With $427m in funding and a $7.1B valuation, Slack sends a message to Microsoft
Slack, the work-chat platform that transformed conversation at your office into a series of GIFs, raised a $427m Series H at a valuation of $7.1B. Since raising $250m just months ago, Slack’s value increased $2B.
Offbeat Slack founder Stewart Butterfield built a fan-favorite workplace chat platform by prioritizing fun features -- and now he’s using them to crush the competition.
A ‘feature’ presentation that no one expected
Slack -- an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge” -- began as a feature in Butterfield’s lifelong passion project of building a never-ending video game (he founded Flickr the same way).
When users gave the game’s new communications feature two emoji-thumbs up, Butterfield dropped his old project to focus on improving Slack with even more new features.
Butterfield’s focus on features became Slack’s primary strategy, guiding the development of easy-to-use integrations that have made Slack so important that major news outlets now report when their service is down.
If you can’t beat ’em, Slack ’em
Unlike products designed not to work with other brands (cough *Apple* cough), Slack’s platform features integrations with other software (Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, etc.) to make its product fun and easy to use.
This strategy paid off last month: Slack bought one of its largest competitors, Hipchat, winning a years-long fight of the features.
Now, Slack has one main competitor: Microsoft. The ’Soft considered buying Slack in 2016, but then built its own collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams, instead.
The goal? Out-Microsoft Microsoft
After Microsoft unveiled its Teams product in 2016, Slack took out a full page ad in TheWall Street Journal saying they were “excited to have some competition” (riffing on a 1981 Apple ad that welcomed IBM to the personal computer competition).
But since then, Slack has built up a massive war chest to continue expanding its software offerings to rival Microsoft’s. With $1.2B in the bank and a paying user base of 3m users across 70k teams, now all Slack has to do is keep being the “fun” messaging platform.
The never-ending funding game
Uber finally hires a CFO as they look to hit the IPO freeway by next year
Uber Technologies Inc. has hired Nelson Chai to be the rideshare giant’s new chief financial officer.
Chai will fill the long-vacant position at the company as Dara and the gang clear a path for Uber’s much-anticipated and, as Reuters puts it, “complicated” IPO next year.
Time to batten down the financial hatches
The CFO position has been empty since 2015, when Brent Callinicos departed. Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick reportedly showed little interest in hiring a replacement, but the search made headway last year under Khosrowshahi.
Driving without a senior manager in the passenger seat is rare for a company the size of Uber (last valued at $69B), whose net rev in Q2 this year rolled in at $2.8B.
On the flip, the company lost more than $1B per quarter in 3 of the last 6, so... probably time to get a CFO.
Whose house? Nelson’s house
The Wall Street veteran has served at Merrill Lynch (where he was CFO during the financial crisis), the NYSE, and most recently, as president and CEO of The Warranty Group.
Uber said it hired Chai for his deep connections to the banks and dealmakers the company must woo to hit their deadline next year.
The question is, can they do it?
Chai believes they can -- if they can convince public market investors Uber still has room to grow… and of course that it can get back on the path to profitability after losing more than $4B last year.
Costco launches Apple Pay at all 750 of its locations
Hear ye, hear ye, contactless payment lovers: Costco has rolled out Apple Pay to all of its US stores, with plans for support at its gas stations as well.
The rollout -- first reported by MacRumors -- is huge for the membership-based shopping chain, as it now offers members the option of Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Samsung Pay in its quest to lure millennial shoppers into its warehouses.
(Hopefully millennials are into buying Kirkland in bulk).
It may be an even bigger deal for Apple
Apple Pay has been on fire lately, and the Costco deal is just the latest in a growing list of partners, including 7-Eleven and longtime holdout CVS.
The service is operational in 30 international markets and, in the US, it’s projected to handle half of all contactless payments by an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) by 2020.
Of course, the market ain’t messing either…
Competitors like Samsung Pay, Google pay, and others are expected to reach 450m consumers by 2020.
But, Apple is already seeing dividends: Apple Pay rolled out to users in 2014, and according to TechCrunch, last quarter its division (AKA Apple’s “services” division) reported revenue of $9.6B, up 31% year-over-year.
Y-Combinator let 15k ‘accidents’ stay in startup school, raising questions about value
After Y-Combinator accidentally emailed all 15k applicants that they had been admitted to its new “Startup School,” the accelerator doubled down and let them all stay.
Y-Combinator originally planned to accept just ⅓ of applicants. But by accepting them all, it called the program’s value into question.
‘Wait, I thought Y-Combinator was prestigious’
No, you’re thinking of the other Y-Combinator. Y-Comby’s original program has an acceptance rate of 1.5% (Harvard’s is 5.9%) and provides young businesses with seed money, mentorship, and networking.
But Y-Combinator also runs a free Startup School to teach aspiring entrepreneurs to found startups. The 10-week program promises an advisor, office hours, and networking opportunities to the 3k accepted teams (plus $10k for 100 lucky startups).
Two days ago, Y-Combinator accidentally accepted all 15k+ applicants. After initially withdrawing acceptance, YC pivoted to “make Startup School work for all founders who applied.”
It’s bad branding for Y-Combinator...
But it’s a good reminder for aspiring entrepreneurs to be critical about the value of programs that sell prepackaged startup success. Y-Combinator’s program is free because most of the resources are available online.
For entrepreneurs with existing business plans, these programs may provide good networking tools and mentorship. But, as Y-Combinator’s giveaway shows, some merely try to attract green entrepreneurs via recognizable brands -- and repackaged material.
CHAGRIN FALLS, OH -- A caller reported hearing some type of alarm sounding shortly before 11 p.m. July 25 behind the Citadel. Officers arrived and found a small alarm clock in the Dumpster. The alarm was deactivated.
High seas, 3/20
UNALASKA, AK -- A concerned citizen called to report several individuals picking up mussels from Agnes Beach. The concerned individual reported that the mussels from that area have a high concentration of PCP in them. Officers did not observe anyone in the area.
The phantom drip, 8/9
RUSSELL TOWNSHIP, OH -- A woman called police at 5:11 a.m. Aug. 9 after hearing strange sounds in her basement. An officer found her basement flooded from a plumbing issue and items moved around by the water. She was advised to call a plumber.
Crank calls, 8/7
GENEVA, NY -- A 35-year-old woman was arrested on aggravated harassment charges after she allegedly placed over 300 phone calls to Yates County 9-1-1 between Friday and Sunday. The woman allegedly used prank call and text apps to place the calls. She was arrested in July on similar charges.
Here are our favorite police blotter entries from towns that don’t have much going on. Got a small town tip? Reply to our email with a link to the police report and the subject line: “Small Town Blotter.”