Slack: What Is It & Why Do Startups Adore It?

Posted on December 2, 2015 by in Resources | 6 comments

Slack: What Is It & Why Do Startups Adore It?

Slack was never expected to be the wildly popular app that it is now.

Stewart Butterfield, who you might know as one of the co-founders of Flickr, didn’t anticipate any of this when he and his team created what we now know as Slack.

In fact, they were a game development company, working on a game called Glitch, and the only reason they decided to build a team communication app was that they wanted to streamline communication for their own team.

Things changed when Glitch went under. It was time to shut down the game and start looking for jobs. At that time, the folks realized that none of them wanted to work without a communication app like that ever again. And they were convinced that if other people tried it, they’d feel the same way.

So they decided to turn their internal project into a proper product, put it on the market, and see what happens. Slack was launched in February 2013… And that was the beginning of their meteoric rise to fame.

One year after the launch, Slack had over 500,000 daily active users across the globe, from Tokyo to London to New York, and it was adding $1 million ARR (annual recurring revenue) every 11 days.

With this wildfire growth, it took Slack only 8 months to go from 0 to 1.12 billion valuation, and today it’s valued at $2.8 billion.

So what is it about Slack that makes life easier for startups?

What is Slack?

“Wait, slow down, what is this Slack thing you’re talking about?” For those who don’t know, Slack is a modern team collaboration app that makes working together much, much easier:

And there’s a reason for Slack’s unprecedented growth: it’s better than any alternative out there.

Here’s why:

#1 Slack reduces internal email

Today, when people open their inbox, they feel overwhelmed. Everyday, there’s a bunch of emails flooding in, at a rate that is impossible to handle. What’s even worse, personal emails, work emails, and marketing emails all get mixed up, which means that it’s getting harder and harder to separate signal from noise.

This is a massive problem for startups that need to move fast in order to keep their edge. Working on a complicated product with a group of people scattered all over the world means that one missed email might start a domino effect that leads to missed deadlines, lost market share, and going under.

Slack solves this problem by drastically reducing the need for internal email. Teams using Slack report a 48.6% reduction in internal email. But that’s just the average… When 1,629 team owners and admins were asked how much has Slack helped them reduce internal email, a staggering 329 replied 80%-100%.

The team at Coachseek, an online scheduling tool for coaching businesses, ditched email for Slack.

CoachSeek reduced internal email after Slack

Image Source: CoachSeek

Slack absorbed all their internal communication, enabling them to cut their internal mail from 600 to 3 or 4 for the entire team.

#2 Slack keeps all your communication in one place

With a wide variety of social apps available, keeping track of all work-related communication can be a real headache, especially when dealing with large and remote teams.

Again, startups need to move fast in a competitive marketplace, and they can’t do that without everyone being on the same page. But you can’t reasonably expect your team to keep track of all the communication that happens via bunch of different apps, from Hangouts to Skype to Yammer, can you? Predictably, using a myriad apps for communication leads to problems.

However, with Slack, it’s all there, in one place, for everyone to see. The tool offers easy integration with popular services, from Gmail to GitHub to DropBox. Here are just a few examples…

Slack integrates with several different services

Image Source: Slack

That means that you don’t have to shuffle through different apps anymore…You can see all communication from a single portal.

Click here to see the full list of available integrations.

#3 Slack makes it easy to manage a remote team

Salespoint, a company that offers location based services in a mobile CRM, had to allow one of its star programmers to spend more time at home for personal reasons. They decided to try Slack, as they felt tools like Skype weren’t the right fit of keeping everybody connected. The app offers many ways to chat, including one on one messaging, private channels for certain projects, or company wide channels for updates and recent notifications.

It was an immediate success. Nobody had to ask for help, and the team just started using it efficiently. It made the company feel as if its remote workers were right there in the office with them. Remote employees can set up their channels with different agendas, while one general channel can be used for announcements concerning the entire company.

Ghost, an open-source software company dedicated to publishing, calls Slack its remote office. The app not only allows team members to talk easily with each other, but also shows all the activity happening with other tools.

Managing a remote team with Slack

Image Source: Ghost

Team members get to see what goals are updated on Trello, who is updating GitHub, and when new leads convert. They said if there’s one remote-team tool they can’t live without, it’s definitely Slack.

By bringing open communication in one place, Slack makes it easy for companies to manage a distributed team and promote office culture among remote staffers.

#4 Slack increases productivity

Unlike big, established companies, startups eat what they kill. Everyone is well aware of the fact that their runway is limited… And if they run out of cash before they break even or secure another round of investment, that’s it, game over. Everyone can go home and start looking for another job.

In large corporations, managers pay lip service to the importance of productivity, but, as anyone who has worked in an office will attest, there are plenty of opportunities to watch cat videos on your employer’s dime. However, in startups, productivity is not some vague concept, it’s a matter of survival.

And that’s what Slack’s popularity really boils down to. The less emails, meetings, and miscommunication one has to deal with, the more time is left for, well, actual work.

Slack increases productivity by 32 percent

Image Source: Slack

Teams using Slack report that a 25.1% reduction in meetings, 48.6% reduction in internal email, and 80.4% increase in transparency resulted in a 32% increase in team productivity.

TheSquareFoot, a company that provides concierge and online search services for companies looking to expand or relocate, thinks Slack is one of the best productivity tools around. They’ve created specific channels within the app, such as a snack channel where everyone can make a list of snacks they want at the office. By making specific channels, it was easier for them to have productive conversations and reference previous information.

#5 Slack makes it easy to search anything

Did someone post a new tweet in Slack? Are team members working on active projects? Did you miss out on a fun conversation between two employees? You can keep up with all these things using Slack’s search function. Unlike other tools where you need to write first and then press Enter, Slack’s search function takes you to related information directly after you write.

Results can be seen from the “Flexpane”, and users can filter these with the “More Options” button. You can search for everyone’s communication or just a specific user. Then there’s also an option to search by specific channels, and limit search results to specific groups and channels. Users can see latest messages with the “Most Recent tab”, and relevant messages with the “Most Relevant” tab.

Slack search function

Image Source: Dan Dascalescu’s Wiki

There’s even an option to expand search results. Users who select “Jump” will move their main feed to the result, while those who select “+ More Options” will get access to some options to filter search results. All options work in both Files and Messages tab. In addition, search modifiers can be used to perform quick searches. Examples of these modifiers include “during:may” and “from:me”.

#6 Slack creates a friendly atmosphere

Slack is becoming popular for water cooler conversations. Companies that use Slack rely on it to create a friendly atmosphere where everyone is comfortable about saying anything, just as they would be in real life. Staff members can discuss anything, from #inspiration and #ideas to #crazyvideos and #music, to have a good laugh.

Slack creates a friendly atmosphere

Image Source: 15five

Slate’s staff writer Amanda Hess revealed they use Slack to talk about everything from sensitive topics to dating. And when a millennial in their company turns 30, the Slack Bot is preconfigured to display a string of emoji: five stars, a skull, and four volcanoes, to hint a volcanic sacrifice in their honor.

Apart from sharing humor, users can join Slack communities to network with like-minded professionals and exchange valuable resources. There are communities for top managers, as well as for people who just want to have fun.

It’s becoming a trend amongst Slack users to open up the app just to have a good time. It doesn’t feel like work. And it can even be customized according to one’s taste. People love using it.

#7 Slack promotes transparency

With Slack, everyone knows what’s going on and everyone can participate in conversations, which helps to ensure that the entire team is on the same page, as well as to avoid misunderstandings and resentment.

The combination of office chat mechanism and automated notifications is great for sharing news, social media, errors, and anything the team views as important.

Slack promotes transparency

Image Source: Kent Nguyen

Slack’s dashboard gives a visual summary of how the team is using Slack. These indicators provide further ways to build transparency, collaboration, and connectedness in the team. Stats are available for users on the Standard Plan and above. This is extremely useful to ensure that everyone has access to the right information.

Is Slack here to stay?

Slack has come a long way since its release, but it needs to transition from being messaging-focused into a well-rounded enterprise software. The acquisition of Screenhero earlier in the year shows that the company is making the right decisions to diversify itself beyond facilitating employee collaboration (the market for which is going to get more cutthroat). Why focus on chatting only when the same tool can be used to store documents, share screen, and more.

What are your thoughts? Do you use Slack for your business? If yes, what do you like about it the most? We’d love to hear your experiences in comments below.

Article thumbnail via Ellagrin // Shutterstock.com

6 Comments

  1. I’ve been hearing about Slack from a few guys I know in my same business, but couldn’t see the need for it. Perhaps I will give it a whirl and see if there’s any way we can use it to streamline. My Office Manager (I’m the owner) always complains that I just yell things across the office rather than actually putting it into the notes file or sending an email. Perhaps this will be the solution.

  2. I’ve not used SLACK yet, but I’m sure I will for something — or help someone set it up for their business. I have used Mobilize.io however and love it for communication with groups. Probably the biggest way it differs from SLACK is that it connects directly to your email… so it isn’t about less emails but more communication through email. For some groups I work with (such as schools) that is more easily used by parents, teachers and administration than having to login to a “platform” of any kind.

    I do think SLACK is here to stay though. It will change — the entire internet is changing right now and soon we’ll see the “NEW” website (which won’t be a website at all) that will revolutionize what the internet becomes — but it is here to stay and may be part of that new.

  3. I am using Slack due to attending a sociaLIGHT Toronto conference in which Seth Godin was a keynote speaker. Attendees are part of a Slack group including Seth and I found it interesting to follow discussions live during Seth’s talk while I was simultaneously live-tweeting. I am getting regular notifications from within this group with opportunities for ongoing public and private discussions in an atmosphere of startups helping each other. However it is just another app on top of the many I am already using separately due to various social media, Evernote, etc., even though I understand Slack does integrate with a multitude of platforms…So I would say I am an early adopter but still learning the ropes and finding it interesting but not compelling enough yet to draw me into it wholeheartedly, likely due to my being a freelancer/ sole proprietor.

  4. I run a small marketing company with 7 staff across Canada. We use slack daily. I couldn’t image collaborating without it. We just rock the free version, but as soon as we grow into a paid account it will be money well spent.

  5. Great post. I’ve been unsure exactly what Slack is for a while.

    Just need to find an excuse to start using it, maybe the Elegant Themes blogging team should adopt it.

  6. I know SLACK and i use it for Headway Support. But there is another one on the market and it has more languages. It is similar like SLACK and called Social Shared.

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