AN O’REILLY SUMMIT
November 12–13, 2015  •  San Francisco, CA
Stewart Butterfield

Stewart Butterfield
Co-founder and CEO, Slack

Website | @stewart

Slack is one of the most remarkable Silicon Valley success stories of recent years, a tool whose viral corporate adoption mirrors deep changes in the world of work, a world in which improved coordination between ad hoc teams and easy availability of shared knowledge and expertise becomes a critical corporate advantage. It also allows distributed networks to function more like corporations, without the requirement of employment by the same company.

— Tim O’Reilly

Quotes from Stewart

What we’re selling is organizational transformation. The software just happens to be the part we’re able to build and ship (and the means for us to get our cut). We’re selling a reduction in information overload, relief from stress, and a new ability to extract the enormous value of hitherto useless corporate archives. We’re selling better organizations, better teams. That’s a good thing for people to buy and it is a much better thing for us to sell in the long run. We will be successful to the extent that we create better teams.

We want [our customers] to become relaxed, productive workers who have the confidence that comes from knowing that any bit of information which might be valuable to them is only a search away. We want them to become masters of their own information and not slaves, overwhelmed by the never-ending flow. We want them to feel less frustrated by a lack of visibility into what is going on with their team. We want them to become people who communicate purposively, knowing that each question they ask is actually building value for the whole team. This is what we have to be able to offer them, and it is the aim and purpose of all the work we are doing.

None of the work we are doing to develop the product is an end in itself; it all must be squarely aimed at the larger purpose. Consider the teams you see in action at great restaurants, and the totality of their effort: the room, the vibe, the timing, the presentation, the attention, the anticipation of your needs (and, of course, the food itself); nothing can be off. There is a great nobility in being of service to others, and well-run restaurants (or hotels, or software companies) serve with a quality that is measured by its attention to detail. This is a perfect model for us to emulate. Ensuring that the pieces all come together is not someone else’s job. It is your job, no matter what your title is and no matter what role you play. The pursuit of that purpose should permeate everything we do.

Biography

Stewart Butterfield is the co-founder and CEO of Slack, the platform for team communication that hundreds of thousands of professionals rely upon everyday. Its customer list ranges from well-known startups like Buzzfeed, Stripe, and Airbnb to established giants like Adobe and PayPal.

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