Stewart Butterfield, Co-founder and CEO of Slack
Hello. Stewart, is a pleasure, to have you here today thank you how are you doing well cool, so, typically, we would start these with, a question, asking the students, how many of you use flat but, since, it's the official communication, platform for the GSB we're, gonna have to do something a little different how about a game of to truth in a lot, cool. So. Up here on the screen in just a second. We're. Gonna see three statements that I pulled from my extensive. Research of your past we're gonna add the ask the audience to guess which one of them is a, why so. Statement. One you. Were born with the name Stewart. Butterfield. Okay. Statement. Two you. Have two philosophy. Degrees. Alright, statement. Three Flickr, your, first successful startup was, conceived while battling, with food poisoning. Okay. So with the audience raise your hand if you think statement. One is false oh. Wow. It's, a lot of people, raise. Your hand if you think statement. Two is false. Okay. Raise. Your hand if you think statement, three it's false. Okay. Let's, do it people. Are pretty good it's number one it's number one so, you. Were not born Stewart Butterfield I was, born Dharma, Jeremy Butterfield to hippie. Parents in a, little town called London, British Columbia which is literally. The end of the road so Pacific. Coast Highway is the same Road that goes all the way down to Chile and then, all the way up, to. Where the few words in British Columbia and the fact that there's no relate there's no people living, any further north means. That it was. Foolish. To continue building the road so we're there and grew up in a log cabin it for the first couple years grouping, I love cabin, Abe Lincoln also grew up in the LOC area yeah that's why I bring, it up for the positive associations. Yeah. So trust, me I understand my parents named me Traverse, key Thailand Gerrit and. As a four year old I was not writing for Dvorsky on every spelling test so. I go by Thailand and actually no me about time yeah, so, why. Is very. Soon. When I was twelve I really wanted to be normal and for. Some reason I thought Stuart was a normal name like Mike, and. Hertz, that's a pretty bad name like, you'll, notice, this after I say it any, time you watch a movie TV show there's a character named Stuart there's like the, jerk. Version. And. Then there's like the sad-sack kind, of loser person, I'm never like we've, never protagonists, with the exception of the mouse Stuart, Little. That, was one of my favorite movies growing up so, if you could pick any name today what would it be it would be Dharma Jeremy Butterfield it's a secondary. School. So, you, you handed a little bit on your parents. What. Have been the most lasting, influences, from their parenting style oh. That's. A good question I mean it's hard to. It's. Hard to separate out that, from what life would have been without those influences. My. Mom is. Incredibly. Supportive to, the extent that when I was 16 I, got. In a car accident just totaled. The car my, dad's car and. My mom's reaction was well, it's really good that you did that because do you learn an important lesson about driving safety. Which. Is not the reaction I was expecting. My. Dad was a real estate developer, and real. Estate. Development. It usually works the people, incorporate a new entity, for, each project, or each development, maybe there's a management company it takes management, fees but, kind of isolates, the. The. Investments. Which means that it's like great you know creating, a business over and over again like every two or three years there's a fundraising cycle and there's kind of putting together the vision and a plan. And. Then over the next decade or so that that plays, out so. I. Think that was a big influence for me just because I got to see the, development, of I don't, even know but you know over the course my my childhood, once I was aware, of what was going on maybe, five or six different businesses, and. That. Was good practice cuz I think I've started looking at the world that way that's, cool that's cool, so. You were born Dharma, Butterfield, you. Were raised by parents who aspire to live off the land it. Only makes sense that you, would be, drawn to technology, so. What led. You to teach yourself to program, at the age of seven. Computers. Were just so cool and even look you know you see now any, three, month or six month of love is just drawn.
To The iPad in a way that. Seems. Like it must be indicative of like a lower level brain function that was hijacked in order to be, attracted, to this so, for me. Any. Menu, screen just like you know any child, any screen was a super attractive, but the idea that you could control, what appeared. Was really magical, and. 1979-1980. Somewhere. Around there I got an Apple TV at home so, we. Had one in the classroom for the very first class at my school to. Have a computer in the, classroom and, I. Would buy a copy of a magazine called bite which in the back a couple of pages had programs, and you can just type out yourself in an apple basic and, you can change, a couple things and see what happened and. It. Was really. Have. Difficulty. Describing. Like why it had such a powerful hold but, what was interesting is, if you fast forward but, you, know 20 years. There. Was, yeah. I liked I had an early. Game console called me on television it's a liked video games like most boys my age there was a arcades. Where you went and put quarters and machines and stuff like that but, computers, themselves became, less and less interesting to me over the course of high school but when I got to college I got an account, on the school's UNIX machine and discovered. The internet this was 1992, and, that was just totally. Mind-expanding. And I almost couldn't believe that such a thing was possible and had but, like the same feeling, of wonder but to a higher, degree because. It, was like we as a species, have developed the, ability to transcend, geography. In. A much more profound way than like long-distance phone calls out or the Telugu you, could find community, I grew up in its going to college in Victoria, British Columbia which is again on the edge of the continent very remote, kind of provincial. And. You. Could find people who are interested in exactly what you were anywhere. In the world and that communication, was happening at the speed of light so that really opened, up and then fast, forward another ten years. So. Like in the early 2000s, that had this experience finally, where I had my laptop, with me and what. At one, point in my life had been like the Steve Jobs bicycle.
For The mind like this incredible machine that mean anything was possible and, all. This amazing software when, it wasn't connected, to the internet was inert, it was basically kind of useless it was like a rock so, it's a very interesting experience, to think about like the successive. Layers. Of, what really matters the first one being that ability. To run arbitrary. Code so to generate more or less anything that a human, can imagine and. Then the ability to put all of those together and I think that, was but. The thing that has guided my career ever since is the exploration, of that idea, of computing. Technology as, a means of facilitating, human interaction, it's. Amazing so that's. What drew, you to technology, initially, but, you actually studied philosophy, so. What. Inspired, that decision, I. Really, wanted to do, degree. In cognitive science but the school that I went to didn't have cognitive, science so it was cognate, science is usually computer, science psychology. Linguistics and. Psychology, and, so. I wanted, to take courses. And all four, to. Do an honours degree in psychology was like every single course was requirement. In fact you had to do like extra, whereas, philosophy, it's pretty light, set, of requirements I'm, even to do an honours degree so I chose philosophy literally, like that it was like the of those four the one that had the few miss requirements, but, after I started studying it. Even. Though I suck it was really a de philosophie of mine is really interested in neuro psych as an undergrad. Fundamentals. Of philosophy I found super fascinating, and this is this, sounds bad and, it, is bad in one sense and it's good in another sense so, you think about last, 2,500. Years of kind of the. History of inquiry, of all different kinds at, some point everyone was a philosopher. But. If you were interested, in the world in an a religious, way so like the beginnings, of science. It was philosophy at, some point mathematics. Geometry astronomy, split. Off, over. The next many hundred years. Things. Like biology in the 19th century split, off into its own discipline, and psychology, anthropology. Sociology. Computer. Science linguistics. Women's. Studies until, all you had left was like an area of inquiry that is not directed, at anything, except, for like itself, and language. So. In one sense it's. Really boring so if you didn't ever study philosophy and you pick up a book, of like contemporary, anglo-american. Analytic philosophy, it is. Super. Super, boring, like, it's, almost impenetrable. Without. Like this giant vocabulary, of ways to get into it but. Once you're into it I still, find it really. Fascinating. Because there's so many unanswerable. Questions. It's. Good to know so who was, the most influential. Philosopher, to you. I. Have. A pretty broad range and I liked all, kinds of thinkers. But like going back to Aristotle it. Was a more, contemporary. Klein. And, Donald Davidson but. If there was one it. Was Victor slack because that's why I ended. Up going to Cambridge, amazing. Amazing so. We're. In 1997. Now you're. Armed with two philosophy, degrees and the name fit for a philosopher, Butterfield. But. You decided to become a web developer. What. Led you back into technology, well. So. Like I said I got to college in 92 which, is like like, at, least for my awareness six months, to maybe a year before the web really took off like. I think. Had been invented, but wasn't really widely deployed so, the internet was email IRC, a unix program called talk more. Than anything else it was Usenet. And. That. Meant that as soon as the web became, a. Popular. Medium that started to supplant in things like gopher and ways I, was there and it was really the, HTML, back then was just dead, simple. So, very easy to teach yourself so 93. I, was, one. Of five people in my hometown who, knew, HTML, which. Meant that 94, 95 96 every. Year my my. My, summer job but also just my job training, the school year was making websites for people who didn't know how to make websites cuz pretty much no one did and. It. Was like 98 I finished my masters. And was enrolled in the PhD and. There. Was the beginning so a friend of mine had just finished his PhD in philosophy, and. I. Went to a great school and did, great thesis work and it was really. Look. At the top of the range and got. His first job which was at the University of Louisville in Kentucky and, he really didn't want to live in Kentucky and, it was a crappy job with low pay and it's a sessional, position so renews every nine months and.
I Thought of how many hoops I had to jump through just to get to that point, or. Because. It was 98 and the.com thing that's starting to take off and I knew, the web and, all, of my friends who were like. Early web, people, were moving to San Francisco and getting jobs, that paid 2 or 3 times as much and it was exciting dynamic, and we're changing the world so I. Had. Advice from a couple professors over the course of my career who essentially, were this, is a terrible life please don't become an academic if, you're interested in this stuff you, can subscribe. To the journals and attend the conferences you. Don't have to actually do. A PhD and then go be a professor. Okay. That's. Good to know so. I'm actually curious. Raise, your hand if you have a. Humanities. Degree. Okay. Keep. Your hand raised, if you're considering a career in technology. Okay. So. My. Question there is what. Were the advantages and disadvantages and, having a humanities, degree and within, the technology, industry. It's. Tough because I mean there's there's multiple technology, industries so when I would say when I started in 98 like the the, web was tech but it was populated, much more by people with a background in like graphic design or architecture if, you're making web. Development the, serious, back-end, programmers. Had. A parallel, track to web server development but, it was really. Like. A totally, different era and there there wasn't anything in between like, the architects. In the graphic designers on one side and the people this, won't be a familiar reference, to many of you but the people using web logic, and ATG. Dynamo, and. These. Like from. Today's. Contemporary perspective, kind of really, horrible. Application. Servers that had fundamentally. Different approach to doing web development some stateful, applications. Things. Like enterprise javabeans, and. I don't think it really made any difference what your background was at that point it could have been. History. Could have been. Finance. It could've been physics. And. Meanwhile. There's a different, technology in G which is like all of the descendants, of Fairchild Semiconductor, and. You. Know Intel, and HP and, a bunch of companies that were you know native, to to this area but, that was completely, different like it would you know the design, of circuit boards and and processors. And manufacture, computers was totally unrelated to the web and still, today I think we say tech industry, broadly, I think. Mostly, what people mean is. At. Least around, the bay area is companies, that receive VC backing as opposed to anything else they're not necessarily. Specifically. Technology, companies and the. You. Know the side effect of software, meeting the world in the famous. Marc Andreessen phrase is that every company is a technology company so you can look at like I don't know Visa, or MasterCard.
Probably. Employ. Close. To an order of magnitude more software, developers, than stripe. I know, everyone. Would say stripe isn't as a technology, company, is. PayPal, a financial, services company or, tech company is Airbnb a tech company or, a hospitality, company, it's really it becomes increasingly hard to to. Make that distinction unless you mean like technology. Is. Huawei. Making, 5g antenna chips and it's like. Now. And, then software, businesses like flock. Thank. You for that. So, you worked as a web designer for a few years before starting, a video game company and launching, your first video game game. Never ending what. Was your vision for that game so. When. I said 92 the thing that was most interesting to me about the internet was Usenet using, that as a those. Of you who don't know at, a, hierarchical. Directory, of news groups and it would covered more or less everything so they began with the three-letter. Abbreviation. So SCE, I was, science, and there was science physics, and geology, and so on and then, rack rack music. Dodd rec, type music got G Dead Grateful, Dead was in. 92, the, the, Netflix, of its, time, in. The sense that it used more bandwidth than any other single thing on the Internet there's, so much traffic of people discussing. Grateful. Dead that, it kind of just surpassed everything else so. 93. I guess probably a year later I had the first experience of having a crush on someone that I had never actually met, was just like from her online, persona, her cig files the things she said in comments, and. The. The idea that that kind of connection was possible was, I mean this really early. Stage. But it's like was very interesting, to me you go forward to 98, 99. 2000. And people had blogs, there were the early social networks like 6 degrees and then. Friendster. Was probably 2002. Ish. Around. There but, people had started. Developing. A persona and having interactions, with other people over. The Internet in a bunch of different virtual.
Communities Some. Of those are really explicit, like the. Well like. The ancient ones but bulletin board systems. Discussion. Boards. Mousse. Kind of like interactive, chat. Based games and. The. Yeah, I said earlier that the idea of social interaction mediated. By computing, technology, lent from the new possibilities that opens up was a thing that's really fascinating to me so when, you say game I think people have the assumption that. There's. Puzzle games and, there's shooting, games and they're sports games and stuff like that this was none of those and this was just play as a pretext, for social attraction so this. Is a. Description, that may or may not have appeal to some of you I will tell you that it does not have broad commercial, appeal, and. That's. A fist, like, whimsical. World of, like. Absurdist. Humor and. Kind, of. Hopefully. Delightful. Little. Things. To discover but it's mostly like a venue for people to interact in to and to form. Community, with one another and. Super. Popular among, the small group of people for whom we we develop this prototype and we're testing it but, that was 2002. So. Some. Of you are probably. Just a little babies in 2002, but, there was the dot-com crash which started in 2000, there. Was the WorldCom and Enron accounting scandals. There was 9/11. It was just like a really dark time for. Financial. Markets. The. Nasdaq goes down I think 80 or 85 percent from its peak so the S&P 500 thousands 65%, it's kind of like hard to imagine you. Know. Even in comparison to 2008. So no one wanted to invest in internet stuff period, but definitely no one wanted to invest in web-based. Massively, multiplayer games it was just like as frivolous as you could possibly be which meant that no one would invest in us and we didn't have enough money to finish it and we tried to cast around for something that we could do with the technology.
We Developed that would create. A commercially, viable product, that turned out to be flubber yeah. So ironically. Game, never ending dead end, so. How. Did you feel when you realized you, had to shut down the game. But. You know at the same time, they. Kind of happened like we were developing Flickr. In. The game's side-by-side, for a couple months the, decision to make Flickr and then its launch was, you know that's three months separating, those so it happened pretty quickly. But. In that case you know felt like he was a there's a path forward the team, got to stay together. We. Had I, think, disappointed. A lot of people who are playing it but also a lot of them were like look cool Flickr is interesting too and they're just kind of migrated. So. That wasn't that bad it's. Good so you. Realize you have to shut down the game but, not before flying, to one last video, game conference in New York what, happens next. So. It, was a conference on law and virtual worlds and it's in New York and I'm. From Vancouver where I was living and got. Food poisoning on, the flight and don't. Make it too vivid but it's just like puking. In the immigration, Hall at JFK puking. In the cab on the freeway get. To the hotel and, like step out of the cab and puke all over the carpet, though. So. Sorry, a, little vivid, but. Like I I couldn't, keep down to anything ginger, ale water. And. That. Night at like 3:00, in the morning after, being up and kind of feverish and frantic. Rode. Out the whole first. Version okay like then what I would what it would be and how I would take advantage of those technologies, I will, say this though. That. Was the very first version which is very different than one and I'm becoming and was not actually very good that. Got. Us going so. I've and yet, to have a, battle. With food poisoning be so productive. So. Kudos to you there you, decided, to focus on, Flickr. When. You made that shift did everyone on your team by in immediately, or what, was that process like, no. We so, I'm pretty democratic, leader, sometimes. Maybe. Less so now than been back then but we had a vote and there, was a tie. So. I called. Eric. Costello it's actually one of the founders of slack, as well. And. Just. Like to some background lobbying, to get him to change his vote so, that we could go ad with it. There's. Definitely like there's people who are still interested in. Making. The game and felt like it was a shame to leave it behind it. Was also I think in. Terms of the number of people online way. Too early the technology, that. Was available way, too early like I. Think. People forget, 2002. Was the first year that any country about more than 50% entertained, Internet penetration at, home and that was the Netherlands, so and even then that was almost all dial-up, connectivity, so most Americans didn't, have internet. Access if they did it was at work and it was very kind of narrowly prescribed, and if they did anything online it was like maybe, check sports doors and stock. Prices or something like that. So. There wasn't really a market, for it but um you know I just like making software just in the same way that I did when. I was seven years old and I think everyone else on the team did too so we just got to make different, than a software and in, the end it was. You. Know the game was play. As a pre-tax or social interaction Flickr, was photography as a pretext for social interaction is the first, actually. One of the we, got bought by Yahoo and one of the designers they are called it massively multiplayer photo, sharing which I thought was pretty accurate cuz there's a first thing. Other. Than web. Shots which I heard about later where. You could put a photo online and people could see it and, comment on it and they could have a title and description and you could tag it and create. Groups and, all that kind of stuff so it was a social, network that revolved, around and photographs. This, is like, I think, it's we started. Right. Around the same time Facebook, but Facebook was, still, you, know just in Harford for another six, months or a year and then just IVs for another, close. To a year after that cool. So. Not to spoil the story but, you eventually sell Flickr to Yahoo, for, excess, of 20. Million dollars, I'm. Curious looking back now as you're leading slack, what lessons, from your time at Flickr, have, been most influential. On the leader that you are today it's.
It's Hard to say because it was so long ago like we started developing in 2003. Launched, in. 2004. And. This. Summer, site that winter break and look 2004-2005. There's. This big decision. About whether we're gonna take me Z funding we're gonna get popped by Yahoo. So, this 2005, to 2008, that I was there and, like. It's there's, definitely not something, that stands us like the thing that I learned. There. Other, than how hard it is too. Hard. It is to get something done or how hard it is I mean maybe that's that is a good lesson how hard it is to get something done in an organization, of that size because yeah I was about 12,000, people and. I. Think, there's a couple things that weren't wrong with it at that time but the biggest one was it had basically stopped, growing and in. An environment, where the, pie isn't growing anymore suddenly, the the, kind. Of game theoretic, but the calculus, especially. Among executives, is very zero-sum, so it was like people, battling, each other internally. But even to forget, that for a second any company. Of any organization, of 10,000 people and it's requires. Such, an extraordinary. Injection. Of a will to, make, anything happen that most. Things are for all practical purposes impossible. Okay. So with fast forward to 2012 you, have left, Yahoo which by. The way if, you have not read the stewards resignation. Letter from Yahoo please. Google it he, likens himself to, a 10, Smith there named Brad, it's. Quite hilarious so. As 2012, you're. Starting another video game company this time tiny speck a tiny. Speck you launch a game called glitch, what. Gave you more confidence, in the gaming area this time around so. In 2009, that we started the company, in. 2012, so maybe we should have down but it's the same group of people you know so four of us who hadn't worked on Flickr and we all work to yeah who together but, 2002. To 2009, was pretty amazing, time. In. The history of the internet so suddenly everyone. Had internet, access, and there were funds that were capable of internet access there's, blackberries. And trios, and. There. Were a. Lot. Of people had high-speed Internet by that time. The. World of.
Open-source. Software, specifically. To support development, on the internet we had just exploded, so there was really not, much available in 2002. But. By 2009, we, had a very robust. Mature, Apache. Foundation and. All of these great networking technologies. People's. Computers are much faster and there's many more people online we, were much more experienced, it was very easy to raise monies look if you could just like look at any factor. In a giant matrix of like things, that would lead this to be a good plan or to be successful, we had shifted from like a 2, out of 10 to, an 8 9 or 10 out of 10. Except. That that idea was still not very commercially, viable. Same. Idea like better graphics, do. You think. Do. You think that idea is ever. Gonna be commercially, so, not. I mean we could have kept going and paid all of our salaries and been happy and it would have been interesting but we had taken by, that point like 17. Million dollars in BC. Money so. I. Felt. Like it would have been an aberration, of the responsibility, in the kind of contract we made with, them to. To just do that. So. We, had to think of someone else so. He said seventeen and a half million and funding, you had you. Were around 45, employees, around the time so. You. Find yourself in a familiar situation and you have to shut down that game again what. Was the toughest part about that decision the second time around so, the second time around that was very different because it wasn't just hey. Everyone. We, we, are now as a group in a switch were working on because, there, was animators. And musicians and writers and. Illustrators. Level. Designers, a whole bunch of people who just didn't have skills that were transferable, to does, log so a lot of people are going to get laid off I. Think there was 35. And. In. The three half years that we have been running, the, the various, versions of. There, wasn't pretty look pretty strong and very active, robust community that, wasn't like a couple, hundred people who tested gave never-ending could just start using Flickr. They, they, were gonna disappear, and I. Think this is a hard thing to relate. To or understand, if you haven't gone through it and it's it's. Maybe. Somebody that hasn't happened. In a long time and might not happen again, like tumblr, seems like the last, platform. That had closed, communities. Like that whereas now everything. Like Instagram is just one world connected, to Facebook as a model world Twitter is like everyone and, there Beth Lee sub-communities. But. When. Communities exist into one specific platform, and that platform disappears, it's a little bit like that moment in the first Star Wars when Alderaan gets blown up like it's just that. Society. That little culture those. Relationships, just won't exist, anymore so it's really look that was very sad but, obviously for me the video it's personal, it's embarrassing. I did. All this press and they made all these claims I had to convince all these people to calm and it convinced anytime we got any press it was my head convinced I'm gonna doing it every time we've got invested might, convince my to do it but. More day in El Sayed convinced all these people to come work on this and I, told. The story many times but. The. The. Day that I made the announcement internally, it called this All Hands and people already a little bit apprehensive cuz we've been through a couple of different like here's the last thing we're gonna try. There's wasn't a day when we normally had an All Hands and. I. Locked. Eyes with someone, as soon as they started talking who. About, two or three months before I had convinced, to move to a new city with his, wife.
And Two-year-old daughter away, from where, his in-laws lived and the months were helping to take care of the kid he moved to new city bought a house and. I, was gonna tell him that he didn't have a job anymore it, was really, really hard I mean I think that's the. Like, the impact on me, reputationally. Or financially, was, in, the grand scheme of things in relatively. Insignificant like I would just bounce, back again. But. It's, that's, more than just disappointing. Someone like, was gonna come meet you for dinner and I bailed with the last minute or something like that this is like I convinced. You to change the alter of the course of your life, in. A really significant, way and then didn't it. Didn't happen so. That. Was very, very difficult in Indiana needs like a little bit of positive news because, we had five. And a half million dollars left of that money we, were able to shut down in a relatively elegant, way so we made a. Portfolio. Site which had everyone's resumes, and did a bunch of reference letter writing and kind of career coaching, and. Helped. Get everyone a job but in most cases a better job than they had. When. They were working for us and. We, were able to give, customers. The choice of their money back when we could donate it in charity or whatever but um and. That one person, Tim Lafleur, ended up joining slack. A year later so that part all worked out too but, doesn't mitigate at all like what it felt like in that moment it was really it. Was pretty terrible. That's. That's pretty heavy so, how, did you go from that terrible moment to. Launching. Slack which. Reached. A billion, dollar valuation and. Record-setting. Pace. Of eight months. That. Worked, out super well I mean. We. Had developed the system, that was the proto slack again, ninety-two I mentioned, one of the software. Network. Tools that I used was called IRC, or Internet Relay Chat and. We. Used IRC that ties back the company they made glitch and. It's. A very old technology. So it's. With. Most messaging systems that probably, every messaging system you've ever used there's a concept in what's called store-and-forward so. I'm, if i want to send a message to you but I can't reach you right now like there's no connection to your endpoint your client or your device it'll. Just be held and then forwarded to you the next time you connect but IRC didn't have that if you weren't connected at the moment that I sent the message you would just never receive, it so he built the system to log the messages but, once we had the messages in database you wanted to be able to search them so we build search on top of that and then like bit-by-bit, kind, of feature by feature we, build things to integrate with our files, when someone uploaded the file and would get announced into IRC or feh. An, alert went off in our data center then that would get put into IRC, and. Slowly. We developed, a system which was like really. The. Foundation, of all of the ways in which the company communicated, and was really beneficial, and so we realized huh. None. Of us are ever going to work without something, like this ever again other, teams. Of eight software developers would probably like it as well and so we. Decided that's what we're gonna do and we thought that one day in the fullness of time if, we had every. Single person. Who could possibly use, this we, would have a hundred million dollars in revenue and, thereby, be a billion dollar company and that. Just happened. Definitely. Checks, out. So what's slack you created a product that not a lot of companies knew they needed how did you convince, him otherwise that, was tough the first first. Like three, or four external. Teams to use slack it took. Dozens. Of tries like going. To their office and showing, them and. I think we learned a lot there, about. Marketing. Probably isn't the right term but, you. Know I think we actually had this problem a little bit with liquor because Facebook, came out and just, stole. The social photo sharing market while Flickr was trying to decide whether it wanted to be social photo sharing or like a community for people, who are interested in photography but. If you can't explain what you're doing well enough that someone to, whom you explain it can go on to explain it to someone else then, it's a real problem because otherwise otherwise you're gonna have to do all the explaining. So. We struggled to figure out the way to talk. About it like what advantages, it had what it was for but. When you're when it's net new and it's not replacing something else it's very difficult, there's um I don't. Know if it's still frequently, read but there's a classic book in in, marketing called positioning.
Jack, Trout and Alan Reece I think. And. One of these I talk about is if something's a new concept, for you it's. Almost impossible for, it to get purchase. In somebody's brain, in somebody's mind, so. You have to find something else that they that already exist there and then alter, that idea which is why you here Lewbert, for whatever. Because. If you had to explain the whole thing from scratch it's just very difficult it's why you hear like movie, pitches that are you know jaws meets Star, Wars or something like that and. It's. Much easier to get that than to start from scratch, but, it was like it was a real slob to get anyone to even try it and, the, incursian thing was once people started trying it they, all mostly variably stuck with that they've logged in every day it became like, it was for us the foundation of how they communicated. And. So from 2014, to 2017, there, was limited competitors, for slack given that it was such. An innovative idea but. In 2017. When. Slack had more, than 100 million in revenue which you predicted 650. Employees and. Evaluation, of around five billion dollars Microsoft. Launched. Their teams at how. Did you feel when you found out that app was coming out I. Think. Mostly just good because it would validate, the idea. And. We. Had some advance notice that. It was coming we worked with Microsoft on, some. Early. Stuff with Microsoft, Research, on. Building. Question-answering. BOTS for first lock and. Had. A pretty good relationship with, a guy named Qi Liu who was a software, exactly, yeah who was, the CTO of Microsoft. Left. Around then to go be to take over Baidu, but. Weren't. Especially worried. Just because when. It was the first no before, it was the first announced it was called Skype. Teams and. Had a pretty different approach and it was just so far behind us, from a product perspective that. We weren't worried about people switching ok. So now in 2020. How, do you feel about Microsoft's. Team at. It. Got a lot better as Microsoft, I. Think. There's there's a bunch of things that. That. Make it much more of a challenge for us today than it was then and. It's. Not just that it's better because it's actually not better. Enough. Compared. To how it was that any of our large customers, could could, switch to it, like. Our biggest. Single. User, is IBM, somewhere. Close to 300 thousand daily active users over. 10,000 workspaces and teams, is limited to 5,000, users. Per workspace, and you can't federate them together so there's be no way to support that kind of, structure. So wouldn't work for them and. There's many other things that are not very very fundamental limitation, so for 5,000 people you can have 200 channels if, you want to add a 200 first you have to hard, delete one with all of the messages but. None. Of that really matters, in. The face of if, you want to be able to collaborate, on a word doc like with track changes and. And. Send it back and forth your boy, is working on a contract or. Marketing. People working on a press release and, you are an office 365 customer, you more or less have to use teams, now and. The, hundred, million users of Skype for business. Are. Being migrated, over to two teams because. Skype for business is, being, shut down so, there's a bunch of things that are kind of force it but. Maybe. The most fundamental, is. We. Have, 12. Million, I don't even remember what our public number is on daily active users 12 yeah okay so. 12. Ain and there's at least 200. Million people for, whom. Or something like it is is the preferred way to work so 200 people who's working lives are mediated by email and they're. Moving over I think, is inevitable, um. So that's six. Percent which means 94 percent of people don't use, it yet. And. If. You don't use it and you don't have any idea and, and. You hear that there's, two alternatives, one slack and ones teams and because, you're an office 365 customer, teams, is already free and integrated, with all the Microsoft. Tools then. Why. Would you give an evaluate slack or. Microsoft. Was, you. Know aggressive. In a way that was it was surprising, to a lot of people even who watch the company closely. Like. Putting, out a press release what our daily, active users in it, during, our quiet period post the listing but, if they can put a press release in tank or share price then. And. You're not watching this stuff very closely you don't have a fighting degree of resolution then, you.
Might Think as a customer, why, would I invest in the slack and I think you know there's gonna be out of business in three years like Microsoft's, gonna inevitably kill them, that. Doesn't waste. Of my time to even look at it and it's, not like at that point the, fact that they're different really, matters to you because you don't use either and it's not really replacing, anything so it's much more of a, thread now I think we underestimated, the degree of importance, like the. Financial. Times Person, of the Year was such a novella and so there's a big write-up of that and there's, six consecutive. Paragraphs. That are about slack and there's like there's, no other look. Maybe the, names of some competitive companies are mentioned in one sentence, here. And there but like it's it's, the the biggest chunk of it and. So I. Think that's because. Of. All the things that can be used as as leverage, by. Microsoft to expand relationships, inside businesses. Exchange. The the email server and the, fact that people are very used to Outlook is like the principal, one that. That. Kind of gets them in and. That makes, it difficult for people to switch, and if. People stop paying attention to email email declines, in relative importance compared to the other software you use that's. A really difficult position for them so for from their perspective I think and this is what Qi, Liu thought back like. 2016. This, is reflects. Successful, to the to. The maximum extent that's an existential, threat to Microsoft, I don't think that's actually true. Because so many things so. Many other things would change in the world on the path to that but. I think there is a that, is a thought process hmm, so. Despite. Selling out and actually becoming a consultant I studied. Mechanical engineering and, undergrad and, as. A black engineer, I really appreciate, what slack, has been doing on from, the perspective of diversity, inclusion back. In 2015, slack shared anniversary, report which. Revealed that most. Of their black employees, were in tech rolls contrasted. With a lot of companies that will, hire black individuals, primarily, into administrative, roles and in, that same report 45. Percent of managers or female females, so, to a room full, of individuals. Who will start companies or be at companies what advice you have for creating, diverse, workplaces um, start. Early I think that's the biggest thing when we were. 20. Employees, I would say I mean 20. And 30 maybe like. Wow there's a lot, of white kids and. In. That case it wasn't too late but. It was close, to too late, you. Know it was like more of a slog, to get started because what happened was you, we, have one, black woman engineer and then someone, another, one comes to interview and she sees the first one and suddenly, it's like a completely, different assessment. Of what's going on here and then there's two and then the third one comes from you and look, it feels like there's community and people talk and have a have a network. So. That. Getting. Started early I think is the most important thing I think. It. Can be a. Kind. Of a fraught topic, I think for me black people aren't sure what to say or they're, uncomfortable, and. I. Think. There's a really. Pervasive. And. Incorrect, belief that. You. Would have to lower the bar to hire someone who isn't but the, canonical, candidate. Look the archetypal. Candidate, for this role I, think that's usually not the truth for, two reasons one is you just have to look harder, you're gonna see more people, and. In fact that can raise the bar but. People. Have different. Challenges. In their life and I, don't think you can you. Know perfectly. Understand someone's back from just from their gender. Identity. Or their their ethnicity but. On the, whole -. For a woman to get to a certain, place. In her career dad, to work a lot harder than man.
For. A black engineer to get to a certain place in his or her career dad, to work a lot harder than. This, is where it gets fraud. And. Ben horowitz his words Jewish. Chinese or Indian guys, in Silicon. Valley because, there's just like these these, networks that are that are very powerful, and. You. Have a enormous, advantage, so for two people with like equivalent, credentials, the. Person who is probably going to be more talented, more capable. And. Had, to overcome more, obstacles, to get to where they are is gonna be the one who doesn't have the traditional. Archetypal. Presentation, oh it's, amazing thank you for sharing that I'm sure I hope, people were taking notes. So. We've. Gone through the journey of your career you started as a web developer, you found in a company that you that was acquired by Yahoo you. Launched, a second company that raised more than 1.2, billion dollars in venture funding and you eventually took that company public you've, been a leader throughout this entire time what. Has changed about your leadership style and what stayed the same. So. It's. Always hard to relate to to assess yourself I. Think. I'm relatively, self-aware even of those things that don't work and it doesn't matter that I know that they don't work I still can't change them. But. There is a. Difference. In. The. Mechanics, of being, a leader at different, scales because when it's 20 people and we all kind know each other it's very different like my I, say. Something. And. Then we, argue about it. And, it's all good, you know there's a power dynamic where, I'm the CEO and whoever, and. Everyone else does not the CEO but. When. You get to 500 people or a thousand people where, we're at now a couple thousand people do very different. The. Someone. Going to come into a presentation, for some new product development and, it's like a relatively. New. Designer, or, engineer or, product manager we've never met before. To, me this is just like one more. 30-minute. Meeting and my schedule which is. Jig. And, for. Them this is something they've been thinking about for weeks like I would probably talk to their spouse about in there either excited, or they're nervous they, want to know. So. The. Degree. Of impact that my words. Have, is, like from. The perspective of me. Rasie, out of proportion, to. The amount. Of action, so in other words like there's it's like a. Super. Super powerful, microphone. On, at. All the, time so if anything's. Negative. Or critical, if. I have a relationship with someone then we work together for a long time it's not really a big deal if, it's someone that you know that might be the only time they interact with me ever in their whole career it's like or more like you, know it might be the first interaction they've ever had with me and it might not have another one for several years it, carries a huge, amount of weight so it's hard, because. Is. That's the amount of time we have like including questions from everyone that. Is okay. I'll. Try to be a little bit more concise. Every. Reading on, Twitter, people. Arguing about Warren's tax plan and someone. Said something like if. Dwayne, the rock Johnson, just paid this tax. At this rate then we. Would have an extra 50 million dollars and then that's. How much, it would cost to to, to, solve the Flint water crisis, and it. Struck me as just a totally absurd argument because, federal, budget is something like 2.7, trillion dollars so 50 million bucks plus, or minus is not the reason why that doesn't get solved it. Doesn't get solved for all kinds of reasons and people think that way all the time that. It's just like money, or it's just resources. For. Anything. Significant. To happen certainly anything involved, dozens of people let alone hundreds, or thousands.
The Amount. Of will that has to go in the amount of like selling the amount of vision the amount of like coercion. And cajoling and the amount of encouragement, and support all, of those things is just, enormous. So. The. Game does change, as the company gets bigger and things, evolve and, I. Think probably only, gets more difficult but. That's. You, know what I've been learning this whole time is. Is. How to do that without like, crushing, people. How. To do that without creating. An. Environment, where it's. Entirely top-down, like Iron Fist from above. And. It can be tough because you know I have a different, perspective than anyone else because I see everything, since I talked to someone in engineering, I get. You. Know that head. Of sales reports to me head of marketing reports to me had a financier points to me or general council reports to me I have, a very different perspective than, what. Is ultimately. Relatively. Narrow and generally a better idea but we also, talk to customers. More than pretty much anyone else other than a salesperson, and I talk to our investors, more than anyone else not to our. Board more than anyone else. Yes. It's really you. Know though I think there are better sources than me for, lack top 10 tips', because. I don't none, of them seem that simple, to me. And. It's not that they're not out there but, the real. Challenge. Of leadership or maybe there's one book I would recommend which, is leadership and self-deception. The. Real like fundamental, challenge leadership is is the same as the fundamental challenge, of just being a human being and I think that's. So. Sound a little bit weird perhaps, but like, living with an open heart and not. Seeing other people as on one hand either. Instruments. That can be used to your advantage or, obstacles, that are in the way of something that you're trying to do which is the, the kind of default, judgment. Of all. People, with, whom you are not close instinctually. So like you're, on a Southwest, flight and there's. Like people are still boarding, and the middle seat between you hasn't taken you're like please don't take, the seat please don't take the seat there's nothing to see a person. Has a whole life. You know and their own. Ambitions. And desires and, partakes, and stuff like that but to you in that moment they're just a, potential. Pain in the ass that might take the middle seat next to you and. That that's, pervasive, and when you're really trying to accomplish something it can be very tempting, to. See. People either as instruments, or obstacles. So, we're, gonna go through the audience, for we probably have a time for about two questions. Hi. Stuart um really appreciate your comments on diversity so it makes me feel better about my Stanford slack, addiction, my. Question is what. Were some of the key and best things you did on the product and design front in the early days of slack so, for example how, much of slack, success do you attribute to your personal, life or design versus, hiring the best designers, versus.
Feature Prioritization or or even just the insight about having. A personality. Curious. What advice you'd share there for aspiring entrepreneurs. Yeah. So. I'm. Not sure I want to like slice it up by who gets, more credit, but I think the fundamental approach was. How. Much easier can we make people's lives and. When. I look at other products. That's really the I. Don't. I'm trying to get like the shortest version of this again it, can be an amazing app and if the password reset thing doesn't work and I'm need to reset my password to use it then I'm just locked out so there's like there's. Very basic, fundamental things, that you can. You. Have to get right and which aren't the, interesting, ones in, fact someone tweeted something the other day which I liked that kind of illustrates this from a different perspective and, it's. Someone asking Ray Kroc the kind of founder, and first CEO of McDonalds why was McDonald so successful, and he says because we have clean bathrooms and they say that's, easy. You, know that's so simple I don't that, doesn't explain it and rank, said are your bathrooms clean and. It. Actually is like a, challenge. So. There's some some real fundamentals, but the. Things that we did that were most successful were, those things which made life, more convenient, for people and one, of those was for example typing, your password on your phone is a pain so we'll send you a magic link that logs you in or. Because. For. Complex reasons most. People wanted to have notifications or every message and slack when they first signed up so they felt comfortable and knew how it worked but we didn't think that was a good. Way. For them to set their preferences long-term after. You. Know a few notifications, we would interject and say would you like to switch to our preferred settings and that kind of thoughtfulness, or consideration, that kind of being thinking of yourself as a host and the. Customers as your guests I think, is the, the. Secret. As, it were to a good design. We. Have time for one more question, uh. Can. You hear me yeah thank, you so much for taking the time to speak with us today so, in your answers it was really clear that what. You've been interested in is kind of facilitating, communication, through different mediums whether it be video games photography. You, know now slack was, that understanding, clear to you through your journey and if, not was there like an aha moment that, you realized this is what the issue you really wanted to work on was yeah. I, don't. Know so if, the desire was there but I don't think I recognize that is as one single thing because slack is also a massively multiplayer work. By software yeah that's the kind of the the. Principal. Distinction between slack can pretty much every other tool and it, is very much like the games that we wanted to play it could take objects. And you can manipulate them, and distribute, them and form groups and and all of that I, don't think they really recognize them as being fundamentally, similar until, much, later the thing that I thought as being, the common thread was just, it's, all software and. Software. That groups, that people use together to me is the most interesting challenges. Because it has all the regular challenges. Of scalability. On the one hand and, design, and usability on the other. But, social, dynamics, because. Of the feedback we wear the output, of the system can also be an input to the system are. Much more difficult to to design for and therefore much more interesting. Amazing. Thank you all for the questions, Dharma. You had a pleasure chatting with you, it's. Not often that we get time with a classically-trained. Philosophers. So I, have, a new spin on our typical lightning, round I'm gonna ask you a few questions that, keep me up at night is that ok cool. So. We'll start with an easy one is water. Wet yes. Ok. If. Soap, hits the floor is the. Floor clean or is it so dirty so. Sturdy. Yeah. Dirty. Soap alright, I have, to make sure I pronounce, this one the right way as, expecting, the, unexpected make. The unexpected. Expected. No. No. We're, going No ok. Final. One you. Ready one. Word or less. What. Is the meaning of life oh I, thought the question was one word or less. For. Those of you who read visage, that are.
Familiar. With the history of Buddhism I'll say Moo Moo. We. Have, a minute, and 20 seconds so I. Would love to hear more it's funny. There. Is like a like I said before. Contemporary. Anglo-american, philosophy, is really. Boring. On the one hand and you take away a subject matter there, are there's, an enormous. Corpus. Of research. And, argument. And even books written but certainly like thousands, of papers on the question of do, holes exist. Like. Hol. E like is there such a thing as a hole or is it the absence of something unless I swear that is a giant, argument so I find, easier just to come down on the side of one or the other the. Meaning, of life. To love one another. Okay. I like that one ladies, and gentlemen Stewart, Butterfield.