Wired Magazine’s Mat Honan wrote an excellent profile on Stewart Butterfield, the founder of Slack, on Thursday.
In case you haven’t heard of Slack, it’s one of the fastest-growing enterprise apps these days. It’s basically a “group chat on steroids,” with advanced search and file-sharing functionalities.
According to the profile, Slack has grown 5% to 10% every week since its launch in February. That translates to roughly 120,000 daily users and 2,000 paying organisations for the full service. It’s growing so fast that it’s adding $US1 million to its annual billing projections every six weeks, the article says.
Because of its explosive growth, investors are now literally knocking on its door. Around 5 to 10 investors call Butterfield every week to see if they could invest in Slack, and some are even asking if they could just buy the entire company, according to Honan’s article.
In April alone, Slack was able to secure $US43 million in venture capital, reaching $US60 million in total funding. Even billionaire investor Marc Andreessen once tweeted, “I have never seen a viral enterprise app take off like this before — all word of mouth.”
But Butterfield has bigger ambitions. He wants Slack to be the next Microsoft:
It wants to get to a place where it is the one application that everyone in your company runs all the time, no matter what else they are doing. It wants to end interoffice email. It wants to be the next Microsoft — not the current, cowed, pathetic company looking for a comeback. No, it doesn’t want to be Expendables Stallone-era Microsoft, it wants to be Rocky/Rambo Stallone-era Microsoft.
But not a lot of people realise that Slack is, in fact, not Butterfield’s first success story. He’s also the founder of Flickr, the widely used photo-sharing service that Yahoo acquired in 2005.
Butterfield never enjoyed his time at Yahoo, though. He calls Yahoo a “terrible joke” and told Honan that “innovation at Flickr turned blue and choked out” after joining Yahoo. He and his two cofounders assumed that Yahoo would free up a lot of cash and memory — but what they got instead was “a fight for everything,” including servers, people, and time.
Eventually Butterfield left Yahoo after three years. But he didn’t leave quietly. He sent out this charming and hilarious resignation letter — where he likens himself to an “old tin-smithing friend” — which really tells you what this guy is all about. The following is a copy of the letter he wrote to Yahoo’s HR department back in 2008:
From: Stewart Butterfield
Sent: Friday, June 13, 2008 10:57 AM
To: Brad Garlinghouse
As you know, tin is in my blood. For generations my family has worked with this most useful of metals. When I joined Yahoo! back in ’21, it was a sheet-tin concern of great momentum, growth and innovation. I knew it was the place for me.
Over the decades as the company grew and expanded, first into dies and punches, into copper, corrugated steel, synthesized rubber, piping, milling equipment, engines, instruments, weaponry and so on, I still felt at home because tin was the core of the business…
Since the late 80s, as the general manufacturing, oil exploration and refining, logistics and hotel and casino divisions rose to prominence, I have felt somewhat sidelined.
By the time of the internet revolution and our expansion into Web Sites, I have been cast adrift. I tried to roll with the times, but nary a sheet of tin has rolled of our own production lines in over 30 years.
In my 87 years service, I’ve accomplished many feats, shared in the ups and downs, made great friends and learned a tremendous amount … but there is a new generation now and it would be unfair not to give them a chance. Those that started in the make-work programs of the depression, on the GI programs in the late ’40s and even those young baby boomers need their own try without us old ‘uns standing in the way.
So please accept my resignation, effective July 12. And I don’t need no fancy parties or gold watches (I still have the one from ’61 and ’76). I will be spending more time with my family, tending to my small but growing alpaca herd and of course getting back to working with tin, my first love.
Your old tin-smithing friend and colleague,
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