Stewart Butterfield pivots his way to Billion Dollar Company

Stewart Butterfield is the CEO and Co-Founder of Slack. Prior to Slack he had co-founded and sold Flickr to Yahoo for circa $20m.

After Flickr, Stewart was looking to build an online multiplayer game called Glitch and had raised some significant money to do so. They had a large team and were focused on executing the game. While it had some success it came to a point where they realised that the game was not going to be a profitable venture.

While still sitting on about $5m of investors’ money, they decided to pivot the business away from gaming to focus on an internal communication tool they had developed for their own team.

Stewart believed that this communication tool would replace email communication within small to enterprise companies.

In May 2013, they had developed the communication tool enough to start on boarding new users.

They managed to get about 7 or 8 companies on board in the early stages to try the platform and realised that the tool functioned differently depending on team size. Through the feedback they received they started to modify the platform to suit various business sizes.

Using a press release campaign, they managed to get a blitz of media about their upcoming tool off the back of the team’s previous successes (Flicker). To this end within the first day, 8000 people had expressed interest in the communications tool and within 2 weeks that figure had grown to 15,000.

One of slacks biggest problems in the early days was convincing teams of people to use it. When it came to other tools that their typical users would use, they were traditionally built for individuals but in Slacks case, if it wasn’t the whole team changing their habits to using slack then it just wouldn’t work.

Over the next few years, Slack gained more than 250,000 active monthly users and is now one of the fastest growing communication platforms in the world worth of $2billion!