Slack just launched an $80-million venture fund to make early-stage investments in startups building tools that integrate with its workplace messaging platform.
“If you’re a developer or small company deciding whether to make a bet on the Slack platform, the Slack Fund is a new source of support to help you get started building apps,” the company wrote in a blog post. “The Slack Fund will fund both ‘Slack-first’ apps as well as B2B and enterprise tools that make Slack integrations a core part of their offering.”
The fund was created in partnership with six of Slack’s investors, including Accel, Andreessen-Horowitz, Index Ventures and KPCB. These venture firms provided slightly less than half the $80 million in the fund, The Wall Street Journal reports. Slack provided the rest, and will have control over how the money is spent.
While it’s common for mature companies to invest in startups -- Intel, IBM and Google all have venture arms, and larger businesses frequently acquire early-stage companies in a bid for new talent -- it’s rare for a startup at Slack’s stage to do so, says Martin Zwilling, founder and CEO of Startup Professionals Inc.
Although an atypical move, in his view the venture fund makes strategic sense, especially considering Slack’s “deep pockets” (In March, the company raised $160 million at a $2.8 billion valuation.) “It’s a smart way to get third-party developers to more quickly generate integrated apps and interfaces for other apps to connect to Slack,” says Zwilling, whose company provides guidance to startup founders.
Slack said it will not measure success simply in returns on investment, but also consider “the quality and adoption of the apps built by Slack Fund companies and by the overall investment we see in the Slack ecosystem.”
“We do hope to get a return on these investments, but that’s not the purpose,” Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield told the Journal. “It’s to kick start the ecosystem and encourage people to develop apps, and create examples that others can improve upon and get the flywheel spinning.”
Alongside the Slack Fund, the company launched a directory that lists the more than 160 apps -- including Slack to Twitter, Trello and Dropbox -- which already integrate with Slack in a play to encourage workers to remain on its platform.
Slack, which was founded in 2009, faces competition from companies such as Microsoft, Google and Salesforce that either offer or are building similar services. Despite this the company has managed to continuously grow its user base, which now surpasses 2 million.