How a failed video game became Silicon Valley's fastest growing business app

It is Thursday, February 7, 2019. In case you forgot.

How Slack went from failed video game to the world's fastest growing business app

Slack, which has become the choice communication tool for modern workplace collaboration, is reportedly planning to go public this year via a direct listing (following Spotify’s lead).  

Founded in 2013, the company quickly became a Silicon Valley staple for its clean design, ease-of-use, and promise to dethrone email as the primary source of office knowledge sharing.

Slack usage has since exploded, with over 8 million daily active users (3 million of which are paid) the company was last valued at around $7 billion.

Slack attack

In retrospect, the need for something like Slack (a Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge) seems obvious, but in reality the tool was the best thing most of us never knew we needed.

Slack was a relatively late entrant to the world of office chat. There were plenty of apps originally built for consumers that offices had adopted for internal messaging. Skype was probably the most popular existing option at the time and HipChat (which Slack has since acquired) had a following among development teams.  

The difference with Slack is that it was built for business from the get-go, committing to the rapid development of new team-centric features, integrations, and a robust API for customization.

Glitch mob pivots

Slack was actually born as the byproduct of a now defunct video game.  

Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s founder and previous entrepreneur behind photo-sharing site Flickr, was working on developing a MMO called Glitch when they created Slack’s precursor for their internal communication.

The team found that it was difficult to get new employees up to speed on past conversations via email threads so they developed a system of channel based feeds that new users could join and see the history.

The game eventually lost steam and Butterfield made the executive decision to abandon the game and pivot to focus on bringing their internal tool to market.

Despite Slack becoming the fastest-growing business app in history, the company has big plans to expand to larger enterprise clients and take on Microsoft Teams (its largest competitor) head on.
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Brendan Uyeshiro
Brendan Uyeshiro