Exclusive Org Chart: The Most Powerful Executives at Slack in 2020
The Org has identified the most influential people behind the scenes at business communication platform Slack. Here’s our exclusive org chart of the top executives and their roles.
When Slack officially launched in 2014, the team behind the business communication platform predicted a gradual migration to remote work and designed an agile product to suit. Six years later, in the midst of a global pandemic, the trend has moved to the fast lane, and Slack has been pulled along with it.
As offices have reoriented around remote work, Slack has been perfectly positioned to become a new communication platform of choice, and during the first weeks of March it jumped from 10 million concurrent users to more 12 million.
Cofounder and CEO Stewart Butterfield told NY Magazine in April the second week in March had been the most productive in the company’s history. “It was just super-high adrenaline,” Butterfield said. “We swept this massive surge in interest, but I think we also just felt like this was our moment.”
And things haven’t slowed down. Earlier this month, Slack announced a partnership with Amazon’s cloud business Amazon Web Services -- Slack will use Amazon Chime for its call feature and Amazon will offer Slack as an option for all internal communications.
Today, Slack is used by more than 600,000 0rganizations globally, and has contracts with high profile employers including the President’s office and the State Department.
But Slack wasn’t born from the desire to make one of the world’s leading office communication platforms. It was an incidental development that grew from a desire to build a large multiplayer game.
Butterfield, who grew up in a commune in a remote part of Canada with no running water or electricity, started teaching himself to code and make basic computer games at age 7. After college, Butterfield co-founded an online game that failed, but sparked the idea for the photo-sharing platform Flickr, which was sold to Yahoo.
Butterfield went to Yahoo, but left after a few years and rounded up old colleagues, including future Slack co-founder Cal Henderson, to build a new game. Together, the team founded Tiny Speck and built multiplayer game Glitch. "As we were working on the game we developed a system for internal communication that we really loved," Butterfield told inc.com. "We didn't think about it, it was very much in the background. But after a few years we thought maybe other people would like it too."
Tiny Speck officially launched Slack in 2014, before changing its name to Slack Technologies, Inc. Butterfield said the name was based on the slack in a rope joining two tin cans, with the idea being to relax communications, which often caused workplace tension. To justify it, he coined the acronym: searchable log of all communication and knowledge.
In 2015, within a year of launching, Slack became the fastest-ever company to achieve a $1 billion valuation. Over five years investors put more than $1 billion into the company, and in 2019 Slack went public in a direct listing led by Goldman Sachs. Shares opened at $38.50, above the reference price of $26, giving the company a valuation of $19.5 billion. Butterfield became an instant billionaire.
Slack cofounder and CTO Cal Henderson, who oversees Slack’s engineering team and sets the technical vision for the company, was named a Fortune 40 under 40 honoree in 2019 and recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. Henderson had previously built and led the engineering teams at Flickr and has become a leading figure in engineering scalability.
Also with Slack from the start is VP of customer experience Ali Rayl. Rayl, who joined Slack during its conception as the director of QA for Tiny Speck, is responsible for making the user experience simpler and more productive. Rayl said the team aims to cultivate a culture of love, and to achieve that, she hires support reps with emotional intelligence and writing skills.
Of Slack’s 12 executive team members, five have come from Salesforce, including chief marketing officer Julie Liegl; senior VP of sales and customer success Robert Frati; VP business and corporate development Brad Armstrong; general counsel David Schellhase; and VP global head of consumer success and services Christina Kosmowski.
CFO Allen Shim was the VP of finance and treasury at YuMe prior to coming to Slack, where he is responsible for the financial management strategy, overseeing global operations, finance, accounting, corporate strategy, treasury, tax, investor relations, business analytics and IT. CPO Tamar Yehoshua, who oversees product strategy and development, design, and research, was previously a VP at Google.
Senior VP of engineering, Allan Leinwand, previously served as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and was the CTO at ServiceNow, before joining Slack in 2018. Senior VP of people Robby Kwok was at adtech company TellApart (acquired by Twitter), and joined Slack in 2016, now overseeing global recruiting, people operations, total rewards, learning and development and program management. All-in-all, there is no questioning the experience at the helm of the expanding company.
Although Slack has continued to grow revenues and cut losses each quarter, the company is not without its challengers—most notably Microsoft’s Teams program.
The new partnership between Slack and Amazon will help the company stay competitive with rival platforms, and cloud-industry analyst Daniel Newman told Business Insider it was a chance for Amazon to look under Slack’s hood and see if it would be a good fit for acquisition.
Butterfield said the partnership allowed both companies to scale to meet demand and deliver enterprise grade offerings to customers. “The future of enterprise software will be driven by the combination of cloud services and workstream collaboration tools,” he said.
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