I might be wrong, but back in the day when Slack first exploded in ‘14, the key really seemed to be its integrations and the power that provided to developers and product-building teams. Being free I am sure helped … as did the slick mobile and desktop apps … but many chat services are free, and free alone is rarely enough as a growth strategy unless there are no other free products available.
Even at launch, these integrations were broad, and included GitHub and others that could provide real-time notifications of product pushes, product changes, code commits, etc. inside of Slack:
Today, Slack has grown far beyond its developer and product roots. But back in the day, the “chat” portion of Slack seemed fairly fungible compared to Hipchat and others (which were also developer-focused). It was slicker than Campfire for sure, but … so what?
But by integrating tightly with every other tool developers used, Slack not only did “chat”, but automated real-time updates on the status of the products you were building, maintaining, and updating.
Slack then doubled down heavily with an early $80m fund to invest in its partners, as well as a rich ecosystem that like Shopify and Salesforce, made plugging into Slack very simple, slick and rich.
Not sure how much of the story that is. But it’s a big piece.
Once you build the #1 platform in the space — Salesforce, Shopify, Slack — your product becomes 100x richer and more sophisticated. Partners, 3d parties and ISVs all standardize on your platform. Even if they integrate with others, their energies go into the #1 platform first.