Education: Master of Philosophy, Philosophy
College: University of Cambridge
Previous Career: Stewart Butterfield worked as a freelance web designer; he was a serial entrepreneur and had co-founded Flickr(photos) and Tiny Speck(games)
2. Origin Story
A serial entrepreneur, Stewart Butterfield was part of the founding team which created Flickr. After taking off, it was sold to Yahoo! - where the team had a brief stint, until they came together to start their own game development company, Tiny Speck. Their first game Glitch, an online massive multiplayer, enjoyed initial success but failed to gather any real traction.
Slack had begun as an internal tool for Tiny Speck during the development of Glitch. After deciding to build a communication tool, Stewart Butterfield and his team wanted to begin at a very different starting position to a traditional business software company like Microsoft. They wanted to be a contrast to the existing communication apps, which were boring and drab.
Working on Glitch, they'd learned the importance of making every interaction interesting, fun and irreverent. The very same approach was carried forward with Slack. From the start, Slack avoided all the standard hallmarks of business software. The name was a little bit edgy and the logo and color scheme were bright, cheerful and a little bit goofy.
3. Other interesting points
- Stewart Butterfield had taught himself to code as a child, and was entrepreneurial right from childhood.
- He started an online competition - '5K' - where the challenge was to create a website under 5kb - it went on to become very popular.
- Slack's IPO in 2019 resulted in Stewart Butterfield's net worth skyrocket to over $1.3 billion owing to his 8% stake in the company.
"You may be trying to drive in a particular direction that people don't necessarily understand at first. In our case, we knew the users we had in mind for this product. So in the early days, we looked at our customers, really just testers at that point, and we paid extra attention to the teams we knew should be using Slack successfully." - Stewart Butterfield