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    Slack + Salesforce Emergency Pod with Packy McCormick of Not Boring

    Slack's innovative spirit and strategic focus on below-the-surface work could lead to long-term growth and success. Salesforce's acquisition of Slack will depend on their ability to retain its unique identity and not turn it into just another product.

    enDecember 02, 2020

    About this Episode

    Acquired is live on the scene covering Salesforce's blockbuster $27.7B acquisition of Slack, with the help of the internet's #1 Slack bull (and top internet analyst in his own right), Packy McCormick of Not Boring. We dissect the deal itself, Slack's relatively short life as a public company, the impact of Microsoft and Teams, and most importantly what this means for enterprise SaaS startups broadly. And oh yeah — we have a ton of fun too. :)

    Note: you can find our full June 2019 episode on Slack's history and their DPO here: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/the-slack-dpo

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    Playbook Themes from this episode are available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/slack-salesforce-emergency-pod-with-packy-mccormick-of-not-boring


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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Slack, a top-ranked SaaS company with vast potential, has its unique identity, making it stand out from similar companies. Its recent acquisition by Salesforce has spurred discussions, highlighting its significance in the market.
    • Despite Microsoft Teams' threat to its market share, Slack's high switching costs and moats make it a more promising long-term investment than Zoom. The recent Salesforce acquisition may have limited its potential, but under-priced SaaS companies with high growth are hard to come by.
    • Microsoft Teams focuses on being a hub for Microsoft products, while Slack integrates with various software and threatens email. Zoom should consider being more acquisitive, while Slack aims to be the next Microsoft.
    • Microsoft Teams is positioning itself as a central hub for communication and productivity, while the Salesforce acquisition of Slack creates an OS for the new way of work, benefiting subscale software and productivity companies.
    • Slack Connect and integration with Salesforce distribution could lead to increased adoption of Slack among large enterprises, potentially making it the go-to work social network.
    • Despite changing marketing messages, Slack Connect is positioning itself as an external tool to revolutionize the way organizations communicate. While expensive, its feature set and benefits make it worth the investment for those in need of a virtual office solution.
    • Despite Slack's impressive free cash flow and growth, the decision to sell may have been driven by a desire to avoid dealing with Wall Street pressure and competing with Microsoft. Salesforce's acquisition could provide stronger distribution power and eliminate such pressure.
    • Corporate card and software solutions may help alleviate procurement pain while chat tools like Discord may replace Slack as a central hub. Slack's future success relies on acquiring fast-growing companies or risk losing out to better software.
    • Slack should focus on embedding itself in different apps to become the way chat is implemented in them, while also developing below-the-surface-level features unique to its platform. It must differentiate itself from platforms like Discord, with its own go-to-market strategy targeting gaming and neutral communities. The future may see platforms that combine the best of both.
    • By acquiring Slack, Salesforce can provide a larger audience for marketing and improve communication with clients. This acquisition gives Salesforce an advantage over competitors like Microsoft, who may face antitrust scrutiny. Even with similar investment options, the US government wouldn't have any issue with Amazon acquiring Tencent.
    • The acquisition of Slack by Salesforce can bring in high-growth assets and capture a new customer base, while competitors like Google also see value in the acquisition for its integration capabilities.
    • Salesforce acquisition could provide opportunities for Slack, but the future outcome may vary based on integration quality. Zoom needs to focus on video platform development to maximize potential growth.
    • Slack's innovative spirit and strategic focus on below-the-surface work could lead to long-term growth and success. Salesforce's acquisition of Slack will depend on their ability to retain its unique identity and not turn it into just another product.
    • The Salesforce-Slack deal creates new opportunities for SaaS startups and poses a threat to traditional collaboration software. It also promises increased revenue growth for Slack and may create an anti-Microsoft alliance.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Slack's Potential and Unique Identity in the SaaS Market

    Slack, being one of the best SaaS companies, has been underappreciated but has a huge potential to build into a juggernaut over time. Slack is among the top quartile in almost every metric across the best emerging cloud index. Slack has been compared to companies like Zoom and others, but has its unique identity. The combination of cash and stock in the acquisition of Slack by Salesforce makes for one of the most talked-about transactions recently. Packy McCormick of Not Boring was contacted by Acquired to speak about the acquisition in an emergency pod. Interestingly, Tiny, the sponsor of season seven, was involved in the very beginning of Slack's journey through MetaLab, Andrew's first business.

    Microsoft Teams Threatens Slack's Market Share, but Benefits of High Switching Costs and Moats Make It a Better Long-Term Investment Compared to Zoom

    Microsoft's threat to Slack's market share has kept its stock beaten down for so long despite its potential as a long-term company with growing customers. The biggest reason for this is that Microsoft Teams sees Slack as a threat to its entire suite, and they have gone after Slack by name. However, Slack's high switching costs and moats pay off over time and make it a better long-term investment compared to Zoom. While the acquisition by Salesforce is a great win for those who bought Slack shares earlier, it will remain independent for now, and its potential as a 3X-4X stock was cut short. This is a rarity for SaaS companies during the coronavirus pandemic, making under-priced SaaS companies that grow at 49% YoY hard to come by.

    Teams vs Slack vs Zoom: A Battle for Dominance in Enterprise Software

    Microsoft Teams has more users than Slack and is competing more with Zoom than Slack. Teams is meant to be a hub for Microsoft products within an organization and has limited features for adding teams and sub channels. Microsoft's strategy is to use its distribution capabilities to dominate in enterprise software and feed products into that channel. Slack, on the other hand, is a platform that integrates with various software and potentially threatens email. Zoom is expensive and has no moat, so they should consider being more acquisitive. While Eric is happy with their video product, Stuart wants Slack to be the next Microsoft.

    Microsoft Teams vs. Slack and the Salesforce-Slack alliance

    Microsoft is positioning Teams as a central hub for everything and actively working towards bringing in more users for greater engagement and usefulness over time. Comparing Teams to other communication and video software like Slack is like comparing apples and oranges. The alliance between Salesforce and Slack is a show of force for best in breed applications, but it also represents anti-Microsoft consolidation. Salesforce's acquisition of Slack will likely benefit other subscale software and productivity companies due to increased go-to market and distribution. Combining Slack with Salesforce Customer 360 will create an operating system for the new way to work, enabling companies to succeed in an all-digital world. Slack will be deeply integrated into every Salesforce cloud as the new interface for Salesforce Customer 360.

    How The Acquisition of Slack Could Benefit Salesforce

    The acquisition of Slack by Salesforce could potentially unlock their growth story with a credible way to get big organizations on board. Slack Connect, a way to work with partners and clients in a shared channel, is a strategic move for Slack to get more people to try the product. As more companies join, they may start paying for Slack and eventually expand in the organization. Integration with Salesforce may not be deep, but leveraging Salesforce distribution will help reach more enterprises. Shared channels through Slack Connect may provide an easier way to communicate with partners and clients within the Salesforce products. This could make Slack a more attractive product for Salesforce, as it could become the work social network.

    Examining Slack Connect and its place in the enterprise market

    Slack Connect is a bunch of shared channels between organizations, which is a natural way for Slack to be an external tool. Slack is trying to position itself as an email killer and virtual office. However, their main marketing message has been changing several times. While describing the problem, letting people assume they are the answer can resonate with them better than getting the words exactly right. Salesforce is the ultimate embodiment of enterprise software sold through traditional enterprise ways, where UI is hidden until the last moment. Slack, on the other hand, shows its feature set quite openly. At $27, Slack seems expensive but considering its benefits, it is worth the money.

    Slack's Sale to Salesforce: A Strategic Move to Avoid Wall Street Pressure?

    Slack, a billion-dollar run rate company with phenomenal margins, recently became free cash flow positive and grew to $36 million in free cash flow this quarter. Despite these positive developments, they sold for a 55% premium indicating that they may have been looking to avoid dealing with continual pressures from Wall Street. Although Slack has been growing, their year-over-year growth rate dropped from 49% in the last quarter to 39% this quarter, which could have been a factor in their decision to sell. The acquisition by Salesforce could provide them with stronger distribution power and eliminate the hassle of competing with Microsoft. The sale of Slack also raises questions about whether they could have benefitted from acquiring Frank Slootman to lead the company and take on Microsoft.

    Solutions for subscription fatigue and competition in the collaboration space

    As subscription fatigue increases, the market may move towards corporate card solutions or software solutions that help consolidate spend and alleviate procurement pain. As more competition arises in the collaboration space with apps like Figma and Notion offering embedded communication features, Slack may become a backup option instead of a central hub. One potential solution is a chat tool like Discord that exists on top of all collaboration tools. Slack's bull case may be in acquiring young, fast-growing companies and becoming a central hub for everything they do, while its bear case is the emergence of even better software that takes away younger companies and potentially larger ones like Stripe.

    How Slack can stay relevant in a federated work environment

    For Slack, the big risk is that work gets federated and happens in apps rather than in the central communication nexus. Therefore, Slack needs to embed itself in different apps rather than building its own bots within its software. Slack has a huge defensive opportunity to be the way chat gets implemented in apps. However, Discord has a different go-to-market strategy than Slack, as it targets gaming and neutral communities rather than the enterprise. While there are some similarities between the two platforms, they are mostly different, and it is the below-the-surface-level features that make them unique. Companies like Huddle may come out and combine the best of Discord with all of the below-the-surface-level features of Slack.

    Salesforce Acquisition of Slack: Benefits and Comparison to Competitors

    Salesforce's acquisition of Slack could potentially benefit Slack by providing a larger professional platform to market its product. Integrating Slack Connect and Salesforce could improve communication with clients and potential targets for big enough deals. Salesforce's ability to acquire targets under-the-radar gives them an advantage over others with antitrust scrutiny exposure. Microsoft would have been unable to acquire Slack due to antitrust reasons, and has a hangover from previous DOJ scrutiny. The DOJ scrutiny focused on Microsoft's open file format claims which they lacked documentation for. Tencent's investment portfolio has doubled in value for many massive companies, making it an equally good investment option to KKR, Sequoia, and Berkshire. US government wouldn't have any issue with Amazon acquiring Tencent.

    Salesforce's acquisition of Slack as a strategic move for enterprise growth.

    Salesforce's acquisition of Slack can help the former grow their enterprise revenue by acquiring high-growth assets. Slack's relatively underpenetrated market provides a large feature revenue stream that Salesforce can tap into. Other potential interested acquirers, such as Google, also see the value in the Slack acquisition due to its integration with G Suite, which can onboard a new company with ease. Companies can form a relationship through partnership, which can lead to acquisition. The acquisition of Slack by Google would have made a ton of sense, especially given their ad business that is currently spinning off a lot of cash. The acquisition price for Slack does not seem high compared to other SaaS companies' multiples.

    Slack's Future with Salesforce Acquisition and Zoom's Focus on Video Platform

    Slack's tenure as a public company has not been great with a C- grade given by David, though the outcome above the DPO is commendable. Despite strong business performance, the market doubted the long-term prospects of the company due to the Microsoft Teams bullying narrative. Looking forward, the acquisition by Salesforce offers a range of possibilities. An A+ scenario could see Slack becoming an integral part of Salesforce's platform and offerings, while a C scenario could see poor integration and autonomy. An F scenario could see Slack not being able to maintain its customer base and being overshadowed by other offerings. Zoom, on the other hand, needs to focus on becoming a video platform for the entire economy, and CEO Eric needs to avoid distractions to maximize the huge opportunity.

    Slack's Potential for Long-Term Growth and Salesforce Acquisition

    Slack's biggest problem was communicating its own story, but its potential for long-term growth should not be underestimated. While the company may have underperformed in the market, its focus on below-the-surface work, such as its Apico system, is strategic and impactful. The success of Salesforce's acquisition and integration of Slack will depend on its ability to retain Slack's innovative spirit and not turn it into another Salesforce product. The risk of cross-selling Salesforce to Slack users is relatively low and should not impact adoption. Overall, the success of the acquisition will depend on Salesforce's ability to maintain Slack's unique identity and incorporate its strengths into the larger Salesforce ecosystem.

    The acquisition of Slack by Salesforce: A game-changer for SaaS startups.

    The acquisition of Slack by Salesforce provides a new distribution channel for fast-growing SaaS companies and may even unlock a new market for them. It also humanizes the sales process and creates a network that backs up the sales funnel. Slack Connect is believed to be the next generation of collaboration software, and startups are likely to use it and pose an existential risk to the traditional F scenario. The deal may catalyze Salesforce and create an anti-Microsoft alliance, making it a viable and successful distribution channel for best-of-breed SaaS companies. The acquisition of Slack by Salesforce has the potential to massively increase revenue growth for Slack and convince more and more companies to adopt it.

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