The collaboration war...May 26, 2020
...and the arrogance of the startup ecosystem.
Teamwork and collaboration is the future of productivity; as a matter of fact a future that has arrived already. The main competitors are Microsoft Teams and Slack and the "war" started 4 years ago: Teams launched in 2016, 3 years after Slack, and as a response Slack welcomed Microsoft with a full back page ad in the New York Times with some "friendly advice" and phrases like "we’re genuinely excited to have some competition" (yeah, right...)
Ever since, Teams kept growing its users’ numbers, as it is also part of Microsoft 365, while Slack's response has always been their impressive number of "Daily Active Users": last report was about 12m DAU in Oct 2019.
This May, however, the game has changed… as a result of the lockdown and the exponential rise of remote working, Microsoft reported the astonishing 75m of DAU in Teams and Slack decided to respond that "Microsoft Teams is not our competitor"!
Come on Slack, you could think of a better statement, right?
In my work life I have seen from the inside both worlds: the "traditional", bootstrapped entrepreneurship and the "startup" ecosystem with the enormous growth and investors. Both worlds have pros and cons, however here I want to discuss something that I dislike with the startup world: arrogance.
I remember back in 2017, when I said to 2 investors that "we are awarded Microsoft gold partners, while the Pobuca platform is based on Microsoft cloud technologies", their response was "Microsoft is dead"! Actually, one of them moved one step further and told us that "Slack is the new king, everything will be inside Slack and you should start moving your products there too". I can't imagine the conviction one should have to say with confidence such stuff - no matter how much brilliant one can be! I can't also imagine how your statements could be so arrogant as Slack's are, when a tech giant like Microsoft is becoming your competitor! The only explanation that I see is the following common bias: "if you are hammer everything is a nail".
To get into the bottom of it, there is a "startup autism", the very prejudice that any product which works well with startups, will work with other businesses too. I bet that we would have raised money easier and with better conditions if the Pobuca platform was an offering for the "startup community" instead of directly targeting brands and retailers; it would be easier for our investor audience to understand and maybe overrate. The same here with Slack, the fact that something works great in the startup ecosystem does not mean that it will be easy to meet the compliance prerequisites of Fortune500 companies or bypass the fact that Teams integrates smoothly with the Microsoft Office suite, when almost every business user is using Office.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I love the startup ecosystem and the tremendous value it brings to entrepreneurship globally. However, there is also a real world outside the ecosystem, with real people who actually are our buyers. Yes, we have bright ideas and yes, we are here to disrupt things, to change perceptions and processes and move things ahead. But at the end of the day we also have to convince those real people to buy our products and integrate them into their work processes, so maybe we should step back and listen and take some ideas from traditional businesses that are doing so for years ;-)
Just bear in mind this well-known American proverb, “Arrogance is a kingdom without a crown.”