The Final Answer of What Made Slack Successful


Slack is one of the fastest growing startups ever. It blew up within its short 2 years of existence, which is amazing considering that it is a SaaS startup. So, it hasn’t been a surprise that people have been analyzing what made it so successful.

First, there was the Slack’s $2.8 Billion Dollar Secret Sauce article by Andrew Wilkinson of Metalab – the design agency that helped Slack founder, Steward Butterfield turn his code into Slack’s fun product. Obviously, this one concludes that the design is what makes the startup successful.

Then, there was the Slack’s Design is Not Secret Sauce article by a competing designer, Matt Bond. He concludes that it is a mix of design, product, timing, team and marketing – basically, they got lucky.

Even better, the Slack founder posted about his own experience, concluding that their team focused on education, feedback, customer happiness and metric analysis in order to drive success. However, I have my own views and they really come down to three reasons:

  1. Social Pressure

If you don’t follow Slack all the time, then other people will reference or know stuff on Slack that you don’t know about. Within companies, where it is very important to inform yourself about what’s going on – you need to stay on top of things for your position and future ambitions. There is an intense social pressure to follow Slack and post to Slack 24/7.

  1. Addiction

You have to follow Slack at all times, resulting in unconscious stress because you might miss something. Slack is basically as important as an email.

  1. Single Source of Information

Because of my first two reasons, more information is going into Slack and your team is heavily invested in it. Now, there is no way to escape it – Slack is a part of your company and its culture.

This is why their business model is brilliant. It is based on historical messages – the limit is 10,000 messages and then you have to start paying.

The means that if you don’t check Slack enough, which would put you in social isolation, there is no way to see a conversation ever again and save you from that isolation. Remember, the more people in your company, the faster you reach that 10k message limit.

For example, if each person in your company is posting like 100 messages a day, and your team is made up of 100 people in total, you already need to start paying to avoid social isolation. Before you know it, half the people are missing conversations, find themselves socially isolated, and you start paying licenses because your internal communication and company culture just fails.

Brilliant. Well done, Slack.

How to Motivate Your Team

Success is built on motivation. Think about it, our best relationships are not with people who supply the best product, the most knowledgeable or even whom we have known for the longest. We actually have the strongest connections with people that share the same motivation and focus as us.

We have all hired “perfect” candidates, only to see that they aren’t as driven to work hard as the rest of your team. Sometimes you spend a long time looking for the right service provider and then are let down when the deal is closed. We even invest hours to help our loved ones, but are let down because they are reluctant to take action.


So why does this mismatch occur? I think that the problem is that humans love to conform. When someone asks us a question, we give them the answer that we want to hear. What we need to change is our ability to screen others more accurately by getting deeper – to find out what really motivates them.

Get the full picture – because sometimes we only see people the way that we want to see them out of our own desperation. We focus on what we want out of the relationship and concentrate our conversations in a limited area. However, humans are complex and there are multiple factors that play a part. Motivation can stem from families, financial situation, desire to fulfill a dream or just to prove someone wrong. We are all different and that is why you need to take the time to explore the possible areas of motivation for each person.

Actions speak louder than words – so when you ask people what motivates them, they might not have an answer. You are asking the wrong question. Ask them what their best memory is – an achievement, happy moment, inspirational time? This is a good starting point to see what exactly is most important to that person.

Get them to relax – adrenaline can get our hopes up to make a good impression, regardless of whether it meets our own essential needs. Truth comes out when their guard is put down and you can have a more transparent conversation. You don’t want to talk to their “game face,” you want to talk to them. Get there by making it recognizable that you’re putting down your guard as well.

Try this with each of your team members so you go into 2016 stronger than ever.