| Jan 9, 2023

How Slack Has Positioned Itself as the Default Collaboration App

Originally developed as a messaging tool for an online game, Slack owes its phenomenal growth to easy adoption, usability, and willingness to listen to customers.
By Kyle Pare |

3 minutes

You have probably heard of Slack. You may have found this article on the app. Slack’s meteoric rise has its origins way back in 2013, when the company made a decision to position itself as the default platform in business communications. But just how did Slack (an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge”) go from being a tool for online gaming to the go-to app for company collaboration — to the point where third parties now are designing their apps specifically to integrate with the ubiquitous platform? By making it easy to adopt.

Easy Adoption Drives Sales

Slack employs a viral distribution system, similar to apps like Zoom, that made it especially suited to take advantage of the pandemic (pun intended). If your company was using Slack, but an outside vendor wasn’t, collaboration was still a breeze — click a link, create a profile, and you were off. Slack also makes it easy to work with freelancers who may not have access to internal company tools. These features scaled incredibly well, and Slack’s intuitiveness and ease of adoption meant that prospective customers were quickly exposed to its benefits. 

Once Slack had its foot in the door, converting these freemium customers to paying ones was relatively simple because it was such a great product. Slack has expanded its sales team, but its product has made their lives easy. 

Slack was also ready to capitalize on a hybrid workforce. The pandemic was particularly kind to the businesses like Slack that had already built a user-friendly platform for inter-office communications. Slack lends itself to the particulars of hybrid work: It is easily accessible from any device, so people are ready to message the team in a fit of creativity as soon as inspiration strikes. If your team is globally dispersed and has never met in person, like our pool of writers at Strixus, Slack’s platform somehow makes it feel like you have been friends forever. 

The Default for Third-Party Integration

Slack is making its app indispensable because it has become the platform around which third-party services are designing their own apps. When you look at apps whose primary selling point is their seamless integration with Slack, it is a clear sign of Slack’s success.

Slack’s centralization is a key selling point. Companies don’t have to message on Slack, manage workflows on Trello, and store documents on Google Drive. Instead, people can link to, and work on, each of these services directly from the Slack platform, which has the same usability on desktop or mobile devices. 

Permissions can even be managed directly from Slack, so all work is done in one ecosystem. This makes it incredibly easy for employees to manage their workload, collaborate across departments and functions, and get more done. Slack’s motto is “be less busy,” but that certainly doesn’t mean “get less done.” 


Continued Customer-Focused Innovation

Slack was originally just a tool developed by a gaming design company. Founded by Stewart Butterfield (also the founder of Slack), Tiny Speck’s claim to fame was a short-lived online game called Glitch. Slack was the messaging tool created for Glitch, but when Glitch was shut down in 2012, the company showed remarkable foresight and pivoted into the SaaS (Software as a Service) industry. 

Slack was designed with gaming in mind, so it follows that one of its key secrets to success is how fun it can be to use. Other workplace collaboration apps can feel like business as usual, but Slack’s enhanced customer experience enabled it to become the fastest-growing SaaS startup ever — and positioned it to challenge even the largest software companies. 

Slack is on track to give stalwart competitors like Microsoft Teams or Google Chat a run for their money. One innovation is the introduction of SlackConnect, which easily integrates cross-organizational teams of up to 20 different companies. Slack has also expanded into a networking and recruiting service, with hordes of job-seekers joining channels specifically intended to link up candidates and recruiters. This approach is enabling a digital-first way of working to attract talent and win. Finding a job on Slack is by no means effortless, but it may even start challenging LinkedIn as an excellent way to find work fast. 

Challenging the Giants

This relentless focus on the customer experience is one of the reasons behind Slack’s continued success. Its founders designed it as a tool for themselves to use on Glitch, but as it was released to the public, they continually sought out customer feedback to learn their pain points and desired features. Designing a product that’s usable for customers is part of the reason why Salesforce acquired Slack in 2021 with a staggering $27.7bn price tag, the company’s largest acquisition. Slack has been a solid performer since that acquisition, with projected net revenue of $1.5bn in FY23

For a SaaS company, the gold standard is when other companies design their product around yours. Traditionally, this has been dominated by big players like Microsoft, Google, or Apple. Slack has changed all that in its quest to become the default business communication app. Slack is fun, easy to use, and it’s here to stay. 

Kyle Pare
Kyle Pare

Opinion Contributor, Strixus

Kyle Pare has been a freelance writer for two years and a communications officer in the military for nine. view profile


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