a very different way than how the LinkedIn network is structured.
I’m looking forward to seeing the continual growth of Slack and the app ecosystem around it.