A top executive at $5 billion Slack explains the secret weapon to fight off Microsoft and Facebook (MSFT, FB)

  • Slack is one of those startups that Silicon Valley loves to boast about. It has zoomed to international success, 8 million users, and a $5 billion valuation in a fast four years.
  • But now it is being chased by giant companies like Facebook and especially Microsoft.
  • Top Slack exec April Underwood says that the company has a secret weapon: Users actually enjoy using it. 

Slack Chief Product Officer April Underwood — who’s been running engineering for the fast-growing startup for most of its four years on the market — isn’t terribly worried about all of the big-name rivals that are coming for it.

Not even the ones from Microsoft and Facebook. Or so Underwood said on stage Monday, at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference being held this week in Aspen, Colorado.

Underwood said that Slack now has 8 million daily active users and 70,000 paying customers. She said that as recently as two years ago, Slack really couldn’t support companies with a thousand employees who wanted to use it. Today, Slack has enterprise customers who put 100,000 employees on the platform.

But as Slack has grown so wildly, it has caught the attention of the giant tech companies, especially Microsoft and its Teams product, which comes bundled with Office 365. Facebook, too, has been going after Slack with Workplace by Facebook, a version of the social network specifically for businesses. 

On the one hand, Underwood appears to take their giant competitors in stride, saying Slack has a secret weapon to win deals against its competitors: The fact that, generally speaking, users actually like it. 

“Employees ask to use Slack. Very rarely is it the CIO or admin who made decision [to bring in Slack],” she says. So, 
“when competitors are brought in, employees say, ‘No, we don’t want to use this tool.'”

But at the same time, she’s clearly watching her back. When asked about all the money Slack raised — $790 million and counting, according to Crunchbase — she pointed to her bigger competitors, particularly Microsoft, noting that they have a lot more resources at hand than Slack.

“Yes, we raised a lot of money, but we are up against some of the biggest tech companies in the world. For us to be successful, I always thought that we would be competing against the Microsofts,” she said.

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