Slack projects fiscal Q1 revenue of $133.8 million to $134.8 million, CEO Butterfield talks strategy

Slack said that its fiscal first quarter revenue will be up 66% from a year ago at the midpoint of guidance.

Collaboration software: Time to call BS Collaboration software sounds great in theory, but like the open floor plan in offices there are downsides. The noise can be a bit ridiculous. Tools like Slack--and things like Yammer and a graveyard of other tools--were supposed to end email. Instead, email is still favored by workers to get real work done. Why? Enterprise social networking is too noisy. How many times have we wanted to yell into one of our 100 Slack channels so people will stay on point. It's a chat fest that can hurt productivity. Now it looks like vendors may be getting more of a clue. Atlassian launched software called Stride that has a focus button and tools that can turn conversations into workflows with integrated video and voice meetings on the fly. Perhaps the biggest perk is the focus button. Collaboration needs an offramp and let's face it you can spend more time collaborating instead of getting work done. There needs to be more of this. Whether it's Facebook@Work, which is basically a version of Facebook for the enterprise, Microsoft Teams or some other package collaboration has forgotten about the work and productivity part of the equation. Sometimes you need to duck your head and plow through a few tasks.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield

Slack said its revenue for its fiscal first quarter ended April 30 will be between $133.8 million and $134.8 million as it added more paying customers.

However, Slack said its first quarter losses from operations will also increase due to product investments and spending to support growth. Slack said its fiscal first quarter loss from operations will fall between $38.4 million and $39.4 million.

Slack had filed with the SEC last month to go public. Slack said it had a net loss of $139 million on revenue of $401 million for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31.

Regarding its first quarter results, Slack said its calculated billings will be between $147.7 million and $149.7 million.

The company is holding an investor day. CEO Stewart Butterfield outlined the company's broad ambitions and said Slack aims to align teams to function better. The software company that enables teams to work better can be the most valuable in the world. 

"Humans are very hard to coordinate. Consider how much of our time is spent coordinating. You walk around any office and just look. This activity accounts for 30%, 40%, 50% of people's time. It's not we think it's unimportant. It's absolutely critical. If there's anyway to get leverage on that time there will be demand," said Butterfield. 

Butterfield said Slack has a great challenge and opportunity. The opportunity is that Slack has a user base of more than 10 million daily active users worldwide. 

"Slack is the type of thing you didn't know you wanted. When you had it you needed it," said Butterfield.

The challenge is that Butterfield said Slack will replace email in the corporate workplace. That goal requires changing human behavior.

Butterfield walked through how email doesn't contain history and what is happening through a company. He went through landing a big deal with Oracle. We had a channel for them. "The whole team is in the channel. Hit send once and everyone is in the loop," said Butterfield. "Other teams working with clients similar to Oracle could see it."

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He added that one of Slack's biggest benefits is that employees know how their work fits into the larger picture of an organization. By storing channels and communications, Slack can enhance alignment.

"By increasing the return on what people put into communication, there's a movement from inboxes to channels," said Butterfield. "It's a world that's team first over individual first. This shift is inevitable."

Add it up and Butterfield's strategy for Slack is to replace email and be a horizontal tool across corporate functions. Butterfield touted Slack's integration with other software systems. "Whatever tool customers use we want to make that usage easier because of Slack," said Butterfield. "We want Slack to become more valuable as people use more software. It's not just messaging."

Tamar Yehoshua, chief product officer at Slack, outlined a bit about product strategy. Yehoshua, a former Google vice president, replaced April Underwood in January.

Yehoshua walked through various channel use cases for private and public conversations across product development, HR and finance. According to Yehoshua, Slack's biggest benefit is passing information along as it is needed based on files, messages, data, apps and search.

In the big picture, Slack is aiming to be a central location for all software and cloud services.


Brian Elliott, general manager of Slack Platform, outlined Slack as an app directory, workflow tool, and integration hub with more than 450,000 custom apps used each week.


What Slack is ultimately going for is to be the glue between teams and various enterprise systems. The company plans to enable its workflow builder to expand to business users to go beyond developers, said Elliott. The mission for Slack is to enable "digital and cultural transformation," said Elliott.