Aug
14
2019
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Procore brings 3D construction models to iOS

Today, Procore, a construction software company, announced Procore BIM (Building Information Modeling), a new tool that takes advantage of Apple hardware advances to bring the 3D construction model to iOS.

Dave McCool, senior product manager at Procore, says that for years architects and engineers have been working with 3D models of complex buildings on desktop computers and laptops, but these models never made it into the hands of the tradespeople actually working on the building. This forced them to make trips to the job site office to see the big picture whenever they ran into issues, a process that was inefficient and costly.

Procore has created a 3D model that corresponds to a virtual version of the 2D floor plan and runs on an iOS device. Touching a space on the floor plan opens a corresponding spot in the 3D model. What’s more, Procore has created a video game-like experience, so that contractors can use a virtual joystick to move around a 3D representation of the building, or they can use gestures to move around the rendering.

black iphone in landscape position held by a construction worker with a yellow hat a12584

Procore BIM running on an iPhone (Photo: Procore)

The app has been designed so that it can run on an iPhone 7, but for optimal performance, Procore recommends using an iPad Pro. The software takes advantage of Apple Metal, which gives developers “near direct” access to the GPU running on these devices. This ability to tap into GPU power speeds up performance and allows this level of sophisticated rendering quickly on iOS devices.

McCool says that this enables tradespeople to find the particular area on the drawing where their part of the project needs to go much more easily and intuitively, whether it’s wiring, duct work or plumbing. As he pointed out, it can get crowded in the space above a ceiling or inside a utility room, and the various teams need to work together to make sure they are putting their parts in the correct spot. Working with this tool helps make that placement crystal clear.

It’s essentially been designed to gamify the experience in order to help tradespeople who aren’t necessarily technically savvy operate the tool themselves and find their way around a drawing in 3D, while reducing the number of trips to the office to have a discussion with the architects or engineers to resolve issues.

This is the latest tool from a company that has been producing construction software since 2002. As a company spokesperson said, early on the company founder had to wire routers on the site to allow workers to use the earliest versions. Today, it offers a range of construction software to track financials, project, labor and safety management information.

Procore BIM will be available starting next month.

Jul
30
2019
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Catalyst raises $15M from Accel to transform data-driven customer success

Managing your customers has changed a lot in the past decade. Out are the steak dinners and ballgame tickets to get a sense of a contract’s chance at renewal, and in are churn analysis and a whole bunch of data science to learn whether a customer and their users like or love your product. That customer experience revolution has been critical to the success of SaaS products, but it can remain wickedly hard to centralize all the data needed to drive top performance in a customer success organization.

That’s where Catalyst comes in. The company, founded in New York City in 2017 and launched April last year, wants to centralize all of your disparate data sources on your customers into one easy-to-digest tool to learn how to approach each of them individually to optimize for the best experience.

The company’s early success has attracted more top investors. It announced today that it has raised a $15 million Series A led by Vas Natarajan of Accel, who previously backed enterprise companies like Frame.io, Segment, InVision, and Blameless. The company had previously raised $3 million from NYC enterprise-focused Work-Bench and $2.4 million from True Ventures. Both firms participated in this new round.

Catalyst CEO Edward Chiu told me that Accel was attractive because of the firm’s recent high-profile success in the enterprise space, including IPOs like Slack, PagerDuty, and CrowdStrike.

When we last spoke with Catalyst a year and a half ago, the firm had just raised its first seed round and was just the company’s co-founders — brothers Edward and Kevin Chiu — and a smattering of employees. Now, the company has 19 employees and is targeting 40 employees by the end of the year.

Team Photo

In that time, the product has continued to evolve as it has worked with its customers. One major feature of Catalyst’s product is a “health score” that determines whether a customer is likely to grow or churn in the coming months based on ingested data around usage. CEO Chiu said that “we’ve gotten our health score to be very very accurate” and “we have the ability to take automated action based on that health score.” Today, the company offers “prefect sync” with Salesforce, Mixpanel, Zendesk, among other services, and will continue to make investments in new integrations.

One high priority for the company has been increasing the speed of integration when a new customer signs up for Catalyst. Chiu said that new customers can be onboarded in minutes, and they can use the platform’s formula builder to define the exact nuances of their health score for their specific customers. “We mold to your use case,” he said.

One lesson the company has learned is that as success teams increasingly become critical to the lifeblood of companies, other parts of the organization and senior executives are working together to improve their customer’s experiences. Chiu told me that the startup often starts with onboarding a customer success team, only to later find that C-suite and other team leads have also joined and are also interacting together on the platform.

An interesting dynamic for the company is that it does its own customer success on its customer success platform. “We are our own best customer,” Chiu said. “We login every day to see the health of our customers… our product managers login to Catalyst every day to read product feedback.”

Since the last time we checked in, the company has added a slew of senior execs, including Cliff Kim as head of product, Danny Han as head of engineering, and Jessica Marucci as head of people, with whom the two Chius had worked together at cloud infrastructure startup DigitalOcean.

Moving forward, Chiu expects to invest further in data analysis and engineering. “One of the most unique things about us is that we are collecting so much unique data: usage patterns, [customer] spend fluctuations, [customer] health scores,” Chiu said. “It would be a hugely missed opportunity not to analyze that data and work on churn.”

Jul
29
2019
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The Exit: The acquisition charting Salesforce’s future

Before Tableau was the $15.7 billion key to Salesforce’s problems, it was a couple of founders arguing with a couple of venture capitalists over lunch about why its Series A valuation should be higher than $12 million pre-money.

Salesforce has generally been one to signify corporate strategy shifts through their acquisitions, so you can understand why the entire tech industry took notice when the cloud CRM giant announced its priciest acquisition ever last month.

The deal to acquire the Seattle-based data visualization powerhouse Tableau was substantial enough that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff publicly announced it was turning Seattle into its second HQ. Tableau’s acquisition doesn’t just mean big things for Salesforce. With the deal taking place just days after Google announced it was paying $2.6 billion for Looker, the acquisition showcases just how intense the cloud wars are getting for the enterprise tech companies out to win it all.

The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. It’s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off. [Have feedback? Shoot me an email at lucas@techcrunch.com]

Scott Sandell, a general partner at NEA (New Enterprise Associates) who has now been at the firm for 25 years, was one of those investors arguing with two of Tableau’s co-founders, Chris Stolte and Christian Chabot. Desperate to close the 2004 deal over their lunch meeting, he went on to agree to the Tableau founders’ demands of a higher $20 million valuation, though Sandell tells me it still feels like he got a pretty good deal.

NEA went on to invest further in subsequent rounds and went on to hold over 38% of the company at the time of its IPO in 2013 according to public financial docs.

I had a long chat with Sandell, who also invested in Salesforce, about the importance of the Tableau deal, his rise from associate to general partner at NEA, who he sees as the biggest challenger to Salesforce, and why he thinks scooter companies are “the worst business in the known universe.”

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Lucas Matney: You’ve been at this investing thing for quite a while, but taking a trip down memory lane, how did you get into VC in the first place? 

Scott Sandell: The way I got into venture capital is a little bit of a circuitous route. I had an opportunity to get into venture capital coming out of Stanford Business School in 1992, but it wasn’t quite the right fit. And so I had an interest, but I didn’t have the right opportunity.

Jul
24
2019
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Alibaba to help Salesforce localize and sell in China

Salesforce, the 20-year-old leader in customer relationship management (CRM) tools, is making a foray into Asia by working with one of the country’s largest tech firms, Alibaba.

Alibaba will be the exclusive provider of Salesforce to enterprise customers in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and Salesforce will become the exclusive enterprise CRM software suite sold by Alibaba, the companies announced on Thursday.

The Chinese internet has for years been dominated by consumer-facing services such as Tencent’s WeChat messenger and Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace, but enterprise software is starting to garner strong interest from businesses and investors. Workflow automation startup Laiye, for example, recently closed a $35 million funding round led by Cathay Innovation, a growth-stage fund that believes “enterprise software is about to grow rapidly” in China.

The partners have something to gain from each other. Alibaba does not have a Salesforce equivalent serving the raft of small-and-medium businesses selling through its e-commerce marketplaces or using its cloud computing services, so the alliance with the American cloud behemoth will fill that gap.

On the other hand, Salesforce will gain sales avenues in China through Alibaba, whose cloud infrastructure and data platform will help the American firm “offer localized solutions and better serve its multinational customers,” said Ken Shen, vice president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, in a statement.

“More and more of our multinational customers are asking us to support them wherever they do business around the world. That’s why today Salesforce announced a strategic partnership with Alibaba,” said Salesforce in a statement.

Overall, only about 10% of Salesforce revenues in the three months ended April 30 originated from Asia, compared to 20% from Europe and 70% from the Americas.

Besides gaining client acquisition channels, the tie-up also enables Salesforce to store its China-based data at Alibaba Cloud. China requires all overseas companies to work with a domestic firm in processing and storing data sourced from Chinese users.

“The partnership ensures that customers of Salesforce that have operations in the Greater China area will have exclusive access to a locally-hosted version of Salesforce from Alibaba Cloud, who understands local business, culture and regulations,” an Alibaba spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Cloud has been an important growth vertical at Alibaba and nabbing a heavyweight ally will only strengthen its foothold as China’s biggest cloud service provider. Salesforce made some headway in Asia last December when it set up a $100 million fund to invest in Japanese enterprise startups and the latest partnership with Alibaba will see the San Francisco-based firm actually go after customers in Asia.

Jul
08
2019
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The startups creating the future of RegTech and financial services

Technology has been used to manage regulatory risk since the advent of the ledger book (or the Bloomberg terminal, depending on your reference point). However, the cost-consciousness internalized by banks during the 2008 financial crisis combined with more robust methods of analyzing large datasets has spurred innovation and increased efficiency by automating tasks that previously required manual reviews and other labor-intensive efforts.

So even if RegTech wasn’t born during the financial crisis, it was probably old enough to drive a car by 2008. The intervening 11 years have seen RegTech’s scope and influence grow.

RegTech startups targeting financial services, or FinServ for short, require very different growth strategies — even compared to other enterprise software companies. From a practical perspective, everything from the security requirements influencing software architecture and development to the sales process are substantially different for FinServ RegTechs.

The most successful RegTechs are those that draw on expertise from security-minded engineers, FinServ-savvy sales staff as well as legal and compliance professionals from the industry. FinServ RegTechs have emerged in a number of areas due to the increasing directives emanating from financial regulators.

This new crop of startups performs sophisticated background checks and transaction monitoring for anti-money laundering purposes pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act, the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) and FINRA rules; tracks supervision requirements and retention for electronic communications under FINRA, SEC, and CFTC regulations; as well as monitors information security and privacy laws from the EU, SEC, and several US state regulators such as the New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”).

In this article, we’ll examine RegTech startups in these three fields to determine how solutions have been structured to meet regulatory demand as well as some of the operational and regulatory challenges they face.

Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering

Jul
02
2019
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KKR has acquired Corel (including its recent acquisition Parallels), reportedly for $1B+

Only six months after snapping up virtualization specialist Parallels, Canadian software company Corel is itself getting acquired. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with multiple sources that private equity giant KKR has closed a deal to buy the company from Vector Capital, which has owned some or all of Corel since 2003.

KKR’s interest in Corel was first rumored in May, when PE Hub reported the two were in talks for a sale valued at over $1 billion. At the time, representatives of Corel declined to comment, although our sources inside the company indicated that the reports were not inaccurate.

Fast-forward to today, and both KKR and and a spokesperson for Parallels/Corel declined to comment. But, we now have a copy of the memo provided by an internal source that has been sent out to staff announcing that the deal has indeed closed, and that Corel is now officially part of the KKR family of companies.

According to the memo, KKR is very optimistic about Corel’s prospects. It plans to give Corel an “infusion of capital” to accelerate its growth, which will go into two areas. First will be expanding operations for the existing business: Corel is the company behind a number of longstanding software brands including WordPerfect, Corel Draw, WinZip, PaintShop Pro. Second will be making acquisitions (and the sheer proliferation of promising startups in the last decade dedicated to all variety of apps and other software that may have found it a challenge to scale means Corel could have rich pickings).

There are no layoffs planned as part of the deal, and the official announcement had been planned to go out next week, but now looks like it may be moved up to tomorrow (Wednesday).

Vector and Corel itself have never publicly disclosed much on user numbers or financials, but Vector has described the company as “highly profitable,” with dividends of more than $300 million to date. The memo we’ve seen notes that Corel (including Parallels) has millions of customers across its various software platforms and apps.

The acquisition of Corel by KKR marks another chapter in the company’s long corporate history.

Founded in the 1980s — when personal computers were just starting to enter the mainstream but well before we had anything like the internet (not to mention the world of cloud-based apps) that we know today — Corel once positioned itself as a potential competitor to Microsoft in the software wars.

When Corel purchased WordPerfect from Novel in 1996, Corel founder Michael Cowpland viewed the software package as an integral part of that rivalry, describing it as the Pepsi to Microsoft’s Coke — that is, Word.

Microsoft proved the mightier of the two, and it even eventually signed a partnership with Corel that saw it investing in the company: a sell out, as one disappointed Canadian journalist described it at the time. The two have also sparred over patents.

Corel, which went public early in its life, got battered in the first dot-com bust (which was not helped by an insider trading scandal that led to Cowpland’s departure). Vector stepped in and took it private in 2003.

After restructuring the company, Vector listed Corel again in 2006. But, amid another recession that again hit Corel hard, it once more took it private in 2010. In the intervening years, Corel has been focused on modernising its offerings, bringing in e-commerce, direct downloads, subscriptions and acquisitions to bring the company’s products and wider business closer to how consumers and workers use computers today.

Parallels was a part of that strategy: its products help people work seamlessly across multiple platforms, letting employees (and IT managers) run a unified workflow regardless of the device or operating system, with Parallels providing support for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Linux, Raspberry Pi and cloud — a timely offering in the current, fragmented IT market.

If the $1 billion+ figure is accurate, that strategy seems to have worked: across the two times that Vector took Corel private, it never paid more than $124 million for the company (the second time, as its stock was tanking, it paid just $30 million).

Jun
28
2019
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Enterprise SaaS revenue hits $100B run rate, led by Microsoft and Salesforce

In its most recent report, Synergy Research, a company that monitors cloud marketshare, found that enterprise SaaS revenue passed the $100 billion run rate this quarter. The market was led by Microsoft and Salesforce.

It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point that these two enterprise powerhouses come in at the top. Microsoft reported $10.1 billion in Productivity and Business Processes revenue, which includes Office 365, the Dynamics line and LinkedIn, the company it bought in 2016 for $26.2 billion. That $10.1 billion accounted for the top spot with 17 percent

Salesforce was next with around 12%. It announced $3.74 billion in revenue in its most recent earnings statement with Service Cloud alone accounting for $1.02 billion in revenue, crossing that billion-dollar mark for the first time.

Adobe came in third, good for around 10% market share, with $2.74 billion in revenue for its most recent report. Digital Media, which includes Creative Cloud and Document Cloud, accounted for the vast majority of the revenue with $1.8 billion. SAP and Oracle complete the top companies

SaaS Q119

A growing market

While that number may seem low, given we are 20 years into the development of the SaaS market, it is still a significant milestone, not to be dismissed lightly. As Synergy pointed out, while the market feels mature, if finds that SaaS revenue still accounts for just 20 percent of the overall enterprise software market. There’s still a long way to go, showing as with the infrastructure side of the market, things change much more slowly than we imagine, and the market is growing rapidly, as the impressive growth rates show.

“While SaaS growth rate isn’t as high as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service), the SaaS market is substantially bigger and it will remain so until 2023. Synergy forecasts strong growth across all SaaS segments and all geographic regions,” the company wrote in its report.

Salesforce is the only one of the top five that was actually born in the cloud. Adobe, an early desktop software company, switched to cloud in 2013. Microsoft, of course, has been a desktop stalwart for many years before embracing the cloud over the last decade. SAP and Oracle are traditional enterprise software companies, born long before the cloud was even a concept, that began transitioning when the market began shifting.

Getting to a billion

Yet in spite of being late to the game, these numbers show that the market is still dominated by the old guard enterprise software companies and how difficult it is to achieve market dominance for companies born in the cloud. Salesforce emerged 20 years ago as an early cloud adherent, but of all of the enterprise SaaS companies that were started this century only ServiceNow and WorkDay show up in the Synergy list lumped in “the next 10.”

That’s not to say there aren’t SaaS companies making some serious money, just not quite as much as the top players to this point. Jason Lemkin, CEO and founder at SaaStr, a company that invests in and supports enterprise SaaS companies, says a lot of companies are close to that $1 billion goal than you might think, and he’s optimistic that we are going to see more.

“We will have at least 100 companies top $1 billion in ARR, probably many more. It is just math. Almost everyone IPO’ing [SaaS company] has 120-140% revenue retention. That will compound $100 million or $200 million to $1 billion. The only question is when,” he told TechCrunch.

SaaS revenue numbers by company

Chart courtesy of SaasStr

He adds that annualized numbers are very close behind ARR numbers and it won’t take long to catch up. Yet as we have seen with some of the companies on this list, it’s still not easy to get there.

It’s hard to develop a billion dollar SaaS company, and it takes time and patience, and perhaps some strategic acquisitions to get there, but the market trajectory continues to move upward. It will likely only grow stronger as more companies move to software in the cloud, and that bodes well for many of the players in this market, even those that didn’t show up on Synergy’s chart.

Jun
27
2019
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Fellow raises $6.5M to help make managers better at leading teams and people

Managing people is perhaps the most challenging thing most people will have to learn in the course of their professional lives – especially because there’s no one ‘right’ way to do it. But Ottawa-based startup Fellow is hoping to ease the learning curve for new managers, and improve and reinforce the habits of experienced ones with their new people management platform software.

Fellow has raised $6.5 million in seed funding, from investors including Inovia Capital, Felicis Ventures, Garage Capital and a number of angels. The funding announcement comes alongside the announcement of their first customers, including Shopify (disclosure: I worked at Shopify when Fellow was implemented and was an early tester of this product, which is why I can can actually speak to how it works for users).

The Fellow platform is essentially a way to help team leads interact with their reports, and vice versa. It’s a feedback tool that you can use to collect insight on your team from across the company; it includes meeting supplemental suggestions and templates for one-on-ones, and even provides helpful suggestions like recommending you have a one-on-one when you haven’t in a while; and it all lives in the cloud, with integrations for other key workplace software like Slack that help it integrate with your existing flow.

Fellow co-founder and CEO Aydin Mirzaee and his co-founding team have previous experience building companies: They founded Fluidware, a survey software company, in 2008 and then sold it to SurveyMonkey in 2014. In growing the team to over 100 people, Mirzaee says they realized where there were gaps, both in his leadership team’s knowledge and in available solutions on the market.

“Starting the last company, we were in our early 20s, and like the way that we used to learn different practices was by using software, like if you use the Salesforce, and you know nothing about sales, you’ll learn some things about sales,” Mirzaee told me in an interview. “If you don’t know about marketing, use Marketo, and you’ll learn some things about marketing. And you know, from our perspective, as soon as we started actually having some traction and customers and then hired some people, we just got thrown into it. So it was ‘Okay, now, I guess we’re managers.’ And then eventually we became managers of managers.”

Fellow Team Photo 2019

Mirzaee and his team then wondered why a tool like Salesforce or Marketo didn’t exist for management. “Why is it that when you get promoted to become a manager, there isn’t an equivalent tool to help you with that?” he said.

Concept in hand, Fellow set out to build its software, and what it came up with is a smartly designed, user-friendly platform that is accessible to anyone regardless of technical expertise or experience with management practice and training. I can attest to this first-hand, since I was a first-time manager using Fellow to lead a team during my time at Shopify – part of the beta testing process that helped develop the product into something that’s ready for broader release. I was not alone in my relative lack of management knowledge, Mirzaee said, and that’s part of why they saw a clear need for this product.

“The more we did research, the more we figured out that obviously, managers are really important,” he explained. “70% of customer engagements are due to managers, for instance. And when people leave companies, they tend to leave the manager, not the company. The more we dug into it the more it was clear that there truly was this management problem –  management crisis almost, and that nobody really had built a great tool for managers and their teams like.”

Fellow’s tool is flexible enough to work with specific management methodologies like setting SMART goals or OKRs for team members, and managers can use pre-set templates or build their own for things like setting meeting talking points, or gathering feedback from the colleagues of their reports.

Right now, Fellow is live with a number of clients including Shoify, Vidyard, Tulip, North and more, and it’s adding new clients who sign up on a case-by-case basis, but increasing the pace at which it onboard new customers. Mirzaee explained that it hopes to open sign ups entirely later this year.

Jun
25
2019
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Snowflake co-founder and president of product Benoit Dageville is coming to TC Sessions: Enterprise

When it comes to a cloud success story, Snowflake checks all the boxes. It’s a SaaS product going after industry giants. It has raised bushels of cash and grown extremely rapidly — and the story is continuing to develop for the cloud data lake company.

In September, Snowflake’s co-founder and president of product Benoit Dageville will join us at our inaugural TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise event on September 5 in San Francisco.

Dageville founded the company in 2012 with Marcin Zukowski and Thierry Cruanes with a mission to bring the database, a market that had been dominated for decades by Oracle, to the cloud. Later, the company began focusing on data lakes or data warehouses, massive collections of data, which had been previously stored on premises. The idea of moving these elements to the cloud was a pretty radical notion in 2012.

It began by supporting its products on AWS, and more recently expanded to include support for Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

The company started raising money shortly after its founding, modestly at first, then much, much faster in huge chunks. Investors included a Silicon Valley who’s who such as Sutter Hill, Redpoint, Altimeter, Iconiq Capital and Sequoia Capital .

Snowflake fund raising by round. Chart: Crunchbase

Snowflake fund raising by round. Chart: Crunchbase

The most recent rounds came last year, starting with a massive $263 million investment in January. The company went back for more in October with an even larger $450 million round.

It brought on industry veteran Bob Muglia in 2014 to lead it through its initial growth spurt. Muglia left the company earlier this year and was replaced by former ServiceNow chairman and CEO Frank Slootman.

TC Sessions: Enterprise (September 5 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center) will take on the big challenges and promise facing enterprise companies today. TechCrunch’s editors will bring to the stage founders and leaders from established and emerging companies to address rising questions, like the promised revolution from machine learning and AI, intelligent marketing automation and the inevitability of the cloud, as well as the outer reaches of technology, like quantum computing and blockchain.

Tickets are now available for purchase on our website at the early-bird rate of $395.

Student tickets are just $245 – grab them here.

We have a limited number of Startup Demo Packages available for $2,000, which includes four tickets to attend the event.

For each ticket purchased for TC Sessions: Enterprise, you will also be registered for a complimentary Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.

Jun
20
2019
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Slack opens at $38.50, a pop of 48% on its first day of trading on NYSE as WORK

Slack, the workplace messaging platform that has helped define a key category of enterprise IT, made its debut as a public company today with a pop. Trading as “WORK” on the New York Stock Exchange, it opened at $38.50 after setting a reference price last night of $26, valuing it at $15.7 billion, and then setting a bid/asking price of $37 this morning.

The trading climbed up quickly in its opening minutes and went as high as $42 and is now down to $38.95. We’ll continue to update this as the day goes on. These prices are pushing the market cap to around $20 billion.

Note: There was no “money raised” with this IPO ahead of today because Slack’s move into being a publicly traded company is coming by way of a direct listing — meaning the shares went directly on the market with no pre-sale. This is a less-conventional route that doesn’t involve bankers underwriting the listing (nor all the costs that come along with the roadshow and the rest). It also means Slack does not raise a large sum ahead of public trading. But it does let existing shareholders trade shares without dilution and is an efficient way of going public if you’re not in need of an immediate, large cash injection. It’s a route that Spotify also took when it went public last year, and, from the front-page article on NYSE.com, it seems that there might be growing interest in this process — or at least, that the NYSE would like to promote it as an option.

Slack’s decision to go slightly off-script is in keeping with some of the ethos that it has cultivated over the last several years as one of the undisputed juggernauts of the tech world. Its rocket ship has been a product that has touched on not one but three different hot growth areas: enterprise software-as-a-service, messaging apps and platform plays that, by way of APIs, can become the touchstone and nerve center for a seemingly limitless number of other services.

What’s interesting about Slack is that — contrary to how some might think of tech — the journey here didn’t start as rocket science.

Slack was nearly an accidental creation, a byproduct that came out of how a previous business, Tiny Speck, was able to keep its geographically spread-out team communicating while building its product, the game Glitch. Glitch and Tiny Speck failed to gain traction, so after they got shut down, the ever-resourceful co-founder Stewart Butterfield did what many founders who still have some money in the bank and fire in their bellies do: a pivot. He took the basic channel they were using and built it (with some help) into the earliest public version of what came to be known as Slack.

But from that unlikely start something almost surprising happened: the right mix of ease of use, efficient responsiveness and functionality — in aid of those already important areas of workplace communication, messaging and app integration — made Slack into a huge hit. Quickly, Slack became the fastest-growing piece of enterprise software ever in terms of adding users, with a rapid succession of funding rounds (raising over $1.2 billion in total), valuation hikes and multiple product improvements along the way to help it grow.

Today, like many a software-as-a-service business that is less than 10 years old and investing returns to keep up with its fast-growing business, Slack is not profitable.

In the fiscal year that ended January 31, 2019, it reported revenues in its S-1 of $400.6 million, but with a net loss of $138.9 million. That was a slight improvement on its net loss from the previous fiscal year of $140.1 million, with a big jump on revenue, which was $220.5 million.

But its growth and the buzz it has amassed has given it a big push. As of January 31, it clocked up over 10 million daily active users across 600,000 organizations, with 88,000 of them on paid plans and 550,000 using the free version of the app. It will be interesting to see how and if that goodwill and excitement outweighs some of those financial bum notes.

Or, in some cases, possibly other bum notes. The company has made “Work” not just its ticker but its mantra. Its slogan is “Where work happens” and it focuses on how its platform helps make people more productive. But as you might expect, not everyone feels that way about it, with the endless streams of notifications, the slightly clumsy way of handling threaded conversations and certain other distracting features raising the ire of some people. (Google “Slack is a distraction” and you can see some examples of those dissenting opinions.)

Slack has had its suitors over the years, unsurprisingly, and at least one of them has in the interim made a product to compete with it. Teams, from Microsoft, is one of the many rival platforms on the market looking to capitalise on the surge of interest for chat and collaboration platforms that Slack has helped usher in. Other competitors include Workplace from Facebook, Mattermost and Flock, along with Threads and more.

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