Slack files to goes public via direct listing on NYSE

In its S-1 filing, Slack said it had a net loss of $139 million on revenue of $401 million for the fiscal year ended January 31.

Slack on Friday took the next step toward its much anticipated debut on the open market. As expected, the company filed to go public via a direct listing -- in which existing shareholders sell stock to investors -- rather than an initial public offering, and will trade on the New York Stock Exchange using the ticker symbol SK. 

In its S-1 filing, Slack said it had a net loss of $139 million on revenue of $401 million for the fiscal year ended January 31. The company attributes the loss to its growth strategy, noting that it's opted "to invest in growing our business to capitalize on our market opportunity." 

Slack -- which was most recently valued at over $7 billion -- pointed out that its losses are shrinking as a percentage of revenue. In 2017 the company saw a net loss of $140 million on $221 million in revenue.

Slack said its workplace collaboration platform is used by more than 600,000 organizations in over 150 countries, and it has more than 10 million daily active users. Slack also revealed that it has more than 88,000 paid customers, and mover 500,000 organizations using its free subscription plan.

Nonetheless, Slack detailed the hurdles it faces as it works to scale its platform and grow its user base.

"Since our public launch in 2014, it has become apparent that organizations worldwide have similar needs, and are now finding the solution with Slack," the company wrote in its filing. "Our growth is largely due to word-of-mouth recommendations. Slack usage inside organizations of all kinds is typically initially driven bottoms-up, by end users. Despite this, we (and the rest of the world) still have a hard time explaining Slack. It's been called an operating system for teams, a hub for collaboration, a connective tissue across the organization, and much else. Fundamentally, it is a new layer of the business technology stack in a category that is still being defined."

Slack also gave some insight into its infrastructure -- it runs on Amazon Web Services -- and the risk factors associated with relying on third parties for such services.

"Our continued growth depends, in part, on the ability of existing and potential organizations on Slack to access Slack 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without interruption or degradation of performance," the company wrote. "Moreover, we depend on services from various third parties to maintain our infrastructure, including Amazon Web Services, or AWS. If a service provider fails to provide sufficient capacity to support Slack or otherwise experiences service outages, such failure could interrupt access to Slack by users and organizations, which could adversely affect."

Slack competes with Microsoft Teams and a bevy of incumbents and recent entrants to the workplace collaboration space. One of Slack's key differentiators is that works across platforms, letting users do most of their work in one place via plug-ins. The company last year acquired the intellectual property of Atlassian's Stride and Hipchat platforms in an effort to defend its market share against larger rivals.

Slack is likely to list on the NYSE sometime next month. 

Read also: Slack: The smart person's guide - TechRepublic