2021-01-28

Salesforce Buys Slack For $27.7 Billion

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Ron Miller and Alex Wilhelm, reporting for TechCrunch:

Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff didn’t mince words on
his latest purchase. “This is a match made in heaven. Together,
Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software
and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital,
work-from-anywhere world,” Benioff said in a statement.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield was no less effusive than his future
boss. “As software plays a more and more critical role in the
performance of every organization, we share a vision of reduced
complexity, increased power and flexibility, and ultimately a
greater degree of alignment and organizational agility.
Personally, I believe this is the most strategic combination in
the history of software, and I can’t wait to get going,”
Butterfield said in a statement.

I cracked wise about Salesforce offering user experience and design expertise to Slack when rumors of this deal first leaked, but let me now take the devil’s advocate position, and argue for why this could be a great outcome for Slack.

First, my take presupposes that the point of Slack is to be a genuinely good service and experience. That Slack is to Microsoft Teams what the Mac is to Windows, or iOS is to Android. To succeed by appealing to people who care about quality. Slack, as a public company, has been under immense pressure to do whatever it takes to make its stock price go up in the face of competition from Microsoft’s Teams, which Microsoft is just giving away to its customers paying for 365 Office or whatever they call the thing companies want to pay Microsoft for.

Apple, 20 years ago, successfully forged a way to align its shareholder interests with its customer interests. Make great computers, great software, great new products and services like the iPod and iTunes Store. Slack, it seems to me, has been pulled apart. What they ought to be entirely focused on is making Slack great in Slack-like ways. Perhaps Salesforce sees that Slack gives them an offering competitive to Teams, and if they just let Slack be Slack, their offering will be better — be designed for users, better integrated for developers. And there’s some history for that: Salesforce acquired Heroku almost 10 years ago — and seemingly has let Heroku be Heroku since.

Do that with Slack and I could see this working out great for Slack users.