What’s New at Slack amid IPO Discussions?
Slack introduces Block Kit and prepares itself for direct listing
It’s been a busy start to 2019 for Slack. Since Microsoft Teams launched their freemium version to challenge Slack’s own free version, we’ve seen incremental changes across their product and brand. From the latest launch of Block Kit to their upcoming IPO, let’s cover off what’s been happening at Slack since the turn of the year.
Slack describe Block Kit as a new “UI framework that offers you more control and flexibility when building messages for Slack”. Block Kit is obviously made of “blocks.” These are stackable bits of message UI, that can be modified to dictate the order and appearance of communications and data received in Slack.
Block Kit offers two ways to get started. Firstly, you can use the templated option. Predefined templates are provided to get you up to speed when you decide to utilise the Slack API. Apps currently using Block Kit include some you may be using today:
- Woobot – a Salesforce connector integrated between the two core business apps
- Guru – a knowledge network that delivers information to Slack regardless of location
- Doodle Bot – meeting integration for sharing, scheduling and suggesting times to meet
- Optimizely – an experimentation platform, enabling marketing and product teams to test, learn and deploy
On 20th March, Slack will be hosting a webinar entitled “Building with Block Kit” for users to get to grips with the new builder.
Even more integration
All in all, Block Kit opens the door to more integrations into Slack. Famed for its user experience and integration ecosystem, you’d have thought Slack would be happy with what they already provided. The sign of a great company is one that is always innovating and believes in continuous improvement. Slack knows its strengths and they’re only getting stronger.
With yet more access to integrations, Slack takes another step in its journey to displace email and be the app that you work in – not just one of the apps you work in. With competition heating up in the collaboration game between Slack and Microsoft Teams, the battle to integrate more and more into a single interface will be a major play. As enterprises recognise the sheer number of apps in use today, choosing between Slack and Microsoft Teams for collaboration is a must – unless they become totally interoperable so both platforms can co-exist.
New logo – and another new logo
Product aside, Slack unveiled a new logo at the start of this year. The traditional hashtag was replaced with a few lines and a splash in a simple colour palette. Slack said this was part of their plan to create a new and more cohesive visual identity.
Users were quick to point out that the logo was made up of an incredibly similar colour scheme as Microsoft. The inevitable rumours that Microsoft was out to buy them started to circulate. @BrainExpresso on Twitter cited:
— Rolli Vogel (@BrainEspresso) January 17, 2019
Since the initial logo change, Slack has now ditched the background – in favour of a plain white background. This is designed to stand out more on Android and iOS devices. And it does. Unless you had Slack next to Cisco Webex Teams, Buffer, Google or Facebook Messenger.
IPO versus direct listing
Slack reported in early February that they had registered for a direct listing of its stock on the public market. Investors were already looking at online only platforms like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and Pinterest. The allure for investment is clear. Here you have several companies using online services to power their already successful business.
Whilst there are a lot of examples of these, none stand out more so than Slack in the collaboration world. From a humble startup in 2013 to being valued at around $7bn in 2019, everyone wants a piece of the Slack pie. However, there is talk around the Slack pie becoming more of a crumble. History dictates that shares often plummet following completion.
The surrounding chatter in the industry is around Slack’s decision to go public. A direct listing skips the underwriter and existing shareholders sell their stock directly to the new parties. Risk is also incurred as there is no guaranteed market. Unlike the stock market, the number of shares available depends on how many are up for sale at that given time.
Investors could be put off by the lack of information and predictability during this listing. There’s also a huge element of risk in buying a successful company like Slack – why would they want to sell? From humble beginnings to taking on telecoms giants in Microsoft and Cisco, Slack has seen unbridled success. Is this the end of the road? Can they do no more? It’s hard to predict but seems unlikely they’re ready to down tools and stop innovating. Remember that Microsoft Teams rumour earlier?
What’s next for Slack?
With regards to the direct listing, what will happen between now and then is unclear. Slack is clearly taking some steps to present the brand and the company as best as possible. This phase is like when you are ready to sell your house. Before the estate agents comes to take the photos, you make sure everything is cleaned and tidied away. By the time of your first viewing, the carpets have been shampooed, your dogs have lived outside all day and you’ve baked a loaf of bread for the first time in your life.
As these preparations take place, Slack users reportedly couldn’t start a #general channel in Slack. It looked like the replacement was an #everyone channel. I reached out to Slack, who confirmed the following: “Every Slack workspace comes with a #general channel by default, so, technically, it isn’t possible to create such a channel as it should already exist.
Now, workspace administrators do have the ability to change the name of this default channel from #general into something else”.
The next milestone event scheduled for Slack’s year is Slack Frontiers. Slack’s annual conference runs April 24–25 in San Francisco and includes literal big hitter, Serena Williams delivering a key note. It will be full of industry speakers, technical sessions and networking opportunities. What’s uncertain is whether there will be any big news regarding the IPO or any new functionality to be introduced. Keep reading UC Today for further developments.