StartupGrind: Cal Henderson, co-founder & CTO of Slack

Event: StartupGrind: Slack – Cal Henderson
Date: 21 Nov. 2017 (Tuesday)

Startup Grind Singapore concluded 2017’s events with a fireside chat with Cal Henderson, co-founder and CTO of Slack. More than 130 people filled Found8 Prinsep to the brim, eager to hear how Cal and his co-founders built Slack – their successes, challenges, failures and any advice that he could give early-stage startups and those looking to grow and scale.

GorillaSpace’s very own Ginny moderated the session with Cal, and piqued a lively conversation from the start with the “accidental” naming of Slack. For those not yet familiar with the tool, Slack is an internal communications SaaS tool that enables colleagues to join in on conversations using channels. They are able to search for information and communicate directly and informally with one another. Today, Slack is the most-used communication tool for startups and small businesses. Increasingly larger corporations have started to test and adopt Slack internally, replacing the more formal emails for internal communication. Slack is so commonly used, it’s now become a verb.

“Make sure to slack that to me!”

Slack is best known as one of the fastest growing enterprise software in history and of course, a unicorn. It’s rare to see a business take off the way Slack has. To the outside world, Slack’s growth is exceptional (and it is!). What’s really exceptional is Cal and his co-founders’ ability to bounce back from each setback, including after spending US$16 million building Glitch over 4 years to acquire a few thousand users. Cal and his co-founders had to lay off 45 people and try quickly to save the rest of business. And how were they going to convince investors to reinvest?! They knew they had to pivot and weren’t entirely sure what the next big idea could be… although they were pretty clear it wasn’t going to be gaming!

The early Slack adopters were other developers and startups in Silicon Valley, who also needed an internal communications tool. These beta testers liked the tool very much, and soon Slack was being used by practically everyone in the startup scene in the Valley. Investors were intrigued as all their invested companies were Slack-ing and raving about the tool. Well, the rest is history!

Cal continued to share into the evening – how he met his three co-founders, Stewart Butterfield, Eric Costello and Serguei Mourachov, which involved hacking some email server (yikes!), Slack’s challenges, continual innovation, Cal’s thoughts on AI, competition from Workplace by Facebook and the potential for Slack’s growth in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Not forgetting some fun facts including Cal’s favorite emoji (cry laughing face).

Thank you, Cal, for being an open book and keeping it real! The Startup Grind Singapore community is that much fuller from our evening together. And very possibly better Slackers.

Ginny Eckblad, co-founder of GorillaSpace, with Cal Henderson, co-founder and CTO of Slack.

Ginny Eckblad, co-founder of GorillaSpace, with Cal Henderson, co-founder and CTO of Slack

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