Taking up Slack: ‘Our goal is to be up there with the elite’

Office messaging platform said to be fastest growing business application in history

Ali Rayl of Slack: “The market is very bullish on our prospects, and so are we”.

Ali Rayl of Slack: “The market is very bullish on our prospects, and so are we”.

 

There was some serious eyebrow-raising recently when Slack announced it had raised an additional $250 million (€213 million) from investors in a move that values the company at $5.1 billion.

After all, with the office messaging platform having yet to touch any of the $360 million it raised in two previous rounds, and with it recently reporting $200 million in annual recurring revenues, it doesn’t exactly seem as though the company is strapped for cash.

“It is very much a ‘winter is coming’ fund,’” is how the company’s head of global customer experience Ali Rayl describes the impressive reserves Slack has amassed during a visit to Dublin.

Plenty of options

Ms Rayl, who was among the firm’s first eight employees, says the latest investment, led by Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund, gives the company plenty of options as it looks to repeat the success it has enjoyed in the US in other markets.

“If there is something we want to do that requires cash stores, we can just do it,” she tells The Irish Times.

The ease with which the company has raised funds is evidence of a great fundraising environment, she says.

“The market is very bullish on our prospects, and so are we, and we’re always excited to bring on new investors who can help us expand,” Ms Rayl adds.

Expansion is the very reason why Ms Rayl is in town. Slack employs about 800 people across seven offices worldwide, with the Dublin base largely responsible for the company’s push into new markets.

The platform has recently introduced French, German and Spanish languages versions, and it will soon also be available in Japanese. In addition, Slack has also just launched Shared Channels, a secure, common space to make working with external parties as straightforward and fluid as working internally with colleagues.

Fundamental change

Ms Rayl describes Shared Channels as “the most fundamental change ever made to the product”.

For the uninitiated, Slack is a workplace messaging platform for teams that promises to make communication and collaboration that bit easier by bringing popular services such as Twitter, Dropbox, Asana, Google Docs, MailChimp, Stripe and Zendesk into one environment.

You may not be using it, but plenty of other people are. What’s more, those who do adopt it often don’t just like it, they love it. Slack is reportedly the fastest growing business application in history. It currently has more than 6 million daily users, half of whom are based outside its core US market, with most users spending up to 10 hours a day on the platform.

The so-called “email killer” also has over 2 million paid users, including teams from close to half of the Fortune 100 firms.

Not bad for a product that only officially launched in February 2014 and which initially largely spread through word-of-mouth.

“We have enormous opportunities ahead of us. The field is still wide open, and we have a good incumbency and a fanbase that loves our product. Usually people don’t love the tools they have to use at work, but they tend to love Slack,” says Ms Rayl.

“Slack previously often used to be introduced into companies by stealth, but as we make more inroads into the enterprise market we see that it is those charged with workplace transformation that are bringing it in,” she adds.

The company first established an office in Dublin – its first facility outside of North America – in May 2015. It employs about 60 people locally, with this expected to grow to 180.

Ms Rayl describes the Dublin base as central to Slack’s expansion plans.

‘Crucial’ to success

“We opened an office here specifically with an eye towards becoming an international company. The work being done in Dublin is crucial to our future success.”

While many of the roles in Ireland are currently centred on areas such as sales and marketing, she expects this may change in the coming years.

“There is no reason we couldn’t expand engineering here,” says Ms Rayl.

The company has grown tenfold since 2015 and it is now going all out to become one of the biggest tech firms in the world.

“We’re at where Google was in 2002 and Facebook were in 2008, where they both took a big step back and looked at what foundations they needed to build to be the company they wanted to be in 10 years’ time. This is our time to do that,” says Ms Rayl.

“Our goal is to be up there with the elite. The opportunity is ours to seize and we are going all out to take advantage of it.”

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