Slack announces new admin features for larger organizations

Slack has been working to beef up the product recently for its larger customers. A couple of weeks ago that involved more sophisticated security tools. Today, it was the admins’ turn to get a couple of new tools that help make it easier to manage Slack in larger settings.

For starters, Slack has created an Announcements channel as a way send a message to the entire organization. It would typically be used to communicate about administrative matters like changes in HR policy or software updates. The Announcements channel allows admins to limit who can send messages, and who can respond, so the channels stay clean and limit chatter.

Illan Frank, director of product for enterprise at Slack, says that companies have been demanding this ability because they need a clean channel with reliable information from a trusted source.

“With this feature, [admins] can set this channel up as an announcement-only channel with the right folks in [IT or HR] who can who can make announcements, and now this is a clean, controlled environment for important announcements and updates,” Frank explained.

The other piece Slack is announcing today is new APIs for creating templated workspaces. This is especially useful in environments where users have to create a bevy of new spaces frequently. Picture a university with professors setting up spaces for each of their classes with a set of tools for students, who all have to join the space.

Doing this manually, especially when everybody is setting them up at the same time at the beginning of a semester, could be tedious and chaotic, but by providing programatic templated workflows, it brings a level of automation to the process.

Frank says while workspaces in and of themselves are not new, the automation layer is. “What is new about this is the API and the ability to automate the creation and management of these connectors [programmatically with code],” he said.

For starters, it will allow automated workspace creation based on information in Web forms. Later, the company will be adding scripting capabilities to build even more sophisticated workflows with automated configuration, apps and content.

Finally, Slack is automating the approval process for tools used inside Slack channels or workspaces. Pre-approved applications can be added to Slack automatically, while those not on the approved list would have to through a separate process to get approved.

The Announcements tool is available starting today for Plus and Enterprise Grid plans. The API and approval tools will be available soon for Enterprise Grid customers.


By Ron Miller

‘The Operators’: Experts from Airbnb and Carta on building and managing your company’s customer support

Welcome to this transcribed edition of The Operators. TechCrunch is beginning to publish podcasts from industry experts, with transcriptions available for Extra Crunch members so you can read the conversation wherever you are.

The Operators features insiders from companies like Airbnb, Brex, Docsend, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Carta, Slack, Uber, and WeWork sharing their stories and tips on how to break into fields like marketing and product management. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs on how to hire and manage experts from domains outside their own.

This week’s edition features Airbnb’s Global Product Director of Customer and Community Support Platform Products, Andy Yasutake, and Carta’s Head of Enterprise Relationship Management, Jared Thomas.

Airbnb, one of the most valuable private tech companies in the world, has millions of hosts who trust strangers (guests) to come into their homes and hundreds of millions of guests who trust strangers (hosts) to provide a roof over their head. Carta, a $1 Billion+ company formerly known as eShares, is the leading provider of cap table management and valuation software, with thousands of customers and almost a million individual shareholders as users. Customers and users entrust Carta to manage their investments, a very serious responsibility requiring trust and security.

In this episode, Andy and Jared share with Neil how companies like Airbnb, Carta, and LinkedIn think about customer service, how to get into and succeed in the field and tech generally, and how founders should think about hiring and managing the customer support. With their experiences at two of tech’s trusted companies, Airbnb and Carta, this episode is packed with broad perspectives and deep insights.

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Neil Devani and Tim Hsia created The Operators after seeing and hearing too many heady, philosophical podcasts about the future of tech, and not enough attention on the practical day-to-day work that makes it all happen.

Tim is the CEO & Founder of Media Mobilize, a media company and ad network, and a Venture Partner at Digital Garage. Tim is an early-stage investor in Workflow (acquired by Apple), Lime, FabFitFun, Oh My Green, Morning Brew, Girls Night In, The Hustle, Bright Cellars, and others.

Neil is an early-stage investor based in San Francisco with a focus on companies building stuff people need, solutions to very hard problems. Companies he’s invested in include Andela, Clearbit, Kudi, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Solugen, and Vicarious Surgical.

If you’re interested in starting or accelerating your marketing career, or how to hire and manage this function, you can’t miss this episode!

The show:

The Operators brings experts with experience at companies like Airbnb, Brex, Docsend, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Carta, Slack, Uber, WeWork, etc. to share insider tips on how to break into fields like marketing and product management. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs on how to hire and manage experts from domains outside their own.

In this episode:

In Episode 5, we’re talking about customer service. Neil interviews Andy Yasutake, Airbnb’s Global Product Director of Customer and Community Support Platform Products, and Jared Thomas, Carta’s Head of Enterprise Relationship Management.


Neil Devani: Hello and welcome to the Operators, where we talk to entrepreneurs and executives from leading technology companies like Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Carta about how to break into a new field, how to build a successful career, and how to hire and manage talent beyond your own expertise. We skip over the lofty prognostications from venture capitalists and storytime with founders to dig into the nuts and bolts of how it all works here from the people doing the real day to day work, the people who make it all happen, the people who know what it really takes. The Operators.

Today we are talking to two experts in customer service, one with hundreds of millions of individual paying customers and the other being the industry standard for managing equity investments. I’m your host, Neil Devani, and we’re coming to you today from Digital Garage in downtown San Francisco.

Joining me is Jared Thomas, head of Enterprise Relationship Management at Carta, a $1 billion-plus company after a recent round of financing led by Andreessen Horowitz. Carta, formerly known as eShares, is the leading provider of cap table management and valuation software with thousands of customers and almost a million individual shareholders as users. Customers and users trust Carta to manage their investments, a very serious responsibility requiring trust and security.

Also joining us is Andy Yasutake, the Global Product Director of Customer and Community Support Platform Products at Airbnb, one of the most valuable private tech startups today. Airbnb has millions of hosts who are trusting strangers to come into their homes and hundreds of millions of guests who are trusting someone to provide a roof over their head. The number of cases and types of cases that Andy and his team have to think about and manage boggle the mind. Jared and Andy, thank you for joining us.

Andy Yasutake: Thank you for having us.

Jared Thomas: Thank you so much.

Devani: To start, Andy, can you share your background and how you got to where you are today?

Yasutake: Sure. I’m originally from southern California. I was born and raised in LA. I went to USC for undergrad, University of Southern California, and I actually studied psychology and information systems.

Late-90s, the dot com was going on, I’d always been kind of interested in tech, went into management consulting at interstate consulting that became Accenture, and was in consulting for over 10 years and always worked on large systems of implementation of technology projects around customers. So customer service, sales transformation, anything around CRM, as kind of a foundation, but it was always very technical, but really loved the psychology part of it, the people side.

And so I was always on multiple consulting projects and one of the consulting projects with actually here in the Bay Area. I eventually moved up here 10 years ago and joined eBay, and at eBay I was the director of product for the customer services organization as well. And was there for five years.

I left for Linkedin, so another rocket ship that was growing and was the senior director of technology solutions and operations where I had all the kind of business enabling functions as well as the technology, and now have been at Airbnb for about four months. So I’m back to kind of my, my biggest passion around products and in the customer support and community experience and customer service world.


By Arman Tabatabai

Ment.io wants to help your team make decisions

Getting even the most well-organized team to agree on anything can be hard. Tel Aviv’s Ment.io, formerly known as Epistema, wants to make this process easier by applying smart design and a dose of machine learning to streamline the decision-making process.

Like with so many Israeli startups, Ment.io’s co-founders Joab Rosenberg and Tzvika Katzenelson got their start in Israel’s intelligence service. Indeed, Rosenberg spent 25 years in the intelligence service, where his final role was that of the deputy head analyst. “Our story starts from there, because we had the responsibility of gathering the knowledge of a thousand analysts, surrounded by tens of thousands of collection unit soldiers,” Katzenelson, who is Ment.io’s CRO, told me. He noted that the army had turned decision making into a form of art. But when the founders started looking at the tech industry, they found a very different approach to decision making — and one that they thought needed to change.

If there’s one thing the software industry has, it’s data and analytics. These days, the obvious thing to do with all of that information is to build machine learning models, but Katzenelson (rightly) argues that these models are essentially black boxes. “Data does not speak for itself. Correlations that you may find in the data are certainly not causations,” he said. “Every time you send analysts into the data, they will come up with some patterns that may mislead you.”

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So Ment.io is trying to take a very different approach. It uses data and machine learning, but it starts with questions and people. The service actually measures the level of expertise and credibility every team member has around a given topic. “One of the crazy things we’re doing is that for every person, we’re creating their cognitive matrix. We’re able to tell you within the context of your organization how believable you are, how balanced you are, how clearly you are being perceived by your counterparts, because we are gathering all of your clarification requests and every time a person challenges you with something.”Ment1

At its core, Ment.io is basically an internal Q&A service. Anybody can pose questions and anybody can answer them with any data source or supporting argument they may have.

“We’re doing structuring,” Katzenelson explained. “And that’s basically our philosophy: knowledge is just arguments and counterarguments. And the more structure you can put in place, the more logic you can apply.”

In a sense, the company is doing this because natural language processing (NLP) technology isn’t yet able to understand the nuances of a discussion.Ment6If you’re anything like me, though, the last thing you want is to have to use yet another SaaS product at work. The Ment.io team is quite aware of that and has built a deep integration with Slack already and is about to launch support for Microsoft Teams in the next few days, which doesn’t come as a surprise, given that the team has participated in the Microsoft ScaleUp accelerator program.

The overall idea here, Katzenelson explained, is to provide a kind of intelligence layer on top of tools like Slack and Teams that can capture a lot of the institutional knowledge that is now often shared in relatively ephemeral chats.

Ment.io is the first Israeli company to raise funding from Peter Thiel’s late-stage fund, as well as from the Slack Fund, which surely creates some interesting friction, given the company’s involvement with both Slack and Microsoft, but Katzenelson argues that this is not actually a problem.

Microsoft is also a current Ment.io customer, together with the likes of Intel, Citibank and Fiverr.

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By Frederic Lardinois

Slack makes some key security enhancements

As Slack makes its way deeper into the enterprise, it needs to layer on more sophisticated security measures like the encryption key management feature it released last year. Today, the company published a blog post outlining its latest security strategy, and while it still doesn’t include end-to-end encryption of Slack messaging, it is a big step forward.

For many companies, there is a minimum level of security they will require before they use a tool like Slack company-wide, and this is particularly true for regulated industries. Slack is trying to answer some of these concerns with today’s post.

As for end-to-end (E2E) encryption, Slack believes it would adversely affect the user experience and says there hasn’t been a lot of customer demand for it so far. “If we were to add E2E encryption, it would result in limited functionality in Slack. With EKM (encryption key management), you gain cryptographic controls, providing visibility and opportunity for key revocation with granularity, control and no sacrifice to user experience,” a Slack spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Today, the company provides the ability for admins to require Touch ID or Face ID or to enter a passcode on a mobile device. In addition, if a user reports a device stolen, admins can wipe Slack conversations remotely, although this is currently only available through an API.

What they have coming soon is a new administrative dashboard, where admins can manage all of this kind of security in a single place. They will even be able to detect if a person is using a jail-broken phone and shut down access to the phone. In addition, they will be able to force upgrades to the latest version of Slack by not allowing access until the person downloads the latest version.

Later this year, admins will be able to block files downloaded from Slack desktop that come from outside of a set of pre-approved IP addresses. And on the mobile side, they will be able to force file links to open in an approved browser.

All of these features are designed to make administrators feel more comfortable using Slack in a secure and reliable way. One of Slack’s big strengths is its ability to integrate with other pieces of the enterprise software ecosystem, but companies still want control over what files are shared and how they open across devices. These new tools go a long way toward easing those types of concerns.


By Ron Miller

Monday.com raises $150M more, now at $1.9B valuation, for workplace collaboration tools

Workplace collaboration platforms have become a crucial cornerstone of the modern office: workers’ lives are guided by software and what we do on our computers, and collaboration tools provide a way for us to let each other know what we’re working on, and how we’re doing it, in a format that’s (at best) easy to use without too much distraction from the work itself.

Now, Monday.com, one of the faster growing of these platforms, is announcing a $150 million round of equity funding — a whopping raise that points both to its success so far, and the opportunity ahead for the wider collaboration space, specifically around better team communication and team management.

The Series D funding — led by Sapphire Ventures, with Hamilton Lane, HarbourVest Partners, ION Crossover Partners and Vintage Investment Partners also participating — is coming in at what reliable sources tell me is a valuation of $1.9 billion, or nearly four times Monday.com’s valuation when it last raised money a year ago.

The big bump is in part to the company’s rapid expansion: it now has 80,000 organizations as customers, up from a mere 35,000 a year ago, with the number of actual employees within those organizations numbering as high as 4,000 employees, or as little as two, spanning some 200 industry verticals, including a fair number of companies that are non-technical in their nature (but still rely on using software and computers to get their work done). The client list includes Carlsberg, Discovery Channel, Phillips, Hulu and WeWork and a number of Fortune 500 companies.

“We have built flexibility into the platform,” Roy Mann, the CEO who co-founded the company with Eran Zinman, which is one reason he believes why it’s found a lot of stickiness among the wider field of knowledge workers looking for products that work not unlike the apps that they use as average consumers.

All those figures are also helping to put Monday.com on track for an IPO in the near future, said Roy Mann, the CEO who co-founded the company with Eran Zinman.

“An IPO is something that we are considering for the future, he said in an interview. “We are just at 1% of our potential, and we’re in a position for huge growth.” In terms of when that might happen, he and Zinman would not specify a timeline, but Mann added that this potentially could be the last round before a public listing.

On the other hand, there are some big plans up ahead for the startup, including adding in a free usage tier (to date, the only free on Monday.com is a free trial, all usage tiers have been otherwise paid), expanding geographically and into more languages, and continuing to develop the integration and automation technology that underpins the product. The aim is to have 200 applications working with Monday.com by the end of this year.

While the company is already generating cash and it has just raised a significant round, in the current market, that has definitely not kept venture-backed startups from raising more. (Monday.com, which first started life as Dapulse in 2014, has raised $234.1 million to date.)

Monday.com’s rise and growth are coming at an interesting moment for productivity software. There have been software platforms on the market for years aimed at helping workers communicate with each other, as well as to better track how projects and other activity are progressing. Despite being a relatively late entrant, Slack, the now-public workplace chat platform, has arguably defined the space. (It has even entered the modern work lexicon, where people now Slack each other, as a verb.)

That speaks to the opportunity to build products even when it looks like the market is established, but also — potentially — competition. Mann and Zinman are clear to point out that they definitely do not see Slack as a rival, though. “We even use Slack ourselves in the office,” Zinman noted.

The closer rivals, they note, are the likes of Airtable (now valued at $1.1 billion) and Notion (which we’ve confirmed with the company was raising and has now officially closed a round of $10 million on an equally outsized valuation of $800 million), as well as the wider field of project management tools like Jira, Wrike and Asana — although as Mann playfully pointed out, all of those could also feasibly be integrated into Monday.com and they would work better…

The market is still so nascent for collaboration tools that even with this crowded field, Mann said he believes that there is room for everyone and the differentiations that each platform currently offers: Notion, he noted as an example, feels geared towards more personal workspace management, while Airtable is more about taking on spreadsheets.

Within that, Monday.com hopes to position itself as the ever-powerful and smart go-to place to get an overview of everything that’s happening, with low-chat noise and no need for technical knowledge to gain understanding.

“Monday.com is revolutionizing the workplace software market and we’re delighted to be partnering with Roy, Eran, and the rest of the team in their mission to transform the way people work,” said Rajeev Dham, managing partner at Sapphire Ventures, in a statement. “Monday.com delivers the quality and ease of use typically reserved for consumer products to the enterprise, which we think unlocks significant value for workers and organizations alike.”


By Ingrid Lunden

Yes, Slack is down

Are your co-workers ignoring you? Welcome to my world! In your case, however, that is probably because Slack is currently down (as of about 11AM EST). According to its status page, some workspaces are experiencing issues with messages sending and loading.

Slack outage notice

Slack outage notice

We will update this post once the Slack outage is over.

/giphy so alone


By Catherine Shu

Slack speeds up its web and desktop client

Slack is launching a major update to its web and desktop today that doesn’t introduce any new features or a new user interface. Instead, it’s almost a complete rebuild of the underlying technology that makes these two experiences work. Over the course of the last year or so, Slack worked on shifting the web and desktop clients (which essentially use the same codebase) to a modern stack and away from jQuery and other technologies it used when it first introduced these tools in 2012.

“We want people to be able to run Slack alongside anything else they’re using to get their job done and have that be easy, uncumbersome, delightful even. So we took a look at the environment we’re in,” Jaime DeLanghe, Director of Product Management at Slack, told me. “I think the other thing to note is that the ecosystem for client-side development has just changed a lot in the past five years. There have been some major updates to JavaScript and new technologies like React and Redux to make it easier to build dynamic web applications. We also wanted to update our stack to fit in with the modern paradigm.”

02 Speed Slack desktop side by side

Over the course of the last few months, the team actually quietly rolled out a lot of the prep work for this move, though the full extent of the work is only going to become apparent once you update the client to the latest version as its the new Electron app that will bring it all together.

Slack promises that this new version will use up to 50 percent less memory than before and that Slack will load 33 percent faster. Joining an incoming call will also be ten times faster now.

A lot of these changes will be especially apparent to users who are part of multiple workspaces. That’s because, as DeLanghe stressed, the team designed the new architecture with the assumption that many users are now part of multiple workspaces. Those used to take up a lot of memory and CPU cycles when you switched between them, as each workspace used to get its own Electron process in the old app. 2019 07 21 1907

In the updated app, Slack went with React to build all of the UI components and instead of waiting for all the data to load before displaying the UI, the new app now lazily loads data as it becomes available.

The result of this is an experience that also now allows you to at least read previously opened channels and conversations when you are offline.

04 Low connectivity Slack desktop side by side

What’s maybe even more important, though, is that Slack now has a modern client to build on, which should speed up feature development going forward. “I’m not going to over-promise,” DeLanghe said. “This removes one of the barriers that any company that’s scaling and building features at the same time has to think about. […] This makes that tradeoff a little bit easier.”

The update will roll out to all users over the course of the next few weeks. That’s because this is a two-part change.  You’ll need both the new desktop application and become eligible for the new version. Some of this is out of Slack’s hands, as your IT department may decide how it rolls out updates, for example.

03 Memory Slack desktop side by side


By Frederic Lardinois

Microsoft says Teams now has 13M daily active users

Teams, Microsoft’s two-year-old Slack competitor, is the company’s fastest-growing application in its history. That’s something Microsoft has said in the past, but for the first time, Microsoft today also announced actual user numbers for the service ahead of its Inspire partner conference next week. Teams now has 13 million active daily users, Microsoft said, and 19 million weekly active users. Microsoft also today said that Teams is now in use by 91 of the Fortune 100 companies.

The company isn’t afraid of putting those numbers up against Slack, which IPOed only a few weeks ago. Jared Spataro, Microsoft Corporate VP for Microsoft 365, doesn’t mention Slack by name in his blog post, but the company put together a little graphic that clearly shows why it is now willing to share these numbers.

The last official number from Slack is that it had 10 million daily active users in January. Without updates numbers from Slack, it’s hard to say if Teams now has more users, but unless Slack’s growth accelerated in recent months, that’s probably the case.

2019 07 11 1047In addition to disclosing these numbers, Microsoft also announced a number of updates to Teams that range from features like priority notifications, which take the annoyance of chat notifications to a new level by pinging you every two minutes until you respond, to read receipts, new moderation and cross-posting options for Teams channels and a time clock feature that lets employees clock in and out of work shifts right from the Teams mobile apps.

Since Inspire is an event for Microsoft partners, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Microsoft is also launching a few new Teams features that involve its resellers and other partners. These include the ability to integrate teams with compliance recording partners like ASC, NICE and Verint Verba, as well as a contact center solution in partnership with Five9, Nice InContact and others. The most important of these announcements, though, is surely the fact that Microsoft is launching a new partner-led Teams trial (PDF) that will enable Microsoft 365 partners to offer their customers that are on the Exchange-only or Office 365 Business plan a free six-month trial of Teams. This will surely bolster Microsoft’s user numbers for Teams in the coming months, too.


By Frederic Lardinois

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 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 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 outweigh 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 to usher in. Other competitors include Workplace from Facebook, Mattermost and Flock, along with Threads and more.


By Ingrid Lunden

Daily Crunch: Slack makes its Wall Street debut

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Slack prices IPO at $26 per share

Slack is debuting on the New York Stock Exchange today. Trading hasn’t opened yet as I write this, but The Wall Street Journal reports that the company has set a price of $26 per share.

The enterprise communication company is pursuing a direct listing, eschewing the typical IPO process in favor of putting its current stock on to the NYSE without doing an additional raise or bringing on underwriter banking partners.

2. Waymo takes its self-driving car ambitions global in partnership with Renault-Nissan

Waymo has locked in an exclusive partnership with Renault and Nissan to research how commercial autonomous vehicles might work for passengers and packages in France and Japan.

3. UK age checks for online porn delayed after bureaucratic cock-up

Digital minister Jeremy Wright said the government failed to notify the European Commission of age verification standards it expects companies to meet. Without this notification, the government can’t legally implement the policy.


4. iRobot acquires education startup Root Robotics

Root Robotics is the creator of an eponymous coding robot, a two-wheeled device designed to draw on whiteboards and other surfaces, scanning colors, playing music and otherwise playing out coding instructions.

5. SaaS data protection provider Druva nabs $130M, now at a $1B+ valuation, acquiring CloudLanes

Druva has made a name for itself as a provider of cloud-based solutions to protect and manage IT assets.

6. Why all standard black Tesla cars are about to cost $1,000 more

Tesla will start charging $1,000 for its once-standard black paint color next month, according to a tweet by CEO Elon Musk.

7. Tally’s Jason Brown on fintech’s first debt roboadvisor and an automated financial future

We sat down with Tally’s founder and CEO Jason Brown to discuss a new funding round, Tally’s growth strategy and the company’s vision for an automated financial future. (Extra Crunch membership required.)


By Anthony Ha

VCs bet $12M on Troops, a Slackbot for sales teams

Slack wants to be the new operating system for teams, something it has made clear on more than one occasion, including in its recent S-1 filing. To accomplish that goal, it put together an in-house $80 million venture fund in 2015 to invest in third-party developers building on top of its platform.

Weeks ahead of its direct listing on The New York Stock Exchange, it continues to put that money to work.

Troops is the latest to land additional capital from the enterprise giant. The New York-based startup helps sales teams communicate with a customer relationship management tool plugged directly into Slack. In short, it automates routine sales management activities and creates visibility into important deals through integrations with employee emails and Salesforce.

Troops founder and chief executive officer Dan Reich, who previously co-founded TULA Skincare, told TechCrunch he opted to build a Slackbot rather than create an independent platform because Slack is a rocket ship and he wanted a seat on board: “When you think about where Slack will go in the future, it’s obvious to us that companies all over the world will be using it,” he said.

Troops has raised $12 million in Series B funding in a round led by Aspect Ventures, with participation from the Slack Fund, First Round Capital, Felicis Ventures, Susa Ventures, Chicago Ventures, Hone Capital, InVision founder Clark Valberg and others. The round brings Troops’ total raised to $22 million.

Launched in 2015 by New York tech veterans Reich, Scott Britton and Greg Ratner, the trio weren’t initially sure of Slack’s growth trajectory. It wasn’t until Slack confirmed its intent to support the developer ecosystem with a suite of developer tools and a fund that the team focused its efforts on building a Slackbot.

“People sometimes thought of us, at least in the early days, as a little bit crazy,” Reich said. “But now Slack is the fastest-growing SaaS company ever.”

“We think the biggest opportunity in the [enterprise SaaS] category is going to be tools oriented around the customer-facing employee (CRM), and that’s where we are innovating,” he added.

Troops’ tools are helpful for any customer-facing team, Reich explains. Envoy, WeWork, HubSpot and a few hundred others are monthly paying subscribers of the tool, using it to interact with their CRM in a messaging interface and to receive notifications when a deal has closed. Troops integrates with Salesforce, so employees can use it to search records, schedule automatic reports and celebrate company wins.

Slack, in partnership with a number of venture capital funds, including Accel, Kleiner Perkins and Index, has also deployed capital to a number of other startups, like Lattice, Drafted and Loom.

With Slack’s direct listing afoot, the Troops team is counting on the imminent and long-term growth of the company’s platform.

“We think it’s still early days,” Reich said. “In the future, we see every company using something like Troops to manage their day-to-day.”


By Kate Clark

The Slack origin story

Let’s rewind a decade.

It’s 2009. Vancouver, Canada.

Stewart Butterfield, known already for his part in building Flickr, a photo-sharing service acquired by Yahoo in 2005, decided to try his hand — again — at building a game. Flickr had been a failed attempt at a game called Game Neverending followed by a big pivot. This time, Butterfield would make it work.

To make his dreams a reality, he joined forces with Flickr’s original chief software architect Cal Henderson, as well as former Flickr employees Eric Costello and Serguei Mourachov, who like himself, had served some time at Yahoo after the acquisition. Together, they would build Tiny Speck, the company behind an artful, non-combat massively multiplayer online game.

Years later, Butterfield would pull off a pivot more massive than his last. Slack, born from the ashes of his fantastical game, would lead a shift toward online productivity tools that fundamentally change the way people work.

Glitch is born

In mid-2009, former TechCrunch reporter-turned-venture-capitalist M.G. Siegler wrote one of the first stories on Butterfield’s mysterious startup plans.

“So what is Tiny Speck all about?” Siegler wrote. “That is still not entirely clear. The word on the street has been that it’s some kind of new social gaming endeavor, but all they’ll say on the site is ‘we are working on something huge and fun and we need help.’”

Siegler would go on to invest in Slack as a general partner at GV, the venture capital arm of Alphabet .

“Clearly this is a creative project,” Siegler added. “It almost sounds like they’re making an animated movie. As awesome as that would be, with people like Henderson on board, you can bet there’s impressive engineering going on to turn this all into a game of some sort (if that is in fact what this is all about).”

After months of speculation, Tiny Speck unveiled its project: Glitch, an online game set inside the brains of 11 giants. It would be free with in-game purchases available and eventually, a paid subscription for power users.


By Kate Clark

Slack aims to be the most important software company in the world, says CEO

Slack this morning disclosed estimated preliminary financial results for the first quarter of 2019 ahead of a direct listing planned for June 20.

Citing an addition of paid customers, the workplace messaging service posted revenues of about $134 million, up 66 percent from $81 million in the first quarter of 2018. Losses from operations increased from $26 million in Q1 2018 to roughly $39 million this year.

In addition to filing updated paperwork, the Slack executive team gathered on Monday to make a final pitch to potential shareholders, emphasizing its goal of replacing email within enterprises across the world.

“People deserve to do the best work of their lives,” Slack co-founder and chief executive officer Stewart Butterfield said in a video released alongside a livestream of its investor day event. “This desire of feeling aligned with your team, of removing confusion, of getting clarity; the desire for support in doing the best work of your life, that’s universal, that’s deeply human. It appeals to people with all kinds of roles, in all kinds of industries, at all scales of organization and all cultures.”

“We believe that whoever is able to unlock that potential for people … is going to be the most important software company in the world. We aim to be that company,” he added.”

Slack, valued at more than $7 billion with its last round of venture capital funding, plans to list on the NYSE under the ticker symbol “SK.”

The business filed to go public in April as other well-known tech companies were finalizing their initial public offerings. Following Uber’s disastrous IPO last week, public and private market investors alike will be keeping a close-eye on Slack’s stock market performance, which may determine Wall Street’s future appetite for Silicon Valley’s unicorns.

Though some of the recent tech IPOs performed famously, like Zoom, Uber and Lyft’s performance has served as a cautionary tale for going out in poor market conditions with lofty valuations. Uber began trading last week at below its IPO price of $45 and is today down significantly at just $36 per share. Lyft, for its part, is selling for $47.5 apiece today after pricing at $72 per share in March.

Slack isn’t losing billions per year like Uber but it’s also not as close to profitability as expected. In the year ending January 31, 2019, Slack posted a net loss of $138.9 million and revenue of $400.6 million. That’s compared to a loss of $140.1 million on revenue of $220.5 million for the year ending January 31, 2018. In its S-1, the company attributed its losses to scaling the business and capitalizing on its market opportunity.

Workplace messaging startup Slack said Monday, February 4, 2019 it had filed a confidential registration for an initial public offering, becoming the latest of a group of richly valued tech enterprises to look to Wall Street. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo credit should read ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Slack currently boasts more than 10 million daily active users across more than 600,000 organizations — 88,000 on the paid plan and 550,000 on the free plan.

Slack has been able to bypass the traditional roadshow process expected of an IPO-ready business, opting for a path to Wall Street popularized by Spotify in 2018. The company plans to complete a direct listing, which allows companies to forgo issuing new shares and instead sell existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors directly to the market, in mid-June. The date, however, is subject to change.

Slack has previously raised a total of $1.2 billion in funding from investors, including Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Social Capital, SoftBank, Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins.


By Kate Clark

Against the Slacklash

Such hate. Such dismay. “How Slack is ruining work.” “Actually, Slack really sucks.” “Slack may actually be hurting your workplace productivity.” “Slack is awful.” Slack destroys teams’ ability to think, plan & get complex work out the door.” “Slack is a terrible collaboration tool.” “Face it, Slack is ruining your life.”

Contrarian view: Slack is not inherently bad. Rather, the particular way in which you are misusing it epitomizes your company’s deeper problems. I’m the CTO of a company which uses Slack extensively, successfully, and happily — but because we’re a consultancy, I have also been the sometime member of dozens of others’ Slack workspaces, where I have witnessed all the various flavors of flaws recounted above. In my experience, those are not actually caused by Slack.

Please note that I am not saying “Slack is just a tool, you have to use it correctly.” Even if that were so, a tool which lends itself so easily to being used so badly would be a bad tool. What I’m saying is something more subtle, and far more damning: that Slack is a mirror which reflects the pathologies inherent in your workplace. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our Slacks, but in ourselves.


By Jon Evans

Slack to livestream pitch to shareholders on Monday ahead of direct listing

Slack, the ubiquitous workplace messaging tool, will make its pitch to prospective shareholders on Monday at an invite-only event in New York City, the company confirmed in a blog post on Wednesday. Slack stock is expected to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange as soon as next month.

Slack, which is pursuing a direct listing, will livestream Monday’s Investor Day on its website.

An alternative to an initial public offering, direct listings allow businesses to forgo issuing new shares and instead sell existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors directly to the market. Slack, like Spotify, has been able to bypass the traditional roadshow process expected of an IPO-ready business, as well as some of the exorbitant Wall Street’s fees.

Spotify, if you remember, similarly livestreamed an event that is typically for investor’s eyes only. If Slack’s event is anything like the music streaming giant’s, Slack co-founder and chief executive officer Stewart Butterfield will speak to the company’s greater mission alongside several other executives.

Slack unveiled documents for a public listing two weeks ago. In its SEC filing, the company disclosed a net loss of $138.9 million and revenue of $400.6 million in the fiscal year ending January 31, 2019. That’s compared to a loss of $140.1 million on revenue of $220.5 million for the year before.

Additionally, the company said it reached 10 million daily active users earlier this year across more than 600,000 organizations.

Slack has previously raised a total of $1.2 billion in funding from investors including Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Social Capital, SoftBank, Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins.


By Kate Clark