We’ve heard from sources that Slack, the super-hot collaborative communication startup, is launching a new way to download third-party apps.
This would be a big move for the startup, valued at $2.8 billion, that could help bring it out of the realm of being a charming new entry to a potential powerhouse in collaboration software. Initially just a channel for communication among teams, third-party apps would give Slack the ability to publicize and highlight the top use cases for Slack within tools that sit on top of the service. It’s also a natural move for any service that serves as a platform for collaboration.
And of course, with all of this brings Slack the opportunity to closely monitor the most popular use cases for the service that sit on top of its normal communication tools. Those opportunities give a company like Slack a chance to either build those popular tools themselves (which is often the case with Apple) or invest in — and potentially acquire — those tools.
It’s not clear what this will look like right away. Slack already has a large number of integrations with the service that are accessible through slash commands — like inserting GIFs with a Giphy command (one of my personal favorites), or creating tasks in Asana. It has Slackbot, a tool which allows users to address questions and commands to the service in order to get some automated assistance as well.
But it’s not hard to imagine what exactly might sit on top of Slack. Already the service has become a go-to in Silicon Valley, and in April this year we reported that it had 750,000 workers using the service daily. Given that so many companies are already using Slack, it’s easy to see why the service might open itself up to more bespoke tools that different kinds of companies might need.
Supporting ancillary applications has helped some of the most popular enterprise software services move beyond simple services to true platforms — and built businesses that are worth tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars. Salesforce, for example, is not simply customer relationship management software thanks to its support of third-party applications that helps it become a much larger suite of tools beyond just its CRM software.
It’s not clear when this will launch. But Slack is holding a big event this week — one of its first, which is something that is often a big welcoming party for a startup to the big leagues. Stripe held its first event earlier this year where it debuted a tool that helps retailers sell goods with better native experiences.
For all the hype Slack has received in the private markets, it’s far from the only collaboration software company — though it has captured the hearts and minds of Silicon Valley since its launch. The service has become popular thanks to its dead-simple and well-designed communication service, but if it wants to become a larger company it will inevitably have to grow beyond that.
The largest competitor — or, at least, potential competitor — in this case would be Atlassian, the maker of Hipchat. But Hipchat is just one tool in Atlassian’s arsenal, and the success of the company’s suite of tools helped propel it to one of the most successful IPOs of the year. Atlassian went public earlier this week, hitting a valuation of $5.8 billion after it popped more than 30% once it began trading.
But already Slack has shown that a powerful straight communications tool for teams is worth at least a billion dollars. So it’s on Slack to prove it can become a massive company that can grow not only to the size of, but larger than, other collaboration software services like Atlassian.
This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Slack, which already has a suite of tools for sharing content like PDFs and photos within its communications service. But as is often the case with many services, the best tools are often not built by platform creators — they’re built by power-users and companies that find niches within the service that need addressing.
Slack has at the very least become a phenomenon in Silicon Valley. In November, CEO Stewart Butterfield said he was already preparing the company in such a way that it would be ready to go public if necessary (which, in most cases, means the company would need to raise additional capital).
It still remains to be seen whether this move — which, to be sure, is very early in its life — will help the startup grow to become an even larger startup that can leave companies like Atlassian behind.