The Future Of Slack Is (Not) What You Think

Had a very interesting conversation with a collaboration analyst last night, and I could not resist temptation to pick his brain and we talked a lot about Slack. Not going to name names, since I did not ask for permission first. I shared my views and listened carefully as well. Here’s the summary of our idea exchange (some views are his, some are mine).

1. Slack seems to be doing extremely well, primary because Stewart was brilliant to recognize that the future of collaboration is going to be based on contextual chat, not the enterprise social network model that was pushed by Yammer, Jive and Salesforce Chatter. (Can confirm that with Bitrix24 experience as well, we tripled our user base last year, because we had actual collaboration worktools and weren’t just another ‘Facebook for Work’).

2. Slack’s best direct competitor (corporate messenger that is) is As in Fleep is better than Slack.

3. Slack’s biggest internal threat is becoming another Basecamp, meaning two things — Basecamp PR and self promotion was excellent, much better than the product itself. Second, Basecamp ghettoized itself to being just agency tool. As the result solutions that appear later on — Asana, Wrike, Bitrix24, and others have a comparable or a bigger user base than Basecamp, despite being launched (much) later.

4. Slack’s working on the Bitrix24 Network like concept for over a year (I think it’s called Federation). Just like Bitrix24 user from one account can communicate with Bitrix24 users from other accounts, Stewart wants to give Slack users from different accounts to communicate with each other. That’s my interpretation.

5. In terms of international expansion and pricing, Slack seems to repeat iOS vs Android model, in my opinion. Meaning that iOS dominates North America and few other countries that are well off, but fast growing markets, like India and Brazil are 90%+ Android, simply because they can’t afford iPhones and Android is just as good for all practical purposes. There are many markets (Eastern Europe being one) where we are much bigger than Slack, so I can confirm that. The market is ripe for ‘poor man’s Slack’ type solution, and it’s a huge opportunity. Microsoft and Google will probably want to take this space, neither Skype nor Hangout seem to do the trick. One of the options would be to buy out Slack outright and make it free. Probably VC bet when valuing Slack at $3.6 billion.

6. Great solutions, like Podio, died (got killed in that particular instance to be precise) because they believed they had right collaboration model (app constructor in their case) and forced it upon people — “we know how you should work better than you.” Doesn’t work this way (pun intended or not). The dumbest thing Slack can do is to go with nation wide advertising telling ‘normal’ businesses that they know how they should run their business. If that happens, Slack will become Yammer #2.

7. I am 99% sure that Slack growth rate had decelerated tremendously over the past 6 month. As in halved or more. I am judging this from comparing Google Play stats for Slack, Hipchat and Bitrix24. Looks like we beat HipChat for #2 spot, but we are 1/3 to 1/5 of Slack in terms of user base.

This is where I probably should make the disclosure, but if you know Bitrix24 and how big we’ve become over the past three years, if I write about Slack or Dropbox or Salesforce or Asana or BambooHR, any other enterprise/productivity/collaboration tool, I’ll be forced to mention that we are a competitor. With our 35 free tools with compete with more or less everyone.

So just assume that whenever I mention any names I am either envious or gloating or trying to persuade you to dump whatever you are currently using and try Bitrix24 instead.

P.S. March 4 addendum. This appeared in TechCrunch today. When European Microsoft visited our offices a couple of weeks ago, they told us that a decision was made in Redmond not to buy Slack and develop Skype for Business. $8 billion figure was never mentioned (to us). So combined with this news, it appears that Slack is intentionally leaking info to TechCrunch in order to get the desired $4-$5 billion valuation for the new round. Too many coincidences. Or one of the early stage investors is. We made our play against Slack yesterday and saw registrations grow by 30% overnight. 2500–3000 new companies a day ain’t bad, but that’s less than half of Slacks new daily account registrations. But at least our average size of commercial accounts (60 users) is much better than Slack’s.

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