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Work Week | How Not To Connect

| Slack Steps In It | Staffbase Raises $145M | Airtable Valued at $5.7B | Box on the Block | CoScreen Launches |

Stowe Boyd
Apr 2 · 6 min read

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Photo by Stephen Phillips — Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash

In Slack is becoming a full messaging app, David Pierce breathlessly wrote about Slack’s allowing direct messaging across the ecosystem of users:

It’s [texting] the highest, most elusive rung of the business communication ladder, and it’s exactly what Slack wants to replace.

[…]

Connect DMs mean that, in theory, Slack can be the only place most employees talk about work. If that happens, it creates a powerful growth engine for the platform, because using Slack no longer requires any kind of organizational buy-in. A freelance designer might use Slack to talk to all their clients, or a salesperson at a Slack-free company might use it to talk to Slack-using partners. Slack’s best move has always been to worm its way into a company a few people at a time, before the bosses catch on and pay up. Now all it takes is one.

Or a troll could send threats to someone they hardly — or don’t — know.

No surprise then this blew up in Slack’s face since they hadn’t considered the larger implications. In Slack backtracks after ‘DM anyone’ feature set up users for harassment, Jack Morse explores the mess:

The latest addition to Slack Connect, announced Wednesday, aimed to “replace email outside your company” by letting users send direct messages to any Slack user, anywhere. There was just one, rather large problem with this lofty goal: Many Slack users didn’t want to receive DMs from anyone, anywhere, and feared the new service included the potential for abuse.

After some consideration, it seems Slack agreed.

“After rolling out Slack Connect DMs this morning, we received valuable feedback from our users about how email invitations to use the feature could potentially be used to send abusive or harassing messages,” Jonathan Prince, Slack’s vice president of communications and policy, explained over email. “We are taking immediate steps to prevent this kind of abuse, beginning today with the removal of the ability to customize a message when a user invites someone to Slack Connect DMs.”

In order to DM anyone, users were first prompted to send an invitation email to that person. Which makes sense, in theory, except for the fact that the invitation emails from a Slack email domain could contain custom — and potentially threatening or harassing — text. And because those emails would be coming from Slack itself, they would be more difficult to block.

“Anytime a platform decides to create new and unexpected linkages between its users, trust and safety considerations must be worked in as part of the design,” Jackie Singh, a former senior cybersecurity staffer in the Biden campaign who was personally targeted last year in a social media-tied doxxing campaign, explained over Twitter direct message. “The way this feature has been released does not indicate sufficient thought was put into the user experience at scale.”

Other potential Slack users shared their concerns on Twitter.

“My first reaction to this news was ‘oh, another way men can harass women on the internet,’” wrote the Wilson Center’s Nina Jankowicz. “Did @SlackHQ talk to ANY women before rolling this out?”

Snap.

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General Atlantic leads $145 million financing round in Staffbase | Intranet and engagement platform Staffbase has announced a major round of funding, led by General Atlantic, and joined by existing investors Insight Partners, e.ventures, KIZOO, and Capnamic Ventures. This follows closely on the acquisition of Bananatag, Canada’s leading internal communications solution.

Dr. Martin Böhringer, Co-Founder and CEO of Staffbase commented on the raise:

Our vision is to unite all of a company’s employees through strong internal communications and a shared mission. To bring this about, we provide managers and communications specialists at enterprise companies with the leading digital platform for successful employee communications — a platform that we are expanding very rapidly. The partnership with General Atlantic will further help us achieve this and accelerate our growth, especially in North America. The strong local team and the expertise it provides are decisive for us.

Regarding the Bananatag merger Böhringer lays out a vision:

Our customers’ communicators and leaders report unprecedented engagement rates and a new culture of “togetherness” at their organizations. I have visited many of our customers to learn more about the impact of our platform on their companies. I quickly came to realize that we are more to them than just a new communications channel.

In the same way as society at large, the companies we work with are facing increasing division, contradicting opinions, declining trust in authority, and a diminishing common denominator. These companies need unity now more than ever in the midst of radical transformation and global uncertainty. Change is everywhere and it’s happening fast.

The number-one leadership task in organizations today is to find a common goal and to get people excited about it. Given the diverse audience they are tasked with uniting, this is a gigantic task.

Seems like they are following the trends in what was formerly called intranets but which is increasingly focused on employee experience (see Microsoft Viva Changes Everything).

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Airtable Tops $5.7 Billion Valuation On Growing Enterprise Sales And A Soaring Cloud Market | Steven Bertoni reports on a massive $270 million series E round:

Howie Liu, the cofounder and CEO of cloud software start-up Airtable, has raised a $270 million Series E round at a valuation of $5.77 billion.

Neil Mehta of Greenoaks Capital led the round, which included a first-time investment from Jeffery Katzensberg’s WndrCo and earlier investors Caffeinated Capital, CRV, and Thrive.

More than doubled the valuation from $2.5 billion since September 2020’s $185 million series D. Airtable — and the spreadbase market — is on fire.

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Reports say Box is for sale. Who would buy it? | Virginia Backaitis never answers the question she raises, but adds an additional question, because despite CEO Aaron Levie’s attempts at propping up a strong story for Box — record billings, record $100,000 plus deals, and so on — there is an indisputable fact:

Box’s stock closed today at about the same price as it did six years ago. When you consider that some traders have said Box Inc.could be sold at $36 dollars per share, right now, who can blame them for hoping that Box will be sold.

Exclusive: Box explores sale amid pressure from Starboard — sources | Greg Roumeliotis, Joshua Franklin

U.S. cloud services provider Box Inc is exploring a sale amid pressure from hedge fund Starboard Value LP over its stock performance, according to people familiar with the matter.

Long anticipated, since the Giants are providing file sync-and-share for pennies.

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CoScreen Launches with $4.6M in Seed Funding | May Lauren Arad of CoScreen announces the company’s seed round.

I wrote about CoScreen in Brief | CoScreen: An Idea and a Product back in late 2019, describing it like this:

Today on Product Hunt, I encountered a truly new idea, one taking advantage of the new landscape of devices. Many people now use secondary (or even tertiary) screens on their desks. What if the near-ubiquity of secondary screens could enable a new approach to collaboration?

CoScreen — a company and product destined to be made into a verb — has taken that premise and run with it. Imagine if you could designate one of your screens as a shared desktop, and whatever you drag onto your shared screen is shared on the secondary screens of your coworkers: coscreening.

source: CoScreen

They have opened the public beta.

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GigaOm

GigaOm is the leading global voice on emerging technologies. We help transform enterprises with insight and guidance in an AI-enriched, data-driven world.

Stowe Boyd

Written by

Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

GigaOm

GigaOm is the leading global voice on emerging technologies. We help transform enterprises with insight and guidance in an AI-enriched, data-driven world.

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