Salesforce Buys Slack

Salesforce broke the news yesterday in a press release:

Salesforce, the global leader in CRM, and Slack Technologies, Inc., the most innovative enterprise communications platform, have entered into a definitive agreement under which Salesforce will acquire Slack. Under the terms of the agreement, Slack shareholders will receive $26.79 in cash and 0.0776 shares of Salesforce common stock for each Slack share, representing an enterprise value of approximately $27.7 billion based on the closing price of Salesforce’s common stock on November 30, 2020.

Combining Slack with Salesforce Customer 360 will be transformative for customers and the industry. The combination will create the operating system for the new way to work, uniquely enabling companies to grow and succeed in the all-digital world.

I’ve been thinking about this acquisition since it was rumoured last week. I love Slack. It has become a better social network for me than anything else: a comfortable place for asking dumb questions that turn into brilliant discussions, a space among friends for cracking wise or venting frustration. I know that it is a serious business tool for serious business people, but I am sure that its simplicity is a key reason for its success, and the reason it has inspired so many clones.

Slack is a service that can be described in a single sentence. By contrast, Salesforce is a company that does not seem to be explainable by anyone.

Rob Walker, Marker:

Yes, yes, but what is it? What does it do? Even reports on the Slack acquisition seem to be dodging the question. In the New York Times story about the deal, it’s not until the 18th paragraph, after a thorough discussion of deal particulars and of Slack’s business, that we are told the acquirer is a company that “provides marketing and sales software, among other products.” Others labeled the firm a maker of “technology that helps companies sell products” or simply a “software giant.”

Salesforce appears to be a centralized database for organizations that allows near-infinite customizability. A company can build their email marketing on top of it, run data analysis, build websites, or share data amongst a host of first- and third-party apps and add-ons. Everything is very vague, everything looks the same, and everything has an opaque name. Customer 360 appears to be Salesforce’s customer relationship management core, but I could have that completely wrong.

In any case, my only wish is that Salesforce does not try to enterprise the soul out of Slack. Dropbox, for example, began as a lightweight file syncing app; last year, it pivoted to enterprise with more expensive plans and a ridiculous Electron-based app. I still have some use for Dropbox, though not in the way the company would presumably prefer, so the app is now effectively a near half-gigabyte wrapper around curl and put.

On a conceptual level, Slack has managed to remain both very light and very deep. It is easy to grasp, but has limitless uses and flexibility. I can only hope Salesforce understands that and doesn’t fuck it up.