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Slack-boss: “As a founder, you have to believe”

Stewart Butterfield about business growth during the pandemic, competing with Microsoft and what’s next for Slack at #bits20

Slack has been hitting the news quite a lot recently: Due to the lockdown, the numbers grew quickly to more than 12 million daily active users and 119.000 paying customers all over the world. But still, there’s a lot of competition. Especially from Microsoft Teams - another aspect that created quite some buzz around Slack recently. 

Joining us from San Francisco, the Slack-boss talked at the Bits & Pretzels Networking Week 2020 about his complaint against Microsoft for anti-competitive behavior before the European Commission. The competition with the giant corporate has been going on for more than 3,5 years. 

According to Stewart, people’s attention is moving away from email and towards channel based messaging platforms. “That’s a real threat to them”, he says. In his opinion a lot of their current position on the market is based on wide-spread applications like Outlook. And many organizations and their infrastructure are then again based on adding more Microsoft tools. 

And the fact that Microsoft offers Teams with the other tools for free is an unfair competition, from Slack’s point of view. Therefore, Butterfield is confident that the European Commission will pursue the investigation.

Key learnings from a serial entrepreneur 

One thing Stewart Butterfield learned the hard way is that as a founder “you have to believe you can do it." He originally wanted to create a computer game, which failed. But the team took some features from the original idea and the photo sharing platform Flickr was born. Later on, the entrepreneur went back to work on a game called Glitch, but it also failed. And again he used one feature from it and that’s how the communication application Slack came to life. 

He also said that the fact that he uses Slack “probably more than any other customer” helps him develop his platform further. “Put yourself in the seat of your customer”, he advises. 

And he gave another advice: The one fundamental skill for entrepreneurs according to Stewart is storytelling. As a founder, he says, you have to tell a story that works for the press, for investors, for analysts and that attracts talent. The best example in his opinion is Tesla. 

What’s next for Slack? 

Stewart shared some exclusive insights about what’s up next for Slack. One of them is the option to directly message any other Slack user, which will be possible soon. And he gave another outlook about what they are working on at the moment: an asynchronous use of live conversations.