Business Office communication The Slack generation How workplace messaging could replace other missives
STEWART BUTTERFIELD, the boss of Slack, a messaging company, has been wonderfully unlucky in certain ventures. In 2002 he and a band of colleagues created an online-video game called “Game Neverending”. It never took off, but the tools they used to design it turned into Flickr, the web's first popular photo-sharing website. Yahoo bought it in 2005 for a reported $35m.
Four years later Mr Butterfield tried to create another online game, called Glitch. It flopped as well. But Mr Butterfield and his team developed an internal messaging system to collaborate on it, which became the basis for Slack. In Silicon Valley, such a change in strategy is called a “pivot”; anywhere else it is called good fortune. Today Slack is one of the fastest-rising startups around, with $540m in funding and a valuation of around $3.8 billion.“I guess the lesson should be, pursue your dream and hope it fails, so you can do something else,” says Cal Henderson, Slack's chief technology officer.
It is rare for business software to arouse emotion besides annoyance. But some positively gush about how Slack has simplified office communication. Instead of individual e-mails arriving in a central inbox and requiring attention, Slack structures textual conversations within threads (called “channels”) where groups within firms can update each other in real time. It is casual and reflects how people actually communicate, eschewing e-mail's outdated formalities, says Chris Becherer of Pandora, an online-music firm that uses Slack.