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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Slack is earmarking $50 million from its balance sheet to launch a new venture capital fund aimed at broadening Slack-backed investments beyond its own platform.

Why it matters: This is Slack's first solo turn at the VC game after a $25 million fund in collaboration with several of its own investors. With the pandemic confining many workers away from in-person interactions, countless companies are having to navigate a new way to operate—and new workplace apps are in the spotlight like never before.

Driving the news: The fund will focus broadly on promising work-related tools and companies, whether or not they're built to work with Slack, Jason Spinell, who heads Slack's venture arm, tells Axios.

  • That's a departure from the earlier venture fund, which Spinell said focused solely on "kickstarting the developer ecosystem on Slack." That fund, announced in 2015, initially got $80 million in commitments but was later scaled back to $25 million to better fit the size and cadence of investments, according to a Slack spokesperson.

Between the lines: Workplace chat apps have become the central hub of employees’ day-to-day communication and tasks as much work has shifted online during the pandemic.

  • So while there’s no requirement that startups even integrate with Slack, a growing number of them are already integrating with various chat apps to distribute information to clients’ employees. The new fund will help Slack forge ties with just such firms.

Yes, but: Investors and companies have to be mindful of whether workplace tools are fostering or reinforcing healthy habits and cultures, says Spinell, though he acknowledges that's not something his team explicitly considers when weighing investing decisions.

Of note: While Slack recently announced it's selling to Salesforce, its venture arm will continue to operate unchanged.

1 2020 thing: "This has been the busiest year that we’ve had," says Spinell of the investments Slack has already made. "We made 15 net new investments this year and we’ve made more follow-on investments."

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
Dec 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

A year of monumental change in the workplace

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In less than a year, the pandemic shot us more than a decade ahead in the workplace transformation.

The big picture: The pandemic's acceleration of telecommuting has changed much more than the way we attend meetings. We'll see lasting impacts on company culture, the job market, demographics and cities.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."