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商业 - 科技

微软的末日终于来了?这款应用增长实在太快

Michal Lev-Ram 2019年08月30日

Slack要想获得成功,至少是获得华尔街眼中的成功,那么它就需要成为一个像微软一样的巨头。

插图:Chris Gas

今年6月,职场即时通信软件Slack的CEO斯图尔特·巴特菲尔德飞到了纽约,参加公司的IPO典礼。为了庆祝这一盛事,他不仅带去了公司的管理团队和一些主要客户,还带去了他的母亲诺玛·巴特菲尔德。

幸运飞艇技巧在最近《财富》杂志于阿斯彭举办的头脑风暴科技大会上,巴特菲尔德对观众说:“对我来说最重要的是,我让我母亲也去了,而且她还在纽交所敲了钟,宣告了我们的股票正式开始交易。”

Slack是一个很受欢迎的职场通讯软件,它可以让员工们互相发消息,共享和合作处理文件,管理项目,以及执行其他重要工作任务。Slack在纽交所挂牌,其意义远远不只在于融资。它也是一次成年礼,标志着Slack这个工具开始由青涩走向成熟。

幸运飞艇技巧Slack有很充足的增长理由。它最初只在硅谷的创业公司里流行,最近又吸引了不少大型企业客户,很多客户又有一些同样体量的上市公司合作伙伴。巴特菲尔德在《财富》头脑风暴科技大会上谈到Slack的上市时表示:“这给我们带来了一些信誉。”

巴特菲尔德表示,Slack的一些大客户一直想要了解这家公司的财务信息。而在公司上市以后,他们每季度都能够了解到Slack的收入、利润,甚至是风险了。

幸运飞艇技巧不光客户希望Slack上市,它的早期私人投资者也希望Slack上市,而他们现在已经大赚了一笔了。6月20日也就是IPO当天,Slack以38.5美元开盘,比纽交所前一天确定的26美元的参考价格足足高出48%。这使得Slack的估值达到了200亿美元左右,几乎是它作为一家私营公司的估值的三倍。此后,该公司股价一直处于波动之中,其市值也于8月初下跌至150亿美元左右。

尽管Slack的“直接上市”模式(一种非传统的上市方式,它既不发行新股,也不与承销商合作)取得了一定成功,但它现在却面临着更高的增长预期,以及一个永远绕不过去的强大对手——微软。微软最近称,它的职场聊天服务微软Teams已经有了1300万日均活跃用户,超过了Slack的1000万。这个消息也使Slack的股价在一日内暴跌近4%。

幸运飞艇技巧对与微软的竞争,巴特菲尔德回应称,相比那些拥有几十种产品的大公司,一些规模较小、重点更突出的企业也是可以有优势的。因为企业做得越大,一般就越难以强调质量和用户体验。

幸运飞艇技巧将二者的服务进行直观比较是有些困难的,原因如下:首先,Slack认为它的服务不仅仅是一个商业用聊天工具,而是应该属于一个独立的类别,因为它将传统的一对一沟通(如电子邮件)拓展为集体的“渠道”,使得信息共享和团队协作变得更容易了。Slack公司表示,Slack的用户平均每天要在电脑或手机上打开这款软件9小时,直接使用的时间为大约90分钟。

幸运飞艇技巧其次,微软的Teams是与它最重要的职场应用软件Office 365捆绑在一起的。换句话说,一个企业用户很有可能手头上已经有了Teams这项服务,但自己完全没有意识到,更谈不上使用它了。而Slack则是作为一个独立的服务销售的,没有与其他产品打包在一起。因此,有批评人士表示,微软Teams的用户数是被夸大了的。

不过微软 Office 365部门的副总裁杰瑞德·斯派塔罗表示,正因为外界有关于捆绑销售的置疑,微软才决定主动公布其每日活跃用户的数量,而不仅仅是公布总体用户的数量。“有1300万人正在使用Teams——从我们的角度看,他们使用的是免费版还是捆绑销售版的并不重要,重要的是他们使用了这个产品。”

幸运飞艇技巧至于微软的用户每天在Teams上花几个小时的时间,则并不清楚。与Slack不同的是,微软不愿意回答这个问题。

When Stewart Butterfield, chief executive of workplace messaging service Slack, flew to New York City for his company’s public stock market debut in June, he didn’t just bring his leadership team and some key customers to help celebrate. He also brought his mother, Norma Butterfield.

“The big thing for me is, I got my mom to come,” the CEO told the audience at Fortune’s recent Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen. “She got to ring the bell to open our shares for trading.”

幸运飞艇技巧The ceremonious milestone inside the New York Stock Exchange was more than a financial event for Slack. It was a bar mitzvah of sorts: a step from adolescence to adulthood for the buzzy tool that lets workers message one another, share and collaborate on documents, and manage projects, among other tasks that are key to getting work done.

Slack had ample reason to grow up. Initially popular with Silicon Valley startups, the company has more recently attracted larger corporate customers, many of which are accustomed to working with vendors that are equally big—and public. “It gives us some credibility,” Butterfield said about Slack becoming a publicly traded company, during his onstage interview.

幸运飞艇技巧According to the CEO, some of Slack’s bigger customers had been asking for the company’s financial records. Now they’ll have access to details like revenue and profit—and risks to the business—on a quarterly basis.

To be sure, customers weren’t the only ones clamoring for Slack to go public. So were its early private investors, who have so far made a killing on the company. On June 20, Slack’s impressive first day as a publicly listed company, shares opened at $38.50, 48% above the reference price of $26 that had been set by the NYSE the day before. That gave Slack a valuation of about $20 billion, nearly tripling its value as a private company. The stock has since fluctuated, with Slack’s market cap dipping to around $15 billion in early August.

Despite the success of its “direct listing”—an unconventional method of going public without issuing new shares or working with an underwriter—Slack now faces even higher expectations of growth and the same powerful nemesis: Microsoft. The tech giant, based in Redmond, Wash., recently bragged that its rival workplace chat service, Microsoft Teams, now has 13 million daily active users, compared with Slack’s 10 million. The news sent Slack’s shares tumbling almost 4% in one day.

幸运飞艇技巧Butterfield’s response to the competition is that a smaller, more focused company can have an advantage over a larger incumbent that has dozens of products. The bigger you get, says Butterfield, the harder it is to emphasize quality and user experience.

Comparing Microsoft’s numbers with Slack’s is difficult for several reasons. For starters, Slack contends that its service isn’t just another chat tool for businesses. Rather, it’s in a category by itself, the company says, because it shifts communication from one-to-one, like email, which creates silos of information, to group “channels” that make sharing information and working together easy. The average user, according to Slack, keeps the app open for nine hours daily on her computer or mobile phone, and engages with it for about 90 minutes.

幸运飞艇技巧There is another reason that makes apples-to-apples comparisons tricky. Teams is bundled with Office 365, a subscription-based version of Microsoft’s key workplace applications. An employer can have Teams, in other words, without even knowing it, much less using it. Slack, on the other hand, is sold as a stand-alone service and is not folded in with other products. Critics say that Microsoft’s user numbers for Teams are therefore inflated.

But Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s 365 division, says these questions about bundling are exactly why the company decided to publish its number of daily active users—not just overall customers. “The 13 million people who are using Teams— from our perspective, it doesn’t matter if they got it bundled or free,” says Spataro. “They’re using the product.”

The number of hours that Microsoft’s customers spend on Teams daily is unclear, however. Unlike Slack, Microsoft wouldn’t say.

不过不管怎样,分析师们都一致认为,Teams是Slack的最大威胁。William Blair公司的分析师布哈万·苏里在最近一份报告中指出了一个再明显不过的事实:“微软资本雄厚,而且在很多大企业都有显着的影响。”

幸运飞艇技巧微软是一台高效的利润机器,可以轻易地拿出大笔现金改进和推广Teams,而Slack到目前为止还是一笔赔钱的买卖。上一财年,Slack的营收入为4亿美元,亏损额达到1.39亿美元。不过好消息是,Slack的付费用户数较上年同期增长了近50%,这个速度足够让其他大大小小的科技公司羡慕的了。假设Slack能够以类似的速度继续发展下去,那么实现盈利是迟早的事。

Slack的发展也并非一直顺风顺水。今年46岁的巴特菲尔德于2009年在旧金山创办了一家名叫Tiny Speck的网游开发公司。Slack一开始只是这家公司为了方便内部沟通而开发的一个软件。到了2014年,巴特菲尔德的游戏创意搞不下去了,便把主要精力放在了Slack上。巴特菲尔德生于加拿大,现在他主要在旧金山和纽约市之间奔波,有时也去其他一些客户集中的城市拜访客户。目前,Slack的客户已经遍布全球150多个国家,

幸运飞艇技巧这并不是巴特菲尔德的第一次成功创业。以前他还创办过一个叫做Flickr的照片分享网站——它可能是后“互联网泡沫”时代最红火的创业公司之一了。2005年,雅虎以3500万美元收购了Flickr(这个价格对于那个时代的创业者来说,算是一次很成功的“退出”了)。巴特菲尔德继续在雅虎担任Flickr的总经理,不过由于不满雅虎官僚主义成风、缺乏创新等“大企业病”,他还是在三年后离开了雅虎。

也正是有了雅虎的前车之鉴,虽然Slack增长得很快,而且成功地由一家私营企业转型成了一家上市公司,但是巴特菲尔德还是坚信,更大并不一定代表更好。他的客户往往也同意他的观点。

金融服务公司TD Ameritrade的首席信息官维贾伊·桑卡兰表示:“Slack是一家非常灵活的公司,我们跟他们的CEO有直接的联系,也可以跟他们的产品工程团队直接合作,这是他们真正的优势。”

电商公司Shopify的“文化策略师”凯特琳·诺里斯表示,她曾经要求Slack为她的公司的4000名员工提供特定的新功能,Slack也做到了。她目前正在等待Slack的员工帮助她创建一个功能,让她的员工能够手动调整频道,为特定项目或主题创建选项卡,否则它们就会按照字母表的顺序排列。

幸运飞艇技巧In any case, analysts agree that Teams is the greatest threat to Slack. William Blair analyst Bhavan Suri states the obvious in a recent report: “Microsoft is well-capitalized and has a significant presence in many large enterprises.”

While Microsoft is a highly profitable machine that can easily plow cash into improving and promoting Teams, Slack is losing money. It hemorrhaged $139 million in its latest fiscal year on $400 million in revenue. But here’s the good news for Slack: Its roster of paying customers was up nearly 50% during that period compared with the year before, a growth rate that many other enterprise tech players, large and small, would envy. That kind of momentum is Slack’s ticket to achieving profitability, assuming it can continue at a similar pace.

幸运飞艇技巧Slack’s trajectory hasn’t always been so clear. Butterfield, 46, started Tiny Speck, a maker of online games, in San Francisco in 2009. He pivoted to Slack, the chat tool his team had created to communicate internally, in 2014, when it became clear that the original game idea wouldn’t catch on. The Canadian-born chief executive officer now splits his time between the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City, along with Slack’s other major hubs and visits to its customers, who are located across 150 countries.

It’s not Butterfield’s first time in the spotlight. Previously, he cofounded photo-sharing site Flickr, a hot startup during the post–?Internet bubble era. Yahoo eventually bought the service in 2005 for a reported $35 million (a respectable “exit” at the time). Butterfield stayed on at Yahoo as general manager of Flickr, but he left three years later, disenchanted with the web portal’s bureaucracy, lack of innovation, and huge size.

It’s no surprise, then, that despite Slack’s rapid growth and its transition from private to public, Butterfield remains convinced that being bigger isn’t always better. His customers tend to agree.

“Slack is a very nimble company,” says Vijay Sankaran, chief information officer at financial services firm TD Ameritrade, where 11,000 employees have access to the chat app. “We’ve got a direct relationship with the CEO. We work with the product engineering team. That’s a real strength of theirs.”

Kaitlin Norris, “culture strategist” at e-?commerce company Shopify, another customer, says she has asked for—and received—specific new features from Slack for her company’s 4,000 workers. She is currently waiting for Butterfield’s crew to create a feature that would let employees manually organize channels, tabs created for specific projects or topics, which otherwise appear in alphabetical order on the service.

今年6月,Slack公司的CEO斯图尔特·巴特菲尔德与他的母亲诺玛·巴特菲尔德在纽交所门外,庆祝Slack的股票直接上市。图片来源:Courtesy of Steward Butterfield

Slack之所以吸引了很多客户,主要在于它能够与很多其他公司的在线服务相融合。该平台上现有包括视频电话软件Zoom、允许用户对文档进行编辑的谷歌在线存储应用Drive等1500多个应用程序。此外,Slack还为用户提供了工具,让他们可以轻松地开发属于自己的功能,而这些功能也可以与Slack捆绑在一起。比如,Shopify开发了一款名叫“Tally”的人工智能机器人,它能够跟踪员工的费用情况,并使他们可以在Slack上提交费用报告。

幸运飞艇技巧William Blair公司的分析师苏里表示:“Slack就像一个专门面向现代企业的操作系统”,允许企业在一个地方访问所有的应用程序。

如果说,做“企业软件一站式商店”的目标令Slack看起来很像微软,那么实际上,可以说是,也可以说不是。讽刺的是,Slack要想获得成功,至少是获得华尔街眼中的成功,那么它就需要成为一个像微软一样的巨头。但巴特菲尔德相信,他可以推动公司继续增长,同时也不忘了公司的根本——简单。正是这个特点,才让Slack从一开始就流行了起来。(财富中文网)

本文另一版本登载于《财富》杂志2019年9月刊,标题为《Slack加速增长》。

译者:朴成奎

Much of Slack’s appeal to customers is that it integrates with online services from other companies. There are more than 1,500 such apps on the platform, from videoconferencing service Zoom to Google Drive, the online storage service that enables users to collaborate on documents. And Slack offers its customers tools that let them easily develop their own features that can be tied into Slack. Shopify, for example, has created an artificial intelligence–based bot called Tally that tracks what employees spend and allows them to file their expense reports, all within Slack.

幸运飞艇技巧“Slack acts like a pseudo operating system for the modern enterprise” that lets businesses access all their apps in one place, writes Suri, the William Blair analyst.

If becoming the one-stop shop for corporate software sounds a lot like Microsoft’s pitch, it is and it isn’t. Ironically, for Slack to succeed, at least in the eyes of Wall Street, it will need to become an enterprise giant much like its rival. But Butterfield is convinced he can continue to push the company into adulthood without forgetting its roots—the simplicity that helped Slack catch on in the first place.

A version of this article appears in the September 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Slack Spreads Its Wings.”

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