Slack: an amazon company?

The usually well-informed Bloomberg has raised speculation that one of the most popular internal corporate communications systems, Slack, might be in talks with Amazon about an eventual acquisition.

Slack, founded by Stewart Butterfield in August 2013, has been considered by many to be the authentic corporate e-mail killer, a promise long awaited by all those who suffer from one of the ills of our time: if we try to read, process and answer all the emails we receive, would not have time to do anything else. Slack, which works on a generous freemium formula that allows access to much of its functions for free and only requires pay when the number of users is very high (more than eight thousand), has grown significantly over the last three years, putting it on the radar of many companies fighting for a slice of the corporate internal communication market.

Slack is an acronym of “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge”, that works through the creation of communication channels that use instant messaging, allowing controlled access to them, including outside external collaborators, and that can locate any conversation in a fully indexable file and with an excellent search function. Using Slack feels like a streamlining of internal processes that also include the possibility, thanks to a hugely open API, to integrate ticketing systems, project management, shared documents, links to corporate databases, CRMs, etc. Slack was made for the hyper-connected environment, in short, a future that is already here.

I use Slack as part of my work with several companies, and I find it a fantastic and versatile tool. And I’m not the only one: the company, thanks to its growth and profits, has joined the growing herd of “unicorns”, and is valued at $9000 million after several investment rounds. I always recommend that my students use it to coordinate their work groups during my courses at IE Business School.

Any acquisition would come up against a personal question: its founder, Stewart Butterfield, founded Flickr, a company loved by many but which, after being acquired by Yahoo! joined the ranks of the living dead. After three years trying to do something on Yahoo!, Butterfield left what he later admitted was a very bad experience. When he created Slack, everything seemed to indicate he would not be interested in selling it. That said, Amazon is a very different animal to Yahoo!, and such an acquisition could be interesting for a company that operates in a segment with strong competition from Microsoft or Facebook, as well as many other lesser-known but no less worrisome companies. The other alternative for financing the company and to offer an outlet to its investors, an IPO, has been dismissed by Butterfield as “a possibility still many years away.”

What would Amazon do with a company like Slack? Everything indicates it would be used to improve Amazon’s cloud computing, one of its more strategic lines, complementing the offer of storage, processing capacity and bandwidth, meaning that a company could function entirely on the cloud. A Kiva Robots-style acquisition, for internal use and development, does not seem likely: Slack has a very loyal customer base and exiting its market would open the door to numerous competitors.

for the moment, all this is speculation based on a few initial conversations about which neither company has spoken. But one way or another, Amazon’s interest is ample proof of the potential of these types of collaborative tools in internal environments in general, and Slack in particular.

(En español, aquí)