Code Enterprise Conference

Slack execs scared and flattered by Microsoft's launch of "Slack killer"

Slack exec April underwood.
Asa Mathat | ReCode

Email killer Slack is under attack from email giant Microsoft, but Slack executives say they welcome competition, with a little trepidation.

"It's flattering in some ways," said April Underwood, vice president of product at Slack. "It's also, honestly, it's a little scary." Underwood's comments came at the Code Enterprise conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. Microsoft launched a rival workplace messaging service earlier this month.

Microsoft's investment in this space has brought more attention to the overall category and validates Slack's thesis that people need better ways to communicate at work, said Underwood. But the Seattle-based giant of email has many more users and far greater resources than venture-backed start-up Slack.

"They're a little bit larger than us as a company, they have some resources available to them and some distribution advantages available to them that we don't have," she said.

CEO Stewart Butterfield took out this ad in the New York Times ahead of Microsoft's launch of Teams, its rival product.

That feeling when you think "we should buy a full page in the Times and publish an open letter," and then you do.

"We're not surprised that that product came out, we had a sense that it was coming," said Underwood.

Indeed, completion is heating up. Facebook, with its last month rolled out a business chat product called Workplace by Facebook, which incorporates some similar messaging features.

Slack now has 4 million daily active users, 750 developer apps integrated into its service which are used by 90 percent of companies which use Slack's paid service.

Apps and artificially intelligent bots on Slack are two key things the company hopes will differentiate its service from competitors. Slack has recently announced with partnerships with IBM Watson to make its bots on Slack smarter, Salesforce, and Alphabet's Google, whose venture arm has invested in Slack.