Slack, the business communications app now worth $US1.1 billion, turned one year old on Thursday.
In time for its first anniversary, Slack released its latest numbers, which are truly staggering. It’s adding $US1 million in new contracts every 11 days, on top of the $US12 million in annual recurring revenue from the past year. It has over 500,000 daily active users, a 33X increase in just 12 months.
Slack is certainly a special case. Some even call it the fastest growing business app ever.
But the way they have managed to build up that growth isn’t necessarily rocket science. In fact, it simply followed what many other business apps have been doing lately: thinking like a consumer app.
Amanda Linden, the head of design for task-management service Asana, shared some of her insights on how the gap between consumer and business apps has been narrowing. Most of her points apply directly to Slack’s playbook:
The best product and design wins, not the best sales and marketing: Traditional enterprise software is often sold through CIOs who pick what the entire organisation is going to use without asking employees what they’d like to use. So it was important to have a sales and marketing team to sell the product to c-suite executives.
But today, with cloud services so easily available to anybody, employees often choose their own tools to get work done. That was certainly the case for Slack. In most cases, small teams within companies independently started using it, and slowly it took over the whole company. Its CEO Stewart Butterfield told us, “It’s been very much a bottoms-up adoption model.”
Make a product users love: Linden writes, “Your goal is a designer is to build an app so great that your users want to shout about it from the rooftops, and share it with all their teammates.” This would spur organic adoption and ultimately a more loyal user base.
Slack saw this organic growth early on when it spread purely on word-of-mouth. Butterfield told us Twitter made a huge difference, as more and more people started talking about it on their timelines. In fact, Slack has its own “Wall of Love” on Twitter where it pulls all the mentions it gets from users. “If it wasn’t for Twitter, I think it would have been much harder for us to grow as fast as we did,” Butterfield told us.
Make your product easy to onboard and customise: Linden says designers should make business apps so simple that they don’t require outside training to start using. Also, they should be easily customisable, so people can use them their own way.
Slack has a simple, intuitive layout that any first-time user can learn how to use instantly. One of its biggest strengths is its integrations with hundreds of 3rd party apps, including Dropbox, GitHub, Google Drive, and New Relic. With a simple configuration, users can automatically pull information and activity from these apps into Slack.
Slack isn’t the only company using this playbook — enterprise startups like Yammer, Box, and Asana itself have all done it. But Slack’s rapid growth shows that it’s played this tune particularly well.