Slack opens new London office amid Brexit uncertainty
Britain’s forthcoming exit from the European Union poses little concern to corporate chatroom startup Slack Technologies Inc., which opened a new office in London Thursday.
“Brexit or no Brexit, London is still London and the U.K. is still the U.K.,” Slack’s Chief Executive Officer Stewart Butterfield said in an interview on Bloomberg Television Thursday. “About half of our daily active users are outside North America. Here in the U.K. it’s our second biggest market.”
The decision to extend into London comes despite uncertainty that surrounds Brexit and its eventual impact on U.K.-based companies trading with Europe, or hiring foreign talent.
The San Francisco-based company wants its central-London outpost to be “a sales-led office,” according to Butterfield. Slack is planning to boost the number of employees there to about 20 by the end of this year up from five now based in a co-working center.
Back in 2014, Slack was a 30-person startup focusing on building an office-collaboration chat tool. The company now has about 800 employees across seven offices, including one in Dublin that opened 18 months ago and employs about 70 people.
Several large tech companies have continued to value London. In November, Facebook Inc. announced it planned to increase its U.K. headcount by 50 percent, hiring 500 new staff in the city. Snap Inc. earlier this year named London as its international hub and has been adding office space in the Soho neighborhood. And Google, which already has a significant presence in London, plans to expand its offices to accommodate as many as 3,000 additional staff.
Butterfield says about 30 percent of the company’s users are in Europe. “Eventually we’ll open offices on the continent as well just because we have customers in every country in Europe at this point,” he said. A continental office is planned to be opened later this year or in 2018.
Slack raised a $200 million investment round — the company’s ninth — last year, bringing the total it’s raised from outside investors to $540 million and valuing the company at $3.8 billion then.
However, Butterfield said he is no rush to file for a public offering either. He said an IPO “would be years away.”
Bloomberg Beta, the venture capital arm of Bloomberg LP, is an investor in Slack.
Butterfield is also confident that his company can thrive under the Trump administration. “The immigration issues have been less of an impact for us,” he said. “I think the people who work at Slack, as citizens, are more concerned about it than I would say that I am as the chief executive of the company.”
“We’re growing at a fair clip still and one of the things that’s a side effect of that rate of growth is that predictability is hard,” he said. “The good news is that the private capital markets are very friendly to companies like ours right now so there’s no need for that public offering.”