Slack’s Ceci Stallsmith on marketing your product platform

A killer product can provide a single revenue stream. But creating a versatile platform? It’s like opening the floodgates to a river of new ideas, products and profits.

We launched the Intercom App Store more than a year ago. And as the Group Product Marketing Manager for Platform here at Intercom, I’ve loved seeing all the creative apps our partners have built.

One of the most successful platforms we and many others in the industry look up to for inspiration is Slack. And in case you had any doubt about their phenomenal growth, the company is going public this week. So we’re delighted to host Slack’s Director of Platform Marketing, Ceci Stallsmith, on the show.

When it comes to platform strategy, Ceci’s experience is unparalleled, having worked at Box as part of their founding platform team before later joining Slack in 2015 to found the platform marketing team there. In this episode, she shares her advice on building a platform that benefits both you and your partners.

Short on time? Here are five quick takeaways:

  1. What’s a platform? Ceci likes Bill Gates’s definition as the point when the value of the stuff built on top of your product surpasses the value of your product by itself.
  2. If there’s customer adoption, developers generally will come. If you have to do just one thing, it’s make sure your API is friendly to developers.
  3. To establish Slack as a true platform, Ceci’s team took a threefold approach by establishing the Slack Fund to invest in developers, creating a launch strategy and story, and driving adoption by making life as easy for developers as possible.
  4. Measuring platform success is complicated. Ceci sees adoption as the top metric for success, followed by overall developer activity and app quality.
  5. To manage developer relationships at scale, build a global community for your partners to network with each other, invest in staff to help manage your partnerships and host events where people can get to know you better.

If you enjoy our conversation, check out more episodes of our podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.

Jasmine: Ceci, welcome to Inside Intercom. To start off, you’ve obviously been steeped in platform work since the start of your career. Could you tell us a little bit about what you’ve done so far in your journey and what it is about platforms that you love so much?

Ceci: I definitely never saw myself getting into platforms, that’s for sure. So I’m happy to share. I started my career at Box. It was really fun. I joined at around 200 people and essentially raised my hand to be a Developer Relations Associate. I didn’t even fully know what that was, but I saw someone doing it and was like, “I think I could do that. I like people enough.” And they took a bet on me and let me do developer relations, even though I was an English and Psychology double major. And from that I just got to do a ton of different really neat things with the Box platform. I ran programs, I did product, and we grew a little mobile ecosystem into about a thousand apps.

During that time, I was working with a couple of different investors and got a role as an associate at Bessemer Venture Partners. While I was there, I really focused on developer tools. Bessemer has a pretty extensive developer roadmap (they call their investment areas roadmaps or theses). I first invested in npm. If anyone who’s ever done front end programming is listening, you’ve used npm. And then I moved to another company called ReadMe, which does developer documentation and focused on developers while I was there.

Then the Slack opportunity came along and I just had to do it, because Slack was also around 200 people, just starting to think about platform and building it out. I joined to run platform marketing. April Underwood, who became our Head of Product, was actually Head of Platform then. I got hired by her, got to work with her to launch the platform, and we’ve just grown it like crazy since then. Now we have I think at least 450,000 weekly active developers. So it’s been an amazing, amazing journey.

Platform marketing at Slack means developer marketing, partner marketing, and then getting customers to adopt these products built in the platform, which I think is a really important part that can often get overlooked. So that’s what I’ve done. It’s been really, really fun.

“Platform marketing at Slack means developer marketing, partner marketing, and then getting customers to adopt these products built in the platform”

Jasmine: It sounds like there was something in developer relations and platform marketing that really ignited your interest. Was it something specific?

Ceci: The thing I like most about working on platforms is how complex they are. You get to deal with an API. It’s not just some single product that’s really obvious. It’s technical, and I wasn’t technical. So getting to do a job where I got to learn by delving into an understanding of the product and then having to work to communicate a product (that sometimes I couldn’t even fully use) to the audience of the product was really fun. I also love that platforms are multi-sided marketplaces because it keeps things fresh. There’s always a new audience to be thinking about.

If you think about the kind of marketing that I get to do, I get to think about: “How would this resonate for an individual who’s building an integration for just their own company? How would this work for one of our largest partners or some of the biggest enterprise companies in the world that we’ve all heard of? And then how would this work for our customers?” Always getting to put on different audience hats is really, really fun. If you’re someone who likes to be stretched, and you get bored easily of doing one thing, I think platform is actually a really good place, because you’re always turning over sort of a new lens.

What’s a platform?

Jasmine: Obviously Box and Slack are both strong platforms. And platforms are kind of a hot topic, right? Everyone wants to be a platform at the moment. What makes companies like Box and Slack real platforms versus just products that have kind of great extensibility, and why do you think it’s important to their business strategy to actually become a platform?

“Bill Gates actually defined a platform as the point when the value of the stuff built on top of your platform surpasses the value of your product by itself”

Ceci: This is one of my favorite topics. I think everyone likes to call themselves a platform, but I think “platform” is one of the most overused words. It almost loses its meaning. You’ve been working in platform too, and at a certain point it’s like if everyone’s using this, does it mean anything anymore? I think it’s important to figure out what the heck platform means, and what is a platform and what is not. When I was in venture, you’d meet with at least 20 founders every week and talk about their products, if you weren’t actively doing a single deal. You’d meet with these tiny companies, and they’d be like, “We’re more of a platform.” And we’d be thinking, “No one knows you and who you are. How are you a platform yet?” So that is something I care about a lot.

I think it’s tricky. Not everyone can be a platform if the nature of platforms existing means that some products have to be built as extensions of the platform itself. I also have a theory that platforms beget platforms. One of the good ways to identify what is a platform versus what isn’t is to think about what really is one. Windows: that was a massive platform. Still is. iOS, Facebook, Salesforce: those are true platforms.

Bill Gates actually defined a platform – and this is a pretty high bar; I don’t think many people have met it – as the point when the value of the stuff built on top of your platform surpasses the value of your product by itself. That’s quite a high bar, but it’s what I like to strive for. The litmus test is if you’ve created a marketplace: are people actually building on your product because there’s value that you’ve created, or is it just a nifty integration? For instance, you build an iOS because you know you’re going to get users through it. Same for the other big ones that I talked about.

But there is this other area of developer tools: the Twilios and the Stripes of the world. Those are big amazing companies. But are they platforms? Stripe definitely has a marketplace, but I also know that Stripe is just a really useful product that I want to plug into my own product that I’m building to help transact money.

Twilio, I need it for text messages. So those are developer tools for sure. Are they platforms? I’m not sure. And then how you know you’re not a platform comes down to if there’s any value in integrating with your product, or do you need to be doing all the integrations so that your customers get value versus having partners and developers wanting to come and build with you? That’s how I look at it a little bit.

Jasmine: Should companies all be trying to become platforms, even? It’s fashionable, but do you think there are times where it makes sense to actually start trying to build that value and times where it just simply doesn’t, and you should just stay as a product?

Ceci: It’s tricky because the answer should be yes. The reason why you’d want to pursue being a platform is because it makes your value as a company – as a product – that much greater. The upside of having this big two-sided marketplace and extending your product into tons of different products with an API is quite large. It increases your products company’s multiple, in terms of valuation, quite a bit. Having a platform makes you more useful. I have this thing I’ll be putting out soon about the platform flywheel, and one of the reasons why platform is so useful is because when people build more stuff on top of your product, then your product is more useful to your customers all of a sudden. And that just gives you more product-market fit and helps you grow faster.

Platform flywheel

If there’s the opportunity to be a platform, great. On the flip side, developer time and mind share are precious. It is not worth trying to go pursue building a developer community if there’s not actually value there for them. You can kind of fake it for a couple of years, I think. It’s very doable to figure out how you can win some developer interest over by trading good things in return. But at the end of the day they’re going to see through whether or not you’re adding real value to them. Marketing can only go so far, basically. And getting paid to develop something can only go so far. So, I do think a big part of figuring out whether this is not a strategy for your business is asking, “Do I actually have something of value to give to developers?”

“When people build more stuff on top of your product, then your product is more useful to your customers all of a sudden. And that just gives you more product-market fit and helps you grow faster”

That is what matters to me. That’s why, when I saw the Slack opportunity, I just had to go. It was just too cool, because there was such value being added to developers from early days, and there was so much developer demand before we had an actual platform for third party developers to build on. That’s why I thought, “Oh, this is going to be a true platform instead of something that people think will be a platform someday.” It’s fine not to be a platform, too, but obviously it’s lucrative to be able to develop one.

Everyone wants to be the center of the wheel. And the truth is, I think in each generation, in cycle of technology, you only get a couple major ones that have a significant, lasting impact on the industry. And that’s why, when I list off Windows, iOS, Facebook, those are some of the biggest names. They shaped the industry because they figured out how to build a platform. And it’s interesting with iOS, Steve Jobs didn’t even want to build a platform, but that turned out to be a great thing.

Creating a flywheel

Jasmine: I will say that Box and Slack are quite different products and platforms. Are there things you learned at Box that applied at Slack?

Ceci: We did a lot of things really well at Box, but the biggest focus for me was figuring out how to drive customer adoption of your apps. Because when you’re a two-sided marketplace like Box or Slack – where you’re not a Stripe or Twilio, and you’re not a developer tool necessarily – what you’re adding to the developer is customers. And when I say developers, I include partners. They’re both the same thing at different scales. But if you’re not delivering customers, that’s going to make it really, really hard for that momentum to be sustained.

Early on, I fought really hard to hire someone to my team to run customer adoption from a marketing perspective, even before we really had product people fully focused on that. Usually you’re more focused on building our better and better developer tools before you’re focused on driving that adoption from the product side.

Now, we’re very focused there, but early on I was just like, “No, we have to do this.” And it’s turned out really well. The woman I have running things is incredible. She kicks butt. We have 94% of paid Slack customers who use apps every week, so it’s very solid. And that’s been getting a lot of growth for the platform overall.

“The biggest focus for me was figuring out how to drive customer adoption of your apps. Because when you’re a two-sided marketplace, what you’re adding to the developer is customers.”

Jasmine: You mentioned the flywheel that’s driving adoption and then actually developing a community. How do you weigh those against each other in terms of priorities when you’re starting out with a platform?

Ceci: If you’re going for a bare-bones version, if there’s customer adoption, developers generally will come. They have to be aware of something existing, but a lot of the time what developers are looking for through your product is distribution – if it’s this kind of platform that we’re talking about. So if you have to do just one thing, make sure it’s doable for developers. Your API can’t be so horrible and horrendous that they can’t build with it. It has to be easy enough, simple enough, clear enough to use. But after that, if you have adoption, generally you’re not going to be resisted.

What do you think? You’ve been through this.

“If there’s customer adoption, developers generally will come”

Jasmine: I agree. When we started our platform here at Intercom, we always balanced both at the same time. But I feel like we focused on one more sometimes and then switched to the other and have gone back and forth a little bit. But I agree that without the adoption, people aren’t going to build, because there’s nothing to build for.

Ceci: Yeah, It’s sort of just community for the sake of community. But we’re here to do a job, and that adoption piece is the value behind all of it. And then community can get built off of that super well. We’re building on our developer community now, and I love watching developer communities come together, because there’s just such a common ground, and it’s fun to me. You can actually do physical events all the time. I love it.

One of our other principles that we really bring to bear at Slack is just thinking about customers, developers, anyone that we work with, as real humans. It’s fun when you do community stuff, because you get to really be around them. It’s like: “Thank you. It’s because of you that were able to do with the jobs we’re doing, and we hopefully are adding value to you, too.” So I love doing that. It’s very fun.

How to build a platform

Jasmine: When you joined Slack, what were the other things you did to start getting the platform off the ground?

Ceci: I got to go through a really fun platform journey. When I first joined, we actually didn’t have APIs that worked for third party developers very well. So we had to essentially take the API and turn it inside out like it was a sweater. But it’s a technical sweater, so that took awhile. I joined, and then we did this big event figuring out how to set the APIs up so that third parties could use them and got those out, one by one. Then we created the marketplace where people could have their app listed, thinking, “Oh, that could be a valuable place to be found as a developer or to find apps as a customer.”

One thing was that we actually created the Slack Fund. The focus was investing in this ecosystem that we thought would be really successful. It’s gone really well, and we’ve made a lot of investments. We have someone full-time who actually does the job of making investments from the Slack Fund, which shows a lot of commitment to that. A lot of companies say, “We have a fund,” but no one manages it, and they do two investments to start, and then they never pay attention to it ever again. But we really have one, and we invest out of it, which is really cool.

the Slack Fund
Another thing, when I first started, was to create a launch strategy and to create the story of our platform while we have it. Some of those pieces we did early on are still some of my favorite work I’ve done at Slack outside of hiring the team that I’ve hired (because I love them, and they’re the best people ever). But creating that story was really fun. I actually got to put out this blog post about that Bill Gates quote I mentioned. He said: “If you all win, then we win. So we’re here to help you win.” And it was cool to see that resonate in the community.

From there, it was driving adoption like I mentioned: making life easier for developers, figuring out how to make our APIs more usable, creating different things that would scaffold these APIs so that people could use them. And then on the product marketing side, what was fun was thinking about how to market APIs, how to market developer products. You do this a good bit, too; usually you’re thinking about how to get a customer to adopt something and click a button now more often.

It’s really fun to product market something where you’re like, “Here’s all this stuff you could build with this.” And so since I joined, we’ve been just opening up different parts of our UI and different parts of our product to give developers access. For example, when you hover over a message in Slack, there’s a three-dot button where there are more options to take an action on a message, which means if I want to send a message to Jira, I can do that. There are all these different things we’ve been exposing in our product to give developers more access to our customers and to make their products more useful for our shared customers. It’s been really fun figuring out how to market those things really simply.

Jira Slack integration
Jira integration for Slack

Like for enterprise marketing, you have to think, “What does the CIO care about? What is the itch they need to scratch?” Often, it’s about security and fear. But with developer marketing, it’s, “How do I sound the least like a marketer as possible?” I’ve never really seen myself as a marketer, so that’s what’s been fun in this role and working with the team that we’ve built to do this. We’re kind of like marketers who love being marketers but don’t want to sound at all “marketingy.” So I’ve worked to create a style that we use that’s straightforward, to the point, but kind as well and has a little bit of Slack’s playfulness. That’s been really fun.

And then the last thing – if I were going to bucket all the stuff we’ve done – is figuring out which big partners to go to market with and how. We’ve had a lot of fortune in terms of landing really big partnerships for Slack. But the way I always look at this is kind of like this huge school of fish. There are some fish that are really, really big. And then some fish are really small. And you’re sort of a middle fish. And when you partner with one of the big ones, you need to figure out, “When I come up with a really big partner, what is that going to communicate to the market?” Because they have a very significant brand, and they have an audience. And when you partner with that brand and that audience, it rubs off on you. What are they trying to get from our brand when we do this partnership, from a marketing point of view?

This actually does impact your platform. The smaller fish or smaller partners will see the big partnerships that you’re doing and react to them in different ways. For instance, if there’s a partner that does the same thing as some of your up-and-coming partners, you need to figure out: “How do we not step on toes? How do we create separate swim lanes? And then how do we get what we want for the company from a marketing point of view?” That’s especially relevant around the PR that comes out and the blogs that you’re going to write.

It’s hard, it’s nuanced. It’s more like a comms job. Again, that’s what makes this role so fun, because there are so many different elements, and you have to really grab onto the brand pieces and be like: “Okay, this company plays really well on these channels. We’re going to go hang out in those channels with them. Or we need to watch out for these pieces because that will not reflect well.”

Managing partner relationships

Jasmine: Yeah, I find working with partners is interesting because the dynamics are always slightly different dynamics depending on a variety of factors: who’s bigger in the relationship, who wants what, and how should we build our marketing plan accordingly? I find when you’re working with a new partner, that initial conversation is always an interesting one, where you’re figuring those pieces out together and getting a feel for how everyone is thinking.

Ceci: Exactly. There’s so much feeling it out: “Are we going to be really friendly? Is it going to be a little tense?” We’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of really amazing partners along the way with us. And that’s happened fast. We got a lot of big partners really fast. And I’ve had a lot of partners like Intercom who are just lovely and wonderful to work with. The best is when you work with a partner company, and you just jive right away, and you’re like, “Oh, this is going to be sweet. We’re almost going to have so much fun. We’ll bring in a really cool thing to market.” That’s like the magic.

Jasmine: How do you find those partners and then how is the approach different finding those up-and-coming or smaller partners you mentioned?

Ceci: It’s just so different, like the amount of resources you need. When you’re working with really big teams, and the companies are hundreds of thousands of people large, or tens of thousands of people large, just navigating their company is hard. Certain decisions may need to go up the chain and down the chain and you have to do some CEO to CEO stuff, and then need to come back down and work on the logistics. Or sometimes it can fall through at the last minute because someone decides no, this is against our department’s mission. Just the people power you need to manage this big partnerships can be very, very different.

We have an amazing Business Development team. And again, I don’t attribute their success to me at all. Our BizDev team has done a ton to manage those relationships. I think the biggest thing with the up-and-coming partners – and this is part of why I left investing – is that when you’re an investor and you’re working with founders and all day, and you like working with founders, you have to figure out how to say no all day.

“Just giving people tools and saying: ‘Here’s how you do marketing; here’s how you do a launch; here’s how you push this to customers…’ can be super-duper helpful”

Literally it’s just like, “Cool, I think your company is really great and interesting, but I’m not going to put money in it.” But the nice thing about being a platform is it’s pretty much yes, unless they’re malicious or like doing something bad. It’s like, “Yes! Work with us, and if you do well enough you’ll be really successful, and I’m going to help you how I can.” My biggest thing with startups is that it’s really fun to figure out: How can we equip them? How can we be helpful? It has been neat to see a couple of the companies built on Slack that are doing pretty darn well and have been successful.

It’s important to note: I don’t think any one company can be built only on a single platform and be super-duper successful. Usually they have to diversify to other platforms that have other things. And most of our really successful built-on-Slack companies are diversified across a couple of different platforms. I’m a big believer in creating resources. So one of the first things I did was in partnership with BizDev, I created this content about how to launch your app, how to product-market your app. Because when you’re a startup and especially if you’re a technical founding team, you often don’t know how to do those soft-skill things. So just giving people tools and saying: “Here’s how you do marketing; here’s how you do a launch; here’s how you push this to customers…” can be super-duper helpful. It’s really simple.

It is lower touch with smaller partners generally. But we tend to try… one of the things our head of product who is also the head of platform before that at Box would say is, “We’re always going to take a conversation. We’re always going to be there, and we’ll be human.”

How to measure success

Jasmine: We’ve talked about your partners’ success and your success, but how do you actually measure it? This is something we’ve struggled with Intercom, and other people I’ve worked on platforms at different companies also find it difficult. How do you actually measure the platform?

Ceci: I’ll just start with the anti-answer: not tokens. Because so many companies say, “We’ve had 1 million developer tokens generated.” That means nothing! It’s meaningless metric. I could go click “Generate token” all day long and generate 300. I’m pretty passionate about figuring out success metrics. They were also hard. At Box, they were a lot easier in many ways, because with Box you store files, share, comment – but there were fewer pieces to the puzzle, I guess. Slack is a more complex product in that there are so many things you can do with it.

I’m going to get to what the actual metrics are, but I’m going to tell stories first. For instance, there are a number of apps that just send information into Slack. They’re called notification apps. For instance, there’s one for Twitter that just sends you a tweet in Slack if you subscribe to someone’s tweets. That’s a really basic integration. Is using that integration valuable to customers? Yes and no. There are certain channels that were set up a long time ago, and someone set up a notification from some product into that channel and that channel is just a dead channel that gets random pings all day.

There are other channels where you set up an integration with any product that can give you an update on a project status, and it’s actually super valuable. Watching your competitors’ tweets – that’s actually valuable. You don’t always click the tweets or to click the notifications coming in, you just read them.

“Adoption of the apps that are built on your platform is the top measure for success. It’s also the hardest one to get to.”

It’s tricky to know how to measure success, exactly. All that said, as I’ve been banging this drum I’ll just keep banging it. Adoption of the apps that are built on your platform is the top measure for success. It’s also the hardest one to get to. It requires completing the platform flywheel, and it’s difficult. It’s usually also something that happens after you’ve really started to spin the whole thing up because you have to win the developers and partners over, you have to get them to build with you or build the integration for them. You have to then do the marketing to launch those things and then you have to watch, and try to get that adoption to happen. So it’s a slower metric to track.

After that, I think active developers is a really helpful number to watch. So as I mentioned earlier, we track our active developers. That’s how many developers are hitting our API every week. We’re really, really careful about not having vanity metrics, which is fun. So just forget about tokens. It’s a nice metric, and it can tell you something, but people just generate a token all the time just to test something out and then never use it. If you’re thinking about the ecosystem, and you know who all the players are in your ecosystem that you’re trying to make an impact on, you can basically map them: build a big spreadsheet, build an Airtable, a Notion, or a Salesforce (if you want to use a heavy CRM to track everyone). And you can basically categorize your partners. So, if you’re looking at Slack, you’d look at the files partners, you’d look at the calls partners, you’d look at the productivity partners and then say how big they are, how small they are, and how many you’ve won over in the category. That’s something that’s easy and fun to track.

And then a final one that is really important and is related to that adoption piece and somewhat related to that story I was telling about notification apps is the quality of apps. So whenever you have a marketplace, you’re probably going to have a team testing those products to get into your marketplace. So that team will have a really good sense of whether these apps are good or not. A really great story example of this is the early days of iOS versus Google Play Stores. iOS was head and shoulders above – like ridiculous head and shoulders above. And that was just because the quality of their apps was so much better. They were much more rigorous. Google was trying to keep pace with them in terms of the size of their app store, and they would just let anything on.

Again, as I mentioned, this was my job back in 2011, 2012, 2013. I would literally go on the app stores and test all these things. I’m not trying to offend to Google, but back then there were just so many weird apps that are very sketchy and not very secure on the Google Play Store that just made it through and didn’t really work. So it’s the quality of your apps. Sometimes you can see that app uses this set of APIs, and you know those are a better engagement for a customer. That’s a good way to just make it a really simple metric. Again, it’s a hard one overall to track.

Jasmine: Customer trust in your apps is so key, because if they use them and they do something sketchy, then they lose faith and your ecosystem as well.

Maintaining relationships at scale

Jasmine: At Slack, you’ve got many, many partners and developers in the platform now. How do you maintain the relationships and keep those partners engaged as you grow and have such a huge scale in your platform?

Ceci: It’s been interesting because one of our big developer audiences actually isn’t third-party developers, they’re customer developers. It’s like if someone at Intercom was building a special integration for just the Intercom team to use: that’s actually a huge number of our developers. But we’re focused on them, and we’re focused on our third-party partners, big and small. There are three strategies that go into managing a big audience of people, including the customer developers.

The first is just a global community. And you need to figure out the software to manage your community, because it’s hard. We’ve come through a really long process of figuring out which one we wanted to roll out. And we have someone who is an expert in growing developer communities – her name’s Elizabeth, and she’s really next-level. So it’s been fun getting someone in who has done this before. We are working on allowing local meetups to pop up and working with local meetup organizers to be community ambassadors that facilitate relationships in London or wherever there might be different Slack developers to be found. What’s been cool is that it’s existed even before we were putting the rails underneath it to make it successful. So I’m excited to see how that’s going to continue to grow.

Second is that we have a lot of staff for partner management and developer relations. We have a BizDev team, and they work with partners. They’re not salespeople at all, but like a sales rep, they have their book and may work with those people, check in on them and make sure they’re happy. We actually do a lot of maintenance on our integrations, especially with partners. So if the Intercom integration can be better, we probably are working with you to see how we can continue to improve, because we know we have a lot of shared customers. We want to continue to make that integration better and better and better for those shared customers, so we have a team that manages that.

We also have a pretty big developer relations team, and they do a lot of these pieces with the communities. The DevRel team is split into a bunch of different groups that work with our communities at the meetups. But they also build really nice developer tools and SDKs so that all the APIs that our core engineering team is building can be used by all different in all different types of languages.

We also have a partner engineering team for partners where the path to integration is not super clear. They come in and consult and talk about how we can build this really well. They help debug and think through how an integration is working or not working. So we at Slack put a fair amount of resource behind that.

If you’re a smaller and need to bootstrap, one person can wear a lot of those hats. But if you’re going to do a platform, you need to have at least one person thinking about partnerships – that is the minimum. Because if you don’t have that, you just build a marketplace and why would anyone ever come? You need to have at least one bigger name in the marketplace to point to. That’s something that I needed to go do and that requires a partner manager to get it there.

The last thing is just that events are huge. One of my favorite things about this kind of marketing is that you can’t avoid people. I love that you get to meet each other and have real relationships. It’s not just purely digital and they’re not like a user that you’re like watching them click different buttons and hoping they react a certain way. Like they’re a person who has built the API and is annoyed about this thing not working because it’s blocking them. That’s a big deal. The relationship piece is so real, and events are a pretty tried-and-true playbook. I don’t know if we’ve done stuff with you guys when we go to Dublin, but when we go to different cities around the globe we partner with different local companies to meet the developer community there, and that works really, really well.

Slack developer event

Jasmine: Related to that, I know you’re quite involved with the developer program Heavybit. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

Ceci: Heavybit is super cool because it’s the original, early Heroku team, and they’ve created this developer accelerator and incubator, and they do a ton to provide resources for their developer-focused products and companies that are in-house. So they bring in different speakers; they have a pretty excellent speaker series lineup. They also have really neat office hours, so that if you’re involved in the Heavybit program, you can talk to tons of different types of people. I’ve done office hours there, where I often talk with people about marketing or how to create their marketplace and things like that. But when I was at Venture, the partner I worked for would also hold office hours and go and meet with people about how to raise funds and what that looks like and what they should be thinking about. They bring in different types of advisors all the time. It’s been a really neat coworking space, and the people who run it are wonderful.

Dana Oshiro, in particular, is just a wealth of knowledge and has done a great job of creating a space where companies focused on developers – whether that’s with the developer product and giving them a really neat space to develop their product and figure out their go-to-market strategy with like-minded companies, because it can be a very different path. And also when you’re building – especially when you’re building a developer tool – you’re often technical. You had this itch you wanted to scratch, and now you’re scratching it with your products and trying to figure out how your go-to-market can be different, because you’re often not from the go-to-market side of business. So I think Heavybit provides that in spades.

Jasmine: What are you most excited about for the future of Slack platform?

Ceci: We’ve talked already about Frontiers, our flagship customer event, but there are a couple of other things of note. We have a huge developer conference in October called Spec, which I’m super excited for. The last one we had was in May of last year, and my daughter was born on the morning of it. I had pushed for having the developer conference, and I was like, “I’m just going to do it four weeks before my due date.” And then, ta-da: I had a baby day of the conference. So it’s also a special place in my heart for that reason.

We also have some really interesting new products that are coming. We announced them at Frontiers. One is this thing we’re calling Workflow Builder. It’s essentially a no-code way to build simple, IFT or Zapier apps on Slack that trigger forms when someone joins a channel – but anyone can do it. You do not need to be technical to build them. It’s in a private beta, but when that comes out, I think that’s going to be really, really interesting to see how many more people play around with the platform and what they can build, because it’ll make everyone a builder on our platform, essentially.

We also have a bunch of new products that we talked about at Frontiers that essentially deepen Slack’s integrations with the essential productivity suite. So that’s email, calendar, calls, files – those are the other products that you spend your whole day in. Watching those get more deeply integrated with Slack and seeing how our customers find those valuable, is going to be really, really cool. I’m excited for that. It’s also going to open up new behaviors for the platform that I think will eventually get opened up for developers. So I’m excited for that, as well.

Jasmine: Very cool. Excited to see that. Thank you so much for your time today. If people want to catch up on your latest thinking or follow your work, where can they find you?

Ceci: Thank you. I’ve been writing a little bit. Hopefully by the time this is out, I’ve posted a new blog post. It’s hard to actually press publish certain drafts. So I read on Medium, and my Twitter is @cecistalls.