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Slack Puts Stock in Developers, Integration

Last night at an event in San Francisco, Slack made a series of announcements that not only demonstrate its enterprise communications chops, but also adds credence to the idea that supporting developers and integrations is the next big must-have for collaboration businesses -- especially when it comes to innovating and improving the user experience.

To accelerate buildup of its developer ecosystem, Slack has established an $80 million investment fund intended to help startups creating "Slack-first" applications and Slack integrations as part of core enterprise tools. Slack already has invested in several such startups, and will make additional capital available on a quarterly basis, the company said in a press release that crossed the wire yesterday night. In addition to Spark itself, venture capital firms Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Spark Growth, and Social+Capital are backing the Slack Fund.

Slack is marketing its collaboration platform as the place where "all the great tools you use every day come together," noting in the release that it is focused on providing support to a diverse third-party app ecosystem. Ultimately, the company said it aims to improve the platform by making it more convenient and valuable for users.

"We expect our portfolio to feature a diverse array of entrepreneurs working on solving problems for teams in every industry, function, and corner of the world," the company wrote it its official blog. "We'll measure the success of the Slack Fund in the quality and adoption of the apps built by Slack Fund companies and by the overall investment we see in the Slack ecosystem."

In the second big announcement of the night, Slack launched the Slack App Directory, which organizes approved Slack integrations. At its onset, the App Directory includes 150 apps, many of which are ubiquitously known and frequently used in the workplace, such as Twitter, Google Drive, and Dropbox. New and upcoming services also make the list of 150 apps. For example, ride service Lyft uses a Slack integration with its mobile app that lets users request rides and get ETAs and cost estimates through Slack commands. Another example of a new Slack integration is with Lever, a hiring software app that turns recruiting and hiring decisions into a more collaborative process by enabling users to post announcements to Slack channels by using a #mention.

Lastly, Slack introduced multiple updates that foster the development of "richer" apps, including an AWS Lambda blueprint integration, several API updates and Botkit, an open source framework for Slack development aimed at making it easier for new developers to start building bots and Slack integrations.

"With Botkit, developers can stop reinventing the wheel on basic functionality and instead get a head start on writing code for what their bots actually do and how their apps interact with Slack," the company wrote in its official blog. "Botkit will also provide a simplified way for new developers to get into programming for Slack by building off the impressive collection of tools available in it." (For an in-depth explanation, see the Slack Developer Blog.)

As Slack writes in its Developer Blog, it made these moves as a way of investing in both the future of Slack apps as well as the developers that will create the workplace collaboration tools of tomorrow.

"We live in a golden age of software," said Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield, in the press release. "Work tools are finally benefitting from the type of exciting innovation we've seen in consumer apps for years. Bringing together all the great tools you use every day in one place makes lives simpler and creates real improvements. If we can make our customers' use of their existing tools even 2% better, that's transformational."

Slack also shed some light on the size of its user base. The company said it has 2 million daily active users, with roughly 570,000 of those being paid seats. In all, users have installed about 4,000 integrations 2.2 million times, it reported. But seeing as this is the company that received multiple rounds of funding over the past two years and has a nearly $3 billion valuation, you would expect such sizable interest.

Regardless, Slack has just sent a clear signal that it recognizes its success will depend, in large part, on developers creating the type of applications that users dream up.

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