‘Email killer’ Slack loosens in­vestor purse strings

Of­fice mes­sag­ing com­pany is as bullish as the market, says com­pany ex­ec­u­tive

The Irish Times - Business - - TECHNOLOGY - Char­lie Taylor

There was some se­ri­ous eye­brow-rais­ing re­cently when Slack an­nounced it had raised an ad­di­tional $250 mil­lion (€213 mil­lion) from in­vestors in a move that val­ues the com­pany at $5.1 bil­lion.

After all, with the of­fice mes­sag­ing plat­form hav­ing yet to touch any of the $360 mil­lion it raised in two pre­vi­ous rounds, and with it re­cently re­port­ing $200 mil­lion in an­nual re­cur­ring rev­enues, it doesn’t ex­actly seem as though the com­pany is strapped for cash.

“It is very much a ‘win­ter is com­ing’ fund,’” is how the com­pany’s head of global cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence Ali Rayl de­scribes the im­pres­sive re­serves Slack has amassed dur­ing a visit to Dublin.

Ms Rayl, who was among the firm’s first eight em­ploy­ees, says the lat­est in­vest­ment, led by Ja­pan’s Soft­Bank Vi­sion Fund, gives the com­pany plenty of op­tions as it looks to re­peat the suc­cess it has en­joyed in the US in other mar­kets.

“If there is some­thing we want to do that re­quires cash stores, we can just do it,” she tells The Ir­ish Times.

The ease with which the com­pany has raised funds is ev­i­dence of a great fundrais­ing en­vi­ron­ment, she says.

“The market is very bullish on our prospects, and so are we, and we’re al­ways ex­cited to bring on new in­vestors who can help us ex­pand,” Rayl adds.

Ex­pan­sion is the very rea­son why Rayl is in town. Slack em­ploys about 800 peo­ple across seven of­fices world­wide, with the Dublin base largely re­spon­si­ble for the com­pany’s push into new mar­kets.

The plat­form has re­cently in­tro­duced French, Ger­man and Span­ish lan­guages ver­sions, and it will soon also be avail­able in Ja­panese. In ad­di­tion, Slack has also just launched Shared Chan­nels, a se­cure, com­mon space to make work­ing with ex­ter­nal par­ties as straight­for­ward and fluid as work­ing in­ter­nally with col­leagues.

Rayl de­scribes Shared Chan­nels as “the most fun­da­men­tal change ever made to the prod­uct”.

For the unini­ti­ated, Slack is a work­place mes­sag­ing plat­form for teams that prom­ises to make com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion that bit eas­ier by bringing pop­u­lar ser­vices such as Twit­ter, Drop­box, Asana, Google Docs, MailChimp, Stripe and Zen­desk into one en­vi­ron­ment.

You may not be us­ing it, but plenty of other peo­ple are. What’s more, those who do adopt it of­ten don’t just like it, they love it. Slack is re­port­edly the fastest grow­ing busi­ness ap­pli­ca­tion in his­tory. It cur­rently has more than 6 mil­lion daily users, half of whom are based out­side its core US market, with most users spend­ing up to 10 hours a day on the plat­form.

The so-called “email killer” also has over 2 mil­lion paid users, in­clud­ing teams from close to half of the For­tune 100 firms.

Not bad for a prod­uct that only of­fi­cially launched in Fe­bru­ary 2014 and which ini­tially largely spread through word-of-mouth.

“We have enor­mous op­por­tu­ni­ties ahead of us. The field is still wide open, and we have a good in­cum­bency and a fan­base that loves our prod­uct. Usu­ally peo­ple don’t love the tools they have to use at work, but they tend to love Slack,” says Rayl.

“Slack pre­vi­ously of­ten used to be in­tro­duced into companies by stealth, but as we make more in­roads into the en­ter­prise market we see that it is those charged with work­place trans­for­ma­tion that are bringing it in,” she adds.

The com­pany first es­tab­lished an of­fice in Dublin – its first fa­cil­ity out­side of North Amer­ica – in May 2015. It em­ploys about 60 peo­ple lo­cally, with this ex­pected to grow to 180.

Rayl de­scribes the Dublin base as cen­tral to Slack’s ex­pan­sion plans.

“We opened an of­fice here specif­i­cally with an eye to­wards be­com­ing an in­ter­na­tional com­pany. The work be­ing done in Dublin is cru­cial to our fu­ture suc­cess.”

While many of the roles in Ire­land are cur­rently cen­tred on ar­eas such as sales and mar­ket­ing, she ex­pects this may change in the com­ing years.

“There is no rea­son we couldn’t ex­pand en­gi­neer­ing here,” says Rayl.

The com­pany has grown ten­fold since 2015 and it is now going all out to be­come one of the big­gest tech firms in the world.

“We’re at where Google was in 2002 and Face­book were in 2008, where they both took a big step back and looked at what foun­da­tions they needed to build to be the com­pany they wanted to be in 10 years’ time. This is our time to do that,” says Rayl.

“Our goal is to be up there with the elite. The op­por­tu­nity is ours to seize and we are going all out to take ad­van­tage of it.”

Usu­ally peo­ple don’t love the tools they have to use at work, but they tend to love Slack

Ali Rayl of Slack: “The market is very bullish on our prospects and so are we”

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