July 2016

Google should buy Slack

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“There are areas where we will be ahead, and there will be areas where someone points a way and we do it,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been known to say.

Well then, may I suggest that Google look to the way Slack is doing it. But instead of developing things on their own, they should add the fast-growing business messaging app to their roster of acquisitions. An average of one business joins Google’s ranks every week. Slack should be one of them.

Slack will definitely pass the “toothbrush test” that Google founder Larry Page says potential candidates go through. The test means that the company’s products should be potentially useful once or twice a day, and should improve a user’s life. Most users of Slack are avid fans who use the application an average of 10 hours a day to, among other things, “kill email.”

Critics have opined that tech giant Google seems more interested in developing products for the consumer market, to the detriment of its business clients. None of its six messaging applications – Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Spaces, Messenger and Voice – is a strong business product. Slack would remedy the situation, beefing up Google’s enterprise offerings.

For Slack’s part, being bought by Google would make it better able to face competition. Right now, Slack is the most popular business chat app in the market, but maybe not for long. More and more people are agreeing that messaging is the business interface of the future. This is where the next tech duels will happen.

Microsoft was reportedly hot on buying Slack, but backed out of  placing an US$8 billion bid. Microsoft founder Bill Gates preferred to use the money to develop Skype for business.

Microsoft very recently acquired Wand Labs, a Silicon Valley startup that develops messaging applications. This is Microsoft strengthening its expertise in artificial intelligence and the use of natural language in tech. One of the jobs the Wand Labs team will have in Microsoft is creating chat bots.

See that in the context of observation that Slack is the next big enterprise social network. Add Microsoft also acquiring LinkedIn. You realize that we may have a David vs. Goliath situation here.

Having Google behind it will even out the playing field for Slack. Their visions seem compatible with each other. Slack is currently developing artificial intelligence to make their users’ work lives easier. Google’s I/O 2016 conference made it clear that the company’s future is invested in AI.

It is said, however, that Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield is not keen on being bought out. When Slack was two years old, he had already reportedly turned down 8 to 10 acquisition offers. Butterfield was one of the creators of Flickr. He was burnt very badly with his experience, after Flickr was acquired by Yahoo. Once bitten, twice shy.

Having bought more than 200 companies, Google should have great expertise in managing the post-acquisition integration process. It did handle its 2006 acquisition of Youtube with finesse, giving the video startup the dose of independence it needed. Youtube has since grown to become one of Google’s best assets.

Google should definitely make a bid for Slack.

Disclosure: I have been working for 10 years in the Google Apps ecosystem, and my latest company Wizy.io is launching a team messaging solution for Google Apps customers.

Laurent-Casual-croppedFrom 2006 to 2012, Wizy.io CEO Laurent Gasser headed Revevol, a consultancy in Paris that he co-founded and built to become one of the most important Google Apps resellers in the world. He moved on to head the startup Collabspot, a Gmail extensions. In 2015, he founded Wizy.io from teams from the two companies. 

Laurent GasserGoogle should buy Slack
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Use Form Workflow across your domain

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Our users love using Form Workflow. It’s an amazingly useful tool for automating approvals and data gathering.

The top use case is the management of day-off requests. Our Google Sheets add-on will let an employee submit a day-off request through Google Forms. From there, it goes directly to a supervisor’s email for approval. Everybody involved is notified by an email, while the owner of the workflow gets a record of all the results in a spreadsheet.

Form Workflow can also be used for a host of other tasks, for example, shared resources requests, purchase approvals and booking forms.

It’s a tool for the entire company. So we are happy to announce that you can now deploy Form Workflow to everybody in your organization. Use the add-on in all departments and by all users in your Google Domain, with absolutely no limits.

Interested? Email us at gilles@wizy.io.

Gilles Meiers croppedA strong entrepreneurial spirit and a love for challenges define Gilles Meiers, Wizy.io’s Growth & Marketing Director. A transplanted Frenchman, Gilles was previously with Paris-based Revevol and Global Innovation in New York.

Gilles MeiersUse Form Workflow across your domain
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Why did Google fail to invent Slack?

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Before the wildly popular chat and collaboration app Slack launched in 2013, there was Gchat. As Slate’s Lily Hay Newman said, “(It) archived chats, made them searchable, allowed for group chats, and facilitated media transfers.” Gchat, she maintained, was Slack.

A more bare-bones version of it, for sure, but Google had it back in 2005. They could certainly have launched a robust variety way before Slack came along eight years later. Google, however, did not develop Gchat.

Why? The innovation methodology of Google is simply not suited to business IT.

Its strategy of 10x thinking lends itself superbly to big and bold endeavors. So you have Google building a robot army, joining the space race, even attempting immortality.

It’s a mindset that’s great for solving big problems and for changing the world, but it is a way of thinking that is not compatible with the development of enterprise applications.

Business IT is not about the big and the bold. It is about the slow and the sure. Enterprise technology has to figure out ways to best serve the business; and the people in the business organization have to catch up.

Certainly, every 10 years or so, there will be a big breakthrough and 10x thinking kicks in. Examples are the invention of the cloud with Amazon Web Services, which is now critical for the success of enterprises; and the creation of machine learning, where Google played a central role. The rest of the time, business IT moves forward in  increments. And this is exactly how Slack was developed.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and his colleagues at the failed startup Glitch built it as a chat tool. They had a small and very specific problem: How can their remote team communicate effectively? They used internet relay chat technology, tweaking and refining as they worked. Slack was built in bits and pieces over many years. The methodology was 10%, not Google’s 10x.

You could, of course, argue that Google came up with Gmail, a game-changing enterprise application. But Gmail was born from the 20% free time allocated their developers. The other products that make up Google Apps were merely acquired by Google. Google Docs originated from the product Writely  from Upstartle, bought by Google in March 2006. Google Sheets came from XL2Web by 2Web Technologies, bought in June 2005. Google Slides came from the company’s acquisition of Tonic Systems on April 2007. Google Sites was from Jotspot, bought in October 2006.

Gchat was not big enough an idea for the innovation junkie that is Google, and neither is a product like Slack. Despite all the added functions and its success, Slack is still essentially a small product answering a specific need.

Last May, Google launched two new messaging apps, Allo and Duo. The two are powered by machine learning. Allo, for example, offers Smart Replies that enable you to reply without typing. It adapts and gives more intelligent suggestions as you use it, aided by Google’s astounding search capacities. These new apps reflect the corporate strategy of thinking 10x. Allo and Duo fit in with the company’s vision of a future made bright by artificial intelligence. They are bricks in Google’s grand vision of organizing the world’s information and – ultimately – they are tools in controlling how we use that information.

Maybe it’s time for Google to buy Slack.

Disclosure: I have been working for 10 years in the Google Apps ecosystem, and my latest company Wizy.io is launching a team messaging solution for Google Apps customers.

Laurent-Casual-croppedFrom 2006 to 2012, Wizy.io CEO Laurent Gasser headed Revevol, a consultancy in Paris that he co-founded and built to become one of the most important Google Apps resellers in the world. He moved on to head the startup Collabspot, a Gmail extensions. In 2015, he founded Wizy.io from teams from the two companies. 

Laurent GasserWhy did Google fail to invent Slack?
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