A look inside Slack's new Asian outpost
Few startups have rocketed to fame like instant messaging service Slack. Since its 2014 launch, it has amassed more than two million daily users and now sits among the likes of Snapchat and Airbnb as one of Silicon Valley's uber rich success stories. And with explosive growth comes the millions of dollars, ventures into new regions and apparently, swanky new offices tucked away inside old breweries. Gizmag was on hand as Slack cut the ribbon at its new Melbourne headquarters to have a little poke around.
Slack has risen to prominence on the back of its clean, playful interface and capacity to streamline communications between workers. Dubbed the "email killer" by some (though CEO Stewart Butterfield argues this isn't quite the case), the chat software seems to have, well, picked up the slack left by previous takes on instant messaging software for enterprise.
With offices already in San Francisco, New York, Vancouver and Dublin, the company has now settled into a new headquarters in Melbourne, which will serve as a base for its Asia Pacific operations. According to site development manager Linda Shaw, Slack has a philosophy dictating that each of its offices is unique. And in looking for somebody to fit out its newest digs, it has gone straight to the top.
Award-winning Australian firm Breathe Architecture is behind some of Melbourne's more thoughtful inner city designs, including bars, cafes and The Commons apartment building (which we featured in 2014). And the big focus on sustainability in that particular construction, which brought on a throng of architecture awards, is also quite evident in it's latest undertaking.
Housed inside an old brewery constructed in 1904, the office features recycled Tasmanian Oak flooring which is top-nailed rather than glued, meaning it can be pulled up and reused at the end of its lifecycle. The architects say that all materials used in the interior design are sustainably sourced, and they have steered clear of aluminum materials due to the carbon-intensive manufacturing processes.
You won't see the extravagances of some new-age workspaces, such as Google's famous in-office slides or even pool tables or a gym. And Shaw says that this is quite deliberate, aiming to engender a more productive mentality among the employees.
"We're adults," she says. "Stewart wants us to come in, do eight hours work for him and then go home and have a life. There is no point in coming in and playing ping pong for three hours and then having to stay up until midnight finishing your report."
But that doesn't mean it is all work and no play. Leftover from the building's brewing days are storage silos that have been repurposed as meeting rooms and a lounge, complete with sofas and a large screen TV. In the kitchen a tablet acts as a portal to the other side of the world, streaming live video from Slack's Vancouver office so cross-continental colleagues can wave to each other with one hand and brew coffee with the other.
Separating the common area from the work space is an indoor garden crowded with lush ivy and flowering plants. Nestled away among all this greenery are sound-proofed conference rooms, every one of which is named after a lethal Australia animal such as the "Irukandji" jellyfish.
Rows of height adjustable desks fill the open work area, nothing out of the ordinary here. But what is a little different about how Slack does things is a blanket ban on phone conversation. Yes that means no mobile phones, no fixed-line phones and no shoe phones. It has even gone to the trouble of installing internal sound-proof phone booths so employees can yap away without disturbing their colleagues' productivity.
Though it only had a handful of staff in house at the opening , Slack has prepared its Melbourne office to eventually accommodate a total of 70 workers, adding to its already 360-plus global employees.
"We live in a golden age of software," says Butterfield. "Work tools are finally benefiting from the type of exciting innovation we've seen in consumer apps for years. We're making a big investment here in Australia to grow our own Slack team, but more importantly to help teams of all sizes be happier and more productive."
You can click through to our gallery to have a look through the new base of operations.