Speaker of the Day

Meet Slack Boss Stewart Butterfield at #bits20

The Canadian serial entrepreneur & founder of Slack and Flickr joins this year’s Bits & Pretzels Networking Week

Born at the right time and grateful to have made a living out my love for computing technology as a means of facilitating human interaction” - that’s what Stewart Butterfield writes about himself in his LinkedIn introduction. And he has proven several times that he follows his personal motto. 

It’s hard to imagine what work - and especially remote work - was like before Slack. The company was founded in 2013 and is now more popular than ever. Stewart created what’s helping all of us to maintain social connections and human ties within our professional and private lives, specifically during the months-long work-from-home experiment in early 2020. 

That’s also showing in increasing user numbers: During the lockdown in March Slack recorded 12.5 million active users. And Stewart expects that his platform will keep growing: “Within 10 years, even within 5 years, every organization will be using Slack, or something like it.”

How Stewart’s passion for gaming created Flickr 

Let’s take a look back to the start: Stewart, who calls himself an “entrepreneur, designer & technologist”, was born in the Canadian province British Columbia in 1973 as Dharma Jeremy. As a child, he taught himself how to code and decided to change his name to Stewart at the age of 12. Later he studied Philosophy at the University of Victoria and the University of Cambridge. 

In 2003, Stewart and his co-founders started the photo-sharing website Flickr. But that was not his original plan: Originally they wanted to create a computer game called Game Neverending, but then decided to pivot. They took some features from the original idea and Flickr was born. 

The photo community grew quickly, in an era where social media just started to become popular. Stewart later sold Flickr to Yahoo, where he had to observe his own company’s importance decrease.  

Later on, the entrepreneur went back to work on a game called Glitch but it failed. And again he then used a feature which he and his team had created for his new venture. That’s how the communication application Slack came to life 7 years ago. The name Slack stands for „Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge“. 

Ever since, Stewart Butterfield was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by TIME Magazine in 2006 and one of the “Top 50 Leaders” in the World by BusinessWeek in 2005. The Wall Street Journal named him “Technology Innovator of the Year” in 2015. Slack Technologies made a revenue of 401 million US-dollars in 2019, has received a total funding of 1.4 billion US-dollars until it went public in April 2019 and has users all over the world. 

Don’t miss a chance to miss this amazing entrepreneur personally, when he’s giving his keynote during the Bits & Pretzels Networking Week. On September 28th he’s going to talk about why founders need to leave their comfort zones to find better products, what hurdles he had to overcome personally during his years-long tenure in the tech world and what’s next for Slack.