When you joined Slack, you brought a certain set of skills. Do you believe it was these skills or perhaps your vision for the future that brought you on to the team?
I believe it was the skills. My prior gig I was the Head of Engineering at Pinterest. I was both the CTO and VP of engineering. It was two very different jobs like “build the machine” and “run the machine”. My particular skills would be “run the machine”, one of the reasons I went to Slack was Cal Henderson who was the Founder and CTO over there. He had “built the machine” and my job is the people running the machine including products and processes too. We are very complimentary and very different people.
When I got there 2 years ago, 3 weeks in we were having a problem with the site and it was interesting to see how your team reacts. I was thinking “this will be interesting to see how my team deals with this crisis?”. Interestingly enough it was Cal that was fixing the issue himself. The CTO himself was doing it and this both gave me joy and a little terror too! He knew how the product works and I feel I know how the people work.
Tell us about the GRID product?
Slack started 4 years ago as a free product and then later as a paid product. It was wildly successful! Our Enterprise customer (much larger customers) would have a whole new set of requirements and also normally have a whole lot of users and GRID was about bringing Enterprise class Slack to these customers. The example I always use is: when you’ve got 500-700 people in your team you can have them all in one workspace within Slack. However, when you get to having 100,000 people, all those people and all of those channels in 1 workspace is a lot of cognitive overload. GRID allows you to organise Slack in different departments and bucket sections into different domains. So that people can focus on the thing they most care about. The important thing is you can still communicate with everybody you have access too. You can still instant message anyone you need too and better still can scale up to more if required.
Being a grid, does that mean you can isolate the areas that people can search and have access to as well?
Yes, you can search just by your workspace, but one of the joys of Slack that we bring to the table is; anything that is “public” you can search for (there are also private channels for smaller groups to work in). So if its in the engineering space you’re going to see that – but let’s just say- something in PR or in Marketing has just happened and I want to search for that too. This is definitely one of the value propositions of Slack and it levels the playing field in terms of access to information. I can also find things that would also be outside of my usual workflow and I think that’s one of the reasons people love it.
Who is your target market?
It’s a silly little answer, but it’s anybody who works. I think that the starting target market was really in the builders, the folks that want to be more efficient. The folks that maybe are a little more tech savvy? That’s where a lot of our business started was from the base that these groups where folks that were using tools where saying that they currently weren’t great: they wanted something faster, etc. Now we are targeting those that aren’t so work savvy to help them with their workflows and make our tool more accessible and easy. There is excellent functionality that supports their business needs.
We can support businesses from Sole Traders to up to 120,000 people on our platform, so its massively scaleable.
As I’m sure you’re aware GDPR is a hot topic at the moment, how are you protecting our data?
The question here is “How does Slack make money?” It’s in a really simple way! This is one of the reasons I went there. I build the product and now I sell it and if you like it and are getting value from it, you pay for it. It’s really simple right? I was at Pinterest beforehand, which is an ads business and it was a lovely business and an amazing product. But the question is, is how are you going to make money? The answer is, you’re going to make money by selling ads.
That ads piece, changes the dynamic of how your actually making money, so there’s not really much that I have to do in terms of protecting your data because I’m not trying to do anything with your data. Your company, is your data.
There is normally an employer contract that you sign with a company about your email and their data, is their data. You’ll have compliance exports which will allow folks to do that.
Slack announced several changes to our product offerings and policies to comply with the GDPR. We announced these changes so customers can prepare themselves for GDPR’s implementation. For free or standard plans, Workspace Owners must contact Slack and apply to export content from private channels and direct/group messages. We will reject applications, unless Workspace Owners show in each instance (a) valid legal process, or (b) consent of members, or (c) a requirement or right under applicable laws in order to export data.
You mentioned that you had some key developments you wanted to mention?
The one I am most excited about is a new feature that is currently in BETA right now. We really believe that all of work can happen inside of Slack and obviously there is other things out there, like other tools that you can use. We want to make Slack capable of all of the work, all of the decisions and everyone communicating inside of Slack. But here’s the thing you still have your A company and your B company. So how are you going to get these two companies communicating? More than likely messaging or email maybe? No, what we’re going to do is Shared Channels that gives you an ability to create a channel between two different businesses and have it all still inside of Slack. It’s still early days with what we are doing there, but we think that people will be getting greater value from this than their current Slack.
So you have told us about your developments, what are you going to eb adding as value over the next 12 months?
I get asked this question a lot. We are doing a lot of work right now, Slack is doing really well right now. This is not the most PR friendly answer but we are really, really focused on the basics right now. The thing about Slack is you have small little pieces of delight. It’s these little ways we can surprise you. This is also another one of the reasons I went there, it’s very Apple-y in its way it helps look out for you and make it easier to use the tool. Saying that and doing that are twi very different things. We are growing and getting bigger and bugger customers and it has to perform well and worldwide, so this is a year of fit and finishing and talking to a lot of people.
So it’s “grassroots” principally for the next 12 months? Are you then looking to expand and get more satellite offices?
Oh absolutely! I would expect next year to have a lot of growth in terms of specifically around engineering around the world is my guess.
Final question, do you know how many of your users are mobile users to desktop users?
That’s a good question. I think it’s about 30% (not confirmed) of our reads that is coming from mobile. Most of the people who message through Slack tend to be on desktop but the actual people reading on mobile would be around that figure.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Michael.