Slack’s hidden origins, cybersecurity, fintech, plus Africa’s startup growthJune 1, 2019
The Slack Origin Story
Slack is one of the most iconic enterprise companies to come out of Silicon Valley. Part of the reason is the mythos surrounding the startup’s founding as a games company and later pivot into workplace communication. But what’s the story behind the story of the high-flying company? Who supported the company every step of the way?
“We realized, wow, this is hugely a productive way of working and I think all of us agreed we wouldn’t work without a system like this again and maybe other people would like it,” Butterfield said in a recent video released by Slack ahead of its June 20 direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
So the team reimagined their future and looked to their investors for support.
Accel, sources tell TechCrunch, remained committed. Andreessen Horowitz, however, had a more complicated response. According to sources familiar with the matter, a16z was highly skeptical of Butterfield and whether he could succeed in the enterprise space. When Tiny Speck went out to raise its first round of capital as an enterprise software upstart in what would technically be its Series C, a16z hesitated.
A source close to Slack told TechCrunch that a16z put the company “through the ringer,” telling Butterfield that enterprise “wasn’t in his DNA.” A16z denies these accounts citing their close relationship with Butterfield and the business in 2019. Admittedly, it’s unclear how much capital a16z may or may not have funneled to Slack at the Series C but given it currently owns nearly 10 percent less of Slack than Accel, a fellow early investor, its likely to have cut back its capital commitments around the time of Tiny Speck’s pivot.
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