Slack is getting ready to go public. The ubiquitous work collaboration tool known for its cheerful logo and do-gooder ethos announced the move today (Feb 4), but did not disclose details of its listing plans.
Since its founding 10 years ago, Slack has become a Silicon Valley powerhouse valued at $7.1 billion, according to private equity research firm PitchBook. Last year, it said it had 8 million daily active users and 3 million paid users.
Today’s announcement indicated Slack had filed draft documents with the US Securities and Exchange Commission confidentially. The listing is “expected to take place after the SEC completes its review process,” Slack said.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported Slack intends to pursue a direct listing, rather than list through the traditional process of selling shares at a set price and securing investors in advance. Instead, shareholders (rather than the company) can sell their shares directly in the public offering. If Slack chooses this path, it will follow in the footsteps of Spotify’s successful direct listing last year. The move allowed the company to avoid steep fees from investment banks, and lockup periods for insider shareholders. Direct listings make sense for companies that don’t need to raise funds, but want to give employees and early investors the opportunity to cash out.
Founded in 2009, Slack emerged from the ruins of a failed game company called Tiny Speck, which shut down in 2012. Tiny Speck’s team was dissatisfied with the communication tools available at the time and built what ultimately became Slack along the way. Its whimsical aesthetic and developer-friendly design made it an instant hint with software startups, newsrooms, and soon many others. Early adopters spread the gospel to small and mediums businesses, and then Slack took a shot at the enterprise space. The company has grown from 22 people in 2011 to more than 1,000 today.
Slack is now the dominant workplace communication and collaboration tool. Over the last five years, it managed to eclipse almost every major competitor in the space. One of the largest, Atlassian, offered HipChat and later Stride. But Atlassian announced it is retiring both products by this month. and leaving the communication business entirely in favor of project management. A “partnership” Atlassian struck with Slack last year sent its former rival the IP behind HipChat and Stride, and migrated its customers over to Slack, which also got a small equity investment from Atlassian in the deal. That leaves Microsoft’s Teams. In 2016, Microsoft tried to acquire Slack for $8 billion, and failed. Microsoft said last March that Teams is used by 200,000 organizations, up from 50,000 when it launched in 2017.
By Michael J. Coren
Foto: Craig Barritt/Getty Images Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield
Slack, the popular work chat app, has raised $427 million in venture capital at a valuation of more than $7 billion, according to a news release.
All told, Slack has raised about $1.27 billion in venture capital – including in a $250 million mega-round led by SoftBank in September 2017 that gave it a $5 billion valuation at the time.
Its latest valuation makes it that much more expensive for a larger tech company to buy it and, thus, at least a little more difficult for a sale to happen. But it’s also been coy about going public, raising questions about the master plan.
All the while, Microsoft has been reinforcing Microsoft Teams, its own work chat product.
Slack, the work chat app that has become a poster child for Silicon Valley startup success, is on something of a hot streak.
First, Slack bought the intellectual property to Atlassian’s HipChat, which had been one of its chief rivals. Then, no less than Microsoft recognized Slack as a major rival to the Microsoft Office suite in an official regulatory filing.
Now, Slack can add one more to its win column, as it takes in a whopping $427 million in an investment round led by Dragoneer Investment Group and General Atlantic, with participation from T. Rowe Price, Wellington Management, and others, including its existing roster of investors.
This investment, in turn, leads to two other figures of interest: Slack is now valued at “more than $7.1 billion,” according to a news release. And now, all told, Slack has raised just about $1.27 billion of venture capital. That includes the $250 million mega-round it took back in September at a $5 billion valuation in a deal led by SoftBank.
Slack is also using the opportunity to tout its growth. It says it has 8 million daily active users and 70,000 paid teams, up from the 6 million daily active users and 50,000 paid teams it announced last year. Also in September, Slack said it had $200 million in annual recurring revenue, though it didn’t have an updated figure to share with its latest announcement.
More money means more questions
This funding round raises some questions for the future of Slack.
A $7.1 billion valuation makes it that much more difficult for Slack to be bought by a big tech company. If Amazon, for example, were to revisit its reported interest in buying Slack, it would most likely have to pay a big premium over that valuation. Even for a gigantic tech company like Amazon, that would be a hefty price tag.
At the same time, Slack has played coy about going public, declining to announce any plans one way or the other. With so much money going into the startup, though, some kind of exit seems likely sooner rather than later.
And all the while, Slack is facing down the continued threat of Microsoft, whose Microsoft Teams product comes bundled with the mega-popular Office 365 productivity suite for businesses. While Slack has its fair share of superfans and champions, Microsoft wields significant might in this market, and the startup has its work cut out for it.
Microsoft hasn’t taken this lying down, either, and has made moves to make Teams more competitive with Skype – most recently, launching a free version of Microsoft Teams meant to hook in smaller groups and eventually lure them to the paid version.
So while the ability to raise so much cash so quickly is a definite feather in the company’s cap, it now falls on Slack to show the world that it can take on its much larger competitor … and win.
Hootsuite Inc. is considering a sale that would value the Vancouver-based social media management company at US$750 million or more, according to a report from Reuters.
Sources tell the news agency that Hootsuite has enlisted Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to assist with a potential sale.
Hootsuite has also been the centre of speculation over the years for a possible initial public offering.
This ramped up in October 2015 when the social media management company hired Sujeet Kini as its first chief financial officer. Kini previously worked as chief accounting officer at OpenText (TSX:OTC), one of Canada’s largest publicly traded software companies.
Greg Twinney from Real Matters Inc. replaced Kini in January 2018.
The following March, Hootsuite announced it had entered into a credit financing agreement for up to US$50 million in growth capital from CIBC Innovation Banking.
Hootsuite did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business in Vancouver.
Enterprises Look to Social Media and Hootsuite to Achieve Business Objectives Across the Funnel
Hootsuite advanced its position as the leader in social media management in Q3 by helping customers achieve their business objectives via paid search and social advertising. Hootsuite enhanced its paid advertising features and announced a new integration with Google Ads that brought paid search and social advertising together in one platform. As a result, Hootsuite was awarded official Google Premier Partner certification recognizing the company as a leading platform for developing and maintaining successful online advertising campaigns for business.
“With the decline of organic reach in both search and social, brands must leverage a strategic mix of organic and paid content to reach and inspire their audiences,” noted Penny Wilson, CMO, Hootsuite. “In our recent Social Media Barometer Report, sixty-one percent of organizations said they now rely on social media to increase conversions and sales. Hootsuite’s complete social suite enables enterprises to build brand awareness and strengthen customer relationships while delivering on revenue goals, making social one of the highest performing customer engagement channels.”
Hootsuite customers recognized the company’s continued industry innovation with a variety of awards and accolades. In Q3, Hootsuite was again ranked by customers as a G2 Crowd Leader across multiple categories, including Social Media Suites,Social Media Management, Social Media Analytics, Social Media Monitoring and Brand Advocacy. The company was also ranked #1 in Top 20 Most Popular Social Media Marketing Software report. And Hootsuite was recognized among the best private cloud companies with a second consecutive appearance on the Forbes Cloud 100.
Hootsuite’s Q3 2018 momentum also included the following highlights:
Hootsuite released its annual Social Media Barometer Report. The annual report found social media to be a critical platform for global businesses to maintain competitive advantage, with social media expected to continue to grow in importance for their businesses and customers.
Widen, a provider of digital asset management (DAM) software, launched an integration with Hootsuite. Users can now search for content from the Widen Collective within Hootsuite.
UpContent announced a seamless integration with Hootsuite Amplify, helping joint customers manage the distribution of articles to support the professional development and personal branding goals of employees. The integration pairs Hootsuite’s employee advocacy platform with UpContent’s curated content management technology.
Klear announced a referral partnership with Hootsuite to provide enterprise brands with a complete set of tools essential for managing their social media influencer marketing efforts.