​Slack grows with office launch in Australia

Slack has opened its sixth global office in Melbourne to cater for the Asia-Pacific region and time zone, which will mainly employ customer service support staff.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Slack has opened its first Australian office in Melbourne to cater for the increasingly growing Asia-Pacific market.

The Melbourne-based office is the company's sixth global office, with company CEO and co-founder Stewart Butterfield saying during the official ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday the main decision to open an office in Australia is to cater for the Asia-Pacific region and time zone.

Seek, Isobar, and REA Group are some Australian customers that are already using Slack.

The office will mainly be made up of customer service support staff.

Slack CTO Cal Henderson told ZDNet that unlike other communication business applications such as Yammer, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2012 for $1.2 million, Slack's success so far has been driven by the application's ability to become a central hub for instant messaging, as well as synchronous and long-form asynchronous communication, regardless if people are mobile, in the office, or in a different time zone.

As of February 2016, the company claims to have 2.3 million daily active users and was experiencing 10-fold growth in users in 2015, when the size of the average paid team increased by 20 percent.

"Yammer was hugely successful, but I think the big difference we've seen is Yammer added another channel, where you have to communicate with people," he said.

"We tried Yammer pre-Slack and it was really popular for a week, and the second week people would post stuff, and by the third week to make sure people saw what you posted you would email someone. By adding another communication channel, it was doomed to failure."

Henderson further added that since companies started using Slack in place of other communication tools, the use of emails has dropped by 95 percent.

The company has been partnering and integrating with other services including Twitter, Dropbox, Trello, Google Docs, and MailChimp. The Slack app store now contains 300-plus applications, with Slack having only built a handful of those integrated, which are the "higher end software", Henderson said.

"Initially when we first built Slack, we went after services that we use and our initial customers, which were tech companies in the Bay area, use. Over time as Slack has grown we've shifted towards letting third parties built services within Slack, so if you're starting any SaaS business it makes sense for you to integrate with Slack because that's what your customers want," he said.

According to Henderson, integration with such applications is a key strategy for the company to not only grow, but improve the overall user experience no matter what tools they're using.

"One of the things email is not suited for, but is used a lot for, is a mix of Linkedin requests, Facebook notifications, and that's a pretty bad medium to get notifications; email wasn't built for that. But Slack was built to be the hub for all the tools you use for business," he said.

"We're a software development company so it ties in all of the tools we use for software development."

In the calendar year ahead, Henderson said the company plans to launch an enterprise-specific version of Slack to improve communication in larger companies, such as Adobe, which currently has 120 teams using Slack but are not integrated. The new product is expected to also feature single sign-on, integration with active directories, and enable IT to provision and de-provision users.

"When we first built Slack, the vision we were building it was for teams; for small teams that's the entire company, and for big companies it's a business unit.

"What we've seen is we get a lot of usage within very large enterprises, but because the initial way we designed Slack it works well for a team of a few thousands but it wasn't designed to have 100,000," he said.

Last December, the company launched an $80 million capital funding round. This followed a series of former investment rounds: In April 2015 $160 million was raised; $120 million was raised in October 2014; and $42.8 million in April 2014. Additional funding of $17.2 million was raised prior to the launch of Slack when the company was trading as Tiny Speck and raising for Glitch game. The investments have been supported by Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Social+Capital, KPCB, Google Ventures, Horizons Ventures, IVP, Spark, DST, and Index

When asked whether the company would considering filing for IPO any time soon, Henderson said there are no immediate plans.

"Right now we're focused on growing the business."

Slack joins a growing list of startups opening an Australian office that includes Square, SurveyMonkey, and Dropbox.

Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to Melbourne with Slack.

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