Slack Pursues Startup Investments As It Preps For Direct Listing

Slack is positioning to go public and cloud-based work collaboration has never looked so good. They announced their intentions to allow shareholders to sell their stock to investors via their S-1 filing for a direct listing. The company will trade under the WORK name. It’s a brave new tech-world, Slack says in their filing, and they are still exploring what that means for their company.

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“Since our public launch in 2014, it has become apparent that organizations worldwide have similar needs, and are now finding the solution with Slack,” their filing stated. “Our growth is largely due to word-of-mouth recommendations. Slack usage inside organizations of all kinds is typically initially driven bottoms-up, by end users. Despite this, we (and the rest of the world) still have a hard time explaining Slack. It’s been called an operating system for teams, a hub for collaboration, a connective tissue across the organization, and much else. Fundamentally, it is a new layer of the business technology stack in a category that is still being defined.”

Initially launched as a way to bring “all team communication into one place and make it searchable”, Slack has focused on building in features that augment their product offerings. They have defined themselves as a new collaboration tool for companies that is meant to replace email as a primary means of communication.

Some of the hallmarks of their product include ICQ-like chat room features that allow teams to either direct message each other or break discussion groups down into channels. Messages are cloud-stored and fully searchable and the software can be integrated with other applications such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Heroku, GitHub, Zendesk and Zapier.

When CEO Daniel Butterfield and co-founder Cal Henderson were first building Slack, they knew they had to find a focus for their technology. “We had a lot of conversations about choosing the three things we’d try to be extremely, surprisingly good at,” he said in an interview. “And ultimately we developed Slack around really valuing those three things – search, synchronization and file-sharing.”

“It can sound simple, but narrowing the field can make big challenges and big gains for your company feel manageable. Suddenly you’re ahead of the game because you’re the best at the things that really impact your users.”

The company established their venture capital arm, the Slack Fund, in 2015 and have made forty-two investments since their beginning. As to be expected, most of this tech unicorn’s investments reflect their interest in integrating more productivity apps into their messaging app and platform. Participation in funding rounds for companies like Pitch, the German-based content collaboration and presentation software company, and Halp, a company that puts out a conversational ticketing tool for IT teams, demonstrate Slack’s commitment to being the best at what they do.

However, they have also made an investment in Icelandic-based GRID, a tech company that converts spreadsheets into web applications. This may show their interest in exploring possible options for expansion but it is still too early to tell. Of all the fund’s investments, 83 percent are seed or early-stage investments.