A senior Slack technologist says the software company is committed to expansion in Ireland by the end of the year as part of plans for growth in the EMEA market.
James Sherrett said Dublin will play a "crucial role" in the success of the business communication and collaboration tool's future when he was in Belfast earlier this month for the Digital DNA conference at St George's Market.
Slack (Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge) has five staff in London and since opening in Dublin in 2015 the team at its European headquarters has grown to 60 employees.
“That’s set to double by the end of the year, as we continue to increase our business operations, sales and customer experience teams,” he said.
“This will make it the biggest office outside the west coast of the US, where we are headquartered.”
As a further sign of its commitment to Dublin, Slack strengthened its leadership team earlier in the year when it hired Johann Butting as head of sales for EMEA and Chiara Henderson as head of customer experience in EMEA – both of whom are based in Dublin.
“It’s from our Dublin office where we provide leadership and expertise for our international initiatives such as multilingual support, multiple currencies and, coming soon, in-language support,” he said.
"Our Dublin office plays a crucial role in helping the 45 per cent of our paying customers based in Europe as we continue to grow."
Slack, which has five million daily active users, is at a pivotal point and Europe is set to play a key role.
Securing $540 million investment from VCs including Kleiner Perkins and Andreessen Horowitz, the young company is valued at $3.8 billion and is helping organisations as diverse as IBM, AirBnB, EA and Father Ted and The IT Crowd creator Graham Linehan, change the way they communicate and ultimately be more productive.
Sherrett was part of the Dublin “landing party” in 2015 and says over the next five to 10 years systems such as Slack will be what everyone uses in favour of email.
He speaks of why Slack picked Dublin as a base.
“Dublin had a great track record of other companies similar to ours that are US-based software companies starting there – terrific workforce, talented, we needed to be able to hire quickly, and we heard a great consistent narrative from other companies that Dublin was a terrific place to run a hub,” he said.
Sherrett says demand for Slack is high in Europe.
"We have had great success opening a London office to specifically serve UK-focused companies in London as well as throughout the UK and we are seeing increased traction in Scandinavian countries, the Nordic, Germany and France so it will just be a matter of internationalisation so Slack will be in German, in French, in Spanish very soon," he said.
“Our help centre is already there, we are just wrapping up our capabilities to be able to support people in those languages and sell to them and then actually the product itself will be localised as well.”
The possible implications of Brexit is “certainly on our radar” but is not something that has influenced Slack’s plans for growth.
“I think we are dealing with pretty imperfect information at this stage in terms of what the consequences will be,” he said.
“The UK is the number two software market in the world so it will always be an important market whether it’s part of the EU or not.”
Sherrett, from Vancouver, Canada, says moving to Dublin has been " a terrific adventure" and he enjoys the people because of their affinity for the arts, expressive nature and work ethic.
“They have got a great kind of expressive nature and they are also hard working, entrepreneurial, we have had great success building our team here,” he said.
Sherrett delivered a speech on innovation at the Digital DNA conference in Belfast.
"I took as my starting point the classic Clayton Christensen book The Innovator's Dilemma, which is a business school classic, and then kind of recast it based on what I have learned at Slack and called it 'The Innovator's Trilemma' which is really focused on people, culture and fear."
On businesses successfully executing digital transformation whatever their size, he says there has been “a groundswell in terms of the ways of working” and the trend that “software is eating the world”.
“Ten years ago you didn’t have software to answer the door at entrances and exits, you didn’t have software for customer service analytics, you didn’t have software for iOS applications and so the more and more software proliferates the more powerful tools people have,” he said.
“But yet the people inside the organisation are the main factor that drives their performance and they still need simple, effective, productive ways to get work done so for out customers Slack is really where work happens because communication is really the heartbeat of any organisation.
“So if you can successfully help them become 32 per cent more productive like our customers tell us then it becomes a really compelling way to work.”
There has been heavy investment in digital security and protecting information as at it is the top of Slack’s list of priorities.
“It is incredibly important the trust our customers place in us to manage their communications and the same trust that we place in our own tool because Slack is the backbone of our organisation.
“It is an integral part of how we operate in every decision.”
Sherrett says Slack messaging allows organisations to communicate and share quickly, make decisions faster and put the focus not in systems and files, but rather be “built around people”.
“So people then become part of channels and then channels is where you communicate for the most part so you address messages and files and things like that and everyone is involved in the conversation.”
Sherrett believes email will be around for another 20 to 30 years as “it’s kind of, as our CEO has said, ‘the cockroach of the internet’, it’s hard to kill, it crosses organisational boundaries really well as the lowest common denominator”.
“But if email is what you use for internal communications I think it’s madness in terms of what you are giving up to competitors and what you are giving up in terms of what you could do more effectively,” he said.
“I think within five to 10 years we will see everybody using a messaging system like Slack, or Slack. It drives accountability and improves the culture and transparency in organisations that use it.”
Sherrett says the best way to figure out if Slack is a good fit for an organisation or a team is to actually try it. “You can try it for free.”