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Everything you need to know about the hot app Slack

Last updated on August 17th, 2015 at 04:35 pm

With 1.1 million daily active users, messaging app Slack is changing the way companies approach internal communication. If you haven’t heard about Slack, or haven’t opted to use it yet in the office, this primer might change how you look at the app.

Launched in August 2013 by Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield, Slack was introduced as a platform aimed at co-working teams for real-time chat, conferencing and file-sharing. What many B2b professionals found appealing about the app is how easy it is to use. Consider it a sleek and simple way to message other employees individually, create chatrooms called “channels”, and quickly access past conversations from just about any device.

Also the freemium app is compatible with a range of productivity apps like Google Drive and GitHub. It’s easy to see why Slack gained traction fast and is now becoming the main tool many companies use for communication.

User growth has exploded to that 1.1 million user figure as of June 2015, up from April’s 750,00 users.

Changing how teams work

Although Slack is making moves to appeal to the chatting population, its strength still lie in being a real work tool. Touted as the “email killer,” many companies have attested to slashing their email time and approaching the chased Inbox Zero easier with Slack.

Aside from these capabilities, companies are still exploring other ways of using Slack for more efficient co-working. Just recently, the New York Times revealed that it published its coverage of the GOP debate directly from Slack through a chrome plugin.

“I was really blown away by the speed at which we could publish,” NYT Deputy Washington bureau editor Paul Volpe told NiemanLab.

Slack has announced beta testing for its Linux version as well.

“These builds may have some bugs or rough edges, but we won’t push out anything that we know to be extremely buggy or nonfunctional,” Slack said on the Google Forms page where betatesters can sign up.

A momentary speedbump

Despite Slack’s seemingly smooth journey, a privacy flaw was exposed earlier this year. Slack apparently exposed company chat rooms created for private correspondence to anyone who would input an email with the same domain name as the company.

Bangalore-based developer Tanay Sai hit Slack for its failure to protect this type of internal information. “Like, when I gave in the email address of Microsoft CEO, it listed all the teams/groups he is part of! Some of them are names of Microsoft Products that are apparently not announced/released yet,” Sai wrote on his site.

The fiasco was quickly solved. What it revealed, though, is Slack’s reach. The industry’s biggest players – Apple, Google, Microsoft – are all working within Slack. As is B2Bnn. No wonder it’s the one of the fastest growing startups in the world.

Startup acquisitions

Slack has acquired two startups to date.

In September 2014, Slack bought Spaces, a two-person start-up which was working on a document co-editing app similar to Google Docs. Spaces was founded by Simon Valee, who sold Open Cal to Groupon, and Hans Larsen, who previously worked with Google on Google+ and Chrome.

In January of this year, Slack bought Screenhero, a startup working on a range of collaboration tools for voice chat, screen sharing and remote co-working inside the same application. Founded in 2014, the six-man team had raised $2.6 million from True Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and Elad Gil before Slack scooped them up. It took seven months for Screenhero founder Jahanzeb Sherwani to finally agree to the acquisition.

“This is not the typical ‘Our Incredible Journey’ acquisition, where the product disappears — everything will survive and thrive, just immersed in Slack,” said Butterfield about the Screenhero acquisition. “Slack integrates with hundreds of other services, but there are some core features that work best when built directly into the platform.

The financial details of both acquisitions have not been disclosed.

The big numbers 

In just two years from its founding, Slack is now valued at $2.76 billion. Slack raised $1.6 billion just after its first year.

As a point of comparison, wearables company Jawbone is valued at $3 billion, while Uber tops the list at a valuation of $51 billion.

Butterfield previously said that Slack is always raising funding not because they needed the money, but because investors demand to invest in the app.

Businesses pay between $6.67 and $48 a month per employee, depending on the features they want on the app. Of the 1.1 million people who use Slack, 300,000 have paid subscription. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Slack projects at least $25 million in clean revenues this year.

With enterprise communication projected to be valued at $23 billion by 2019, there’s a lot of room for Slack to grow. Especially with low marketing costs and a growing userbase, the app has serious potential to find other arms of revenue to help its valuation propel even higher.

Looks like companies will be Slacking for years to come.


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Aki Merced
Aki Merced
Aki Merced is a freelance business and technology writer. Her focus is on creating content that connects and converts. Visit her website at Follow her on twitter @akimerced.