CEO says Slack is growing up, but maybe not going public - Axios
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CEO says Slack is growing up, but maybe not going public

Slack just added Square CFO Sarah Friar as the company's first independent board member. So, is the company readying an IPO?

"No," Butterfield told Axios. "I've said publicly before that we are trying to run the company so that we're ready to go public, not because we are going to necessarily."

Rather, Butterfield characterizes the addition as "part of growing up." an effort that will also see the company invest this year to translate the service into more languages and be more useful to the largest of businesses.

For more on Butterfield's plans for Slack, (and why he won't be buying back Flickr) read on. Click here for his thoughts on Donald Trump (and he has many).

You just added Square CFO Sarah Friar to the board as first independent director? How does this reflect where Slack is as a company?

It's part of growing up. There's definitely an early stage for tech companies where you can get all of the shareholders in a room. As you get larger, there's not only more shareholders but more stakeholders. Governance of the business becomes more complicated, naturally. We're at the point where we measure revenue in the hundreds of millions, we have tens of thousands of customers around the world.
Sarah has just a fantastic set of experiences for us at this stage - a buy-side analyst and researcher for a long time, SVP at Salesforce and CFO at Square and a real deep strategic thinker. She's been using Slack at Square for many, many years.

Does it say anything about IPO plans?

No. I've said publicly before that we are trying to run the company so that we're ready to go public, not because we are going to necessarily. But because there is a lot of good discipline there, a lot of building of internal controls and a method of governing the business that is important.

Microsoft released Teams last week, and Google is reconfiguring Hangouts to be more of a player. Do you see those two companies becoming tougher competitors than they have been?

Certainly than they have been, because they are more or less new entrants. They are each a little bit different. We are working pretty closely with Google on the partnership side and deeper and deeper integrations. I think there's a relationship there that works even if we are competing on some fronts. We had Diane Greene on stage for (a) launch event just a couple months ago.
There's two senses in which we think about it. One is me as a fiduciary to the company to take the competition seriously and the other is me as someone who really enjoys making software. It's exciting and exhilarating for the same reason it's more fun to play basketball against an opponent than to shoot hoops against yourself. I think we're really well positioned in both cases.

For a long time you said you wanted threaded comments in Slack but you wanted to do them right. In January, Slack added threading, but in a very gentle, optional way. Is this comments done right?

I think it is. We went through so many different iterations of this. One of the things we found we really wanted to avoid was forcing people to have to think too much before they typed what they wanted to say. If you were constantly in a position where you had to decide when you wanted to answer somebody's yes/no question in a channel or in a thread, it makes Slack very difficult to use. This strikes the right balance. It allows threading when threading is needed and gets out of the way when it's not.

What are the major areas of focus these days? What are you spending your time on?

Making Slack a good solution for a broader array of businesses. Here I specifically mean making it work for some of the biggest companies. Slack was originally designed for teams of people. At 50,000 it's no longer one team. International expansion, we are already in a position where 40 percent of our paid seats are outside of North America. But now we have to start taking payments in Yen and making a German-language version of the product available and all of that kind of stuff. The last one I would mention is platform. There's over 1,000 apps in the Slack App Directory. We get pigeonholed as a messaging app. Slack is this bridge and we have these incredible partnerships.

When we talked the last time you said that you had explored potentially buying back Flickr. With Verizon acquiring Yahoo's assets, any chance that you'd look at that again?

No. I think we could have, in the past gotten it for free if we wanted to, but the cost of taking it over would be extreme. personally I have no interest in doing it. The world is very different. We started it 14 years ago almost. I love what I am doing right now, the amazing team. It's been hugely successful. wqe have customers all around the world and it's growing very quickly. I definitely wouldn't want to take on anything else.
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Rise of the Trump resistance movement

From pink-hatted protesters to big town hall turnout, the anti-Trump resistance has been in full swing since January's inauguration. The left is taking a page out of the Tea Party playbook, and building the resistance from the grassroots up.

Why it matters: We saw a similar rise on the right in 2009-2010 shortly after Obama was inaugurated, and a huge number of Republican lawmakers were voted into office. That movement shook up US politics and changed the face of the Republican Party, and we could see similar aftershocks here.

Money:

Media:

  • The most engaged partisan Facebook pages belong to left-leaning and Trump resistance groups. These pages are outperforming popular news competitors in overall engagement.
  • Anti-Trump sites launched across the web -- some with prominent names behind them, such as 'Crooked Media,' by former Obama staffers and 'Resistance Calendar,' by filmmaker Michael Moore.
  • Cell phone apps and internet start ups that send daily text messages about getting involved have emerged with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Politics:

  • Former politicians are getting involved. Barbara Boxer's Fight Back PAC is establishing itself against Trump's agenda but also as a movement to win votes for progressives.
  • Trump's disapproval rating is on the rise:
  • Congressional town halls and protests have been flooded with angry voices over what has been dubbed the 'resistance recess.' The movement was loud enough to get a response via twitter from President Trump.
  • Activism among liberal democrats is on the rise:
    • 47% of liberal Dems report say they've gotten involved in the last past two months, compared to to 23% of all adults.
    • Liberal Dems, more than any other group, anticipate taking part in activism in the next two years
Peaceful protests:
  • The Women's March on Washington had nearly 600 reported marches across the country, roughly 500,000 protesters at each, and rallies in 100 cities across the globe.
  • A day without immigrants and women closed businesses, emptied offices, and brought nationwide rallies.
  • The tax march saw rallies across 150 cities nationwide, with the support of roughly 70 organizations.

Cultural:

  • Olivia Wilde: "Stop telling me to 'get over it.' Get UNDER it. He works for US. The democratic process is constant. Stay informed, stay engaged, speak up."
  • Alicia Keys: ".@realDonaldTrump Americans are all colors, faiths, cultures & genders. We have voices. We refuse fear. We believe in the Dream. #WeAreHere"
  • Mahershala Ali at the SAG Awards: "[W]hen we get caught up in the minutiae and the details that make us all different, I think there's two ways of seeing that. There's the opportunity to see the texture of that person...then there's an opportunity to go to war about it"
  • Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes: "It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back."
  • Jimmy Kimmel at the Oscars: "Now it's time for something that is very rare today: a president that believes in both arts and sciences."
  • Killer Mike, in an interview with Snapchat's Peter Hamby: "Artists, musicians, I think it is just naturally in us to exude a form of protest...you have to take that out into the world."
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Trump’s Earth Day message defends science approach amid protest

Sait Serkan Gurbuz / AP

President Trump issued an Earth Day statement Saturday that promotes his environmental approach and underscores his sharp break with Obama-era policies.

Why it matters: Trump's statement arrives amid the "March for Science" in Washington, D.C., and cities worldwide, where demonstrators are in the streets decrying Trump's moves to cut funding for science programs, and unwind various environmental and climate regulations.

My Administration is committed to keeping our air and water clean, to preserving our forests, lakes, and open spaces, and to protecting endangered species.
—President Trump

What it doesn't say: The statement breaks with many of Obama's Earth Day messages by omitting any mention of climate change.

Battle lines: The 188-word statement seeks to parry arguments that Trump's aggressive deregulatory push will hurt the planet, arguing that the administration is "reducing unnecessary burdens" while being mindful of the environment.

  • It also appears to respond to the March for Science without mentioning it directly. "Rigorous science is critical to my Administration's efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection," it states.

Quick take: The statement has language that's consistent with the administration's skepticism of the scientific consensus on human-induced global warming. "[R]igorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate," it states, using the type of phrasing that's common in climate-skeptic circles.

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Behind the James Comey NYT story

Cliff Owen / AP

A lengthy report from the New York Times details how James Comey tried to keep the FBI from being too political in its investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, but how his handling — a mix of acting independently, against the bureau's policies, and other times working collaboratively — had a lasting, partisan impact on the 2016 election.

The money quote: An adviser asked Comey before his public announcement about investigating Clinton's emails:

Should you consider what you're about to do may help elect Donald Trump president?

Winners: "In the case of Mr. Trump, he conducted the investigation by the book, with the F.B.I.'s traditional secrecy."

Losers: "In the case of Mrs. Clinton, he rewrote the script, partly based on the F.B.I.'s expectation that she would win and fearing the bureau would be accused of helping her."

The takeaway: Despite the perceived partisanship in Comey's handling of these investigations, Trump decided to keep him as the FBI director — and he's now overseeing the continued investigation into Trump's ties to Russia. Comey's decision to act independently in the past came from a place of losing the public's trust, but now that it's clear the investigation into Russian meddling is more important to most than Clinton's emails, look out for a more collaborative handling of that matter moving forward.

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Trump PR power play

AP

As a former businessman, Donald Trump certainly understands PR power plays. His latest: announcing a rally in Pennsylvania next Saturday — the same night as the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Don't forget: Trump said last month he wouldn't attend the WHCD.

Why this matters: Holding a newsworthy rally the same night as the WHCD essentially forces White House reporters to either skip the annual event for the rally, or attend the dinner and risk the backlash for wearing fancy clothes, rubbing elbows with celebs, and laughing along with a comedian who has a history of ridiculing Trump.

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The real story behind Trump's tax cut promise

Susan Walsh / AP

When President Trump told AP's Julie Pace yesterday that he'd announce a "massive" tax cut for both individuals and corporations next week ("bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever"), he "surprised Capitol Hill" and left his own Treasury officials "speechless," as the N.Y. Times put it.

Between the lines: Insiders tell us the surprise was deliberate: Trump wanted to light a fire under his own aides, who are working on the tax package this weekend.

Trump's vow to unveil the plan "Wednesday or shortly thereafter" puts the announcement just after Congress returns from the two-week Easter recess — and just ahead of Friday's deadline for avoiding a government shutdown, and Saturday's 100-day mark for his presidency.

Sources quickly told Axios' Jonathan Swan that it would be kind of principles, plus: a 100,000-foot document, with no real path for how to get there — just targets.

No BAT: Bloomberg correctly reported that the plan "likely won't include a border-adjusted tax that House Speaker Paul Ryan has proposed." (Awkward!)

Despite breathless reporting about House action on health reform next week, a Republican lobbyist told me there's zero chance to pull that off at the same time you're negotiating a continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown: "You'd have a better chance of repealing the laws of physics."

Here's the real timeline: Health care passes the House by the end of May ... Health care passes the Senate by the end of July ... Tax reform to the president's desk by the end of the year.

P.S. In case you wonder how closely Trump tracks timelines, he told Julie Pace: "I've only been here now 93 days, 92 days. President Obama took 17 months to do 'Obamacare.' I've been here 92 days, but I've only been working on the health care, you know, I had to get like a little bit of grounding, right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I've been working on health care for 60 days. ... we're very close. And it's a great plan ... we have to get it approved."

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Uber and Lyft are being sued for their software

Richard Vogel / AP

Apparently, the software that you rely on to hail an Uber or Lyft from your phone was dreamed up in 1997. At least that's what Hailo Technologies, LLC. says after suing the two ride-sharing companies for allegedly infringing on their patent that was granted in 1999.

Sounds familiar: The patent covers an "automated vehicle dispatch and payment honoring system" that allows users to select a mode of transportation, enter in the number of passengers and your desired destination, which will then provide an estimated cost for the trip and accept your digital payment.

Programming note: Hailo Technologies, LLC. has no relation to Daimler's Hailo, the ride-sharing service that operates in Europe and North America.

Why it matters: While it's unclear how much this could actually hurt their brand from a consumer's perspective, this is just another legal battle Uber is facing in a growing list of controversies from the past few months alone.

Get up to speed: We've written about their lawsuit from Waymo, including the full history of their legal fight, their PR and self-driving car execs leaving the company, and the allegations that they used secret software to track Lyft, among others.

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How Marine Le Pen follows the populist playbook

Michel Euler) / AP

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen could become the country's first female leader. But what's more interesting is that her campaign, if successful, could spark a right-wing, populist revolution.

Flashback: We've written about the three ingredients necessary to become a populist leader (here). As Axios' Shane Savitsky summarizes it, here's what you need:

  • An unequal economy: Make sure that most gains are at the top.
  • A disgruntled working class: No populism without the people.
  • An "other": Be creative! Something to get the people going.

Le Pen is taking a page out of Trump's playbook. Her Feb. 5 campaign announcement speech painted France as a weak nation threatened by multiculturalism and economic liberalism, all of which she says she can fix by restoring her view of civilization. "After decades of cowardice and laissez-faire, our choice is a choice of civilization," she said. "Will our children live in a country that is still French and democratic?"

Here's how Le Pen has used the three ingredients to becoming a right-wing, populist leader in what she hopes is a recipe for success:

An unequal economy:

  • She wants to drop the euro, instead using a lower-value currency, "nouveau franc" that would make French exports more competitive.
  • She wants to maintain Brexit. "The EU forbids us everything, punishes us, reprimands us -- and the end result is unemployment and poverty," she said during the first televised campaign debate.
  • Her "France First" policies echo Trump's "America First" agenda. "The state must give priority to French companies and not foreign companies," she said. "I'm not here to create jobs for our neighbors."
  • French companies that move to other countries would be subjected to an import tax, and she'd tax companies that hire immigrants.
  • She has pledged to fight tax evasion and cut income taxes for the poorest workers.
A disgruntled working class:
  • "I'm against the Right of money, and the Left of money. I'm the candidate of the people!" she said during a speech in Lyon.
  • Her supporters, at least those who show up to her events, are usually factory workers and veterans, per NYT.
  • She targets these people through her proposed tax cuts on low-income earners and through her events which are titled "In the Name of the People."
  • Instead of promising to make France great again, Le Pen instead promises a return to order and sovereignty — something the working class can visualize through her plans to focus on increasing French jobs.
  • A retired military officer who attended one of her speeches told NYT: "She's got a real program, in the name of the people, for the workers, and by the workers. It's for the nation, and not for the financial sector and the banks."
An "other":
  • Le Pen has identified "the other" as the elites, "Islamist fundamentalism," and even the European Union.
  • Her speeches often speak to this idea of the people vs. the other by talking about jihadists carrying out attacks on French soil, crime-committing immigrants, or the EU elites stealing jobs from the French.
  • She wants to secure the country's borders and free the country from the "nightmare" EU to protect jobs
  • It comes full circle: she paints the EU as the "other" by arguing that multiculturalism, which she finds threatening to France's sovereignty, is encouraged by the union.
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American Airlines is having a United moment

Alan Diaz / AP

An American Airlines flight attendant challenged a passenger to fight him, after the man threatened to hit the attendant, according to a new video that surfaced late Friday night. The flight was traveling from San Francisco to Dallas when the two men almost started fighting before the flight took off.

Flight club: A woman, who was traveling with her baby, wanted to keep her stroller on the flight with her. An AA crew member allegedly "violently" took the stroller from her, "hitting her and just missing the baby," per Surain Adyanthaya, the passenger who recorded the video and put it on social media. A male passenger can be seen getting up from his seat to defend the woman, telling the flight attendant "You do that to me and I'll knock you flat." The flight attendant challenges the man to actually hit him, before the two are separated.

Damage control: The flight attendant has reportedly been suspended. "What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers," AA said in a statement. "The actions of our team member captured here do not appear to reflect patience or empathy, two values necessary for customer care. In short, we are disappointed by these actions. The American team member has been removed from duty while we immediately investigate this incident."

Buzz: The news quickly took off on Twitter, as people were reminded of the United Airlines incident with Dr. David Dao that happened less than two weeks earlier.

Don't forget: This is another example of the big lessons learned from the United situation — that anything airline employees do can (and most likely will) be recorded and shared on social media.

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Uber accused of stealing Waymo's self-driving car device

Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car unit, says that Uber has been hiding a secret device designed using stolen trade secrets by a former Waymo employee, according to new court documents. And for that reason, it's asking the court to bar the former employee, Anthony Levandowski, from working on Uber's self-driving car technology.

Why it matters: Uber's defense in the case has hinged on claims that it only has two self-driving car device designs and neither resemble Waymo's tech. However, Waymo's latest claims could mean Uber has been lying all along.

What's next: A hearing is scheduled for May 3 in regards to Waymo's request for a preliminary injunction to halt Uber's self-driving car efforts.

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Trump's secret weapon

Alex Brandon / AP

The 1996 Congressional Review Act (CRA) can overturn "midnight rules" created by an outgoing president. Until President Trump assumed office, it was successfully used only once. Trump has used it 14 times.

Between the lines: The CRA says that once a rule is killed, the executive branch can never come back with a rule that is "substantially the same form." When Democrats controlled Washington from 2009-2010, they avoided using the CRA, opting instead to re-regulate any unfavored Bush-era rules.

Why it matters: The fast-track tactic to reverse Obama's legacy fulfills Trump's campaign promises, but is also a blunt approach to gain political points. The divide between right and left is intensifying, as Democrats see the CRA as an abuse of power to appease the far right and special interests.

The overturned regulations:

  1. Federal Contractor blacklisting rule, which required companies to report any law violation from the last three years when bidding on federal contracts over $500,000. (Feb. 1)
  2. The Stream Buffer rule, which restricted coal companies from dumping waste into streams. (Feb. 2)
  3. Bureau of Land Management venting and flaring rule, which reduced air pollution from methane. (Feb. 2)
  4. Social Security Service's Second Amendment restrictions, which added additional mental health background to gun sales. (Feb. 2)
  5. SEC's resource extraction rule, which required oil and gas companies to disclose foreign payments. (Feb. 3)
  6. Bureau of Land Management planning 2.0 rule, which gave the public greater control over in natural resource and land use planning. (Feb. 6)
  7. The teacher preparation rule, which required states to issue annual ratings for teacher-prep programs. (Feb. 7)
  8. The education accountability rule, which required states to evaluate their schools and holds them accountable for students performance. (Feb. 7)
  9. The state retirement plan rule, which encouraged state governments to offer retirement savings plans for private-sector workers. (Feb. 15)
  10. The local retirement plan rule, which exempted local municipal retirement savings plans from strict pension protection laws. (Feb. 15)
  11. The national wildlife hunting and fishing rule, which banned predator hunting not approved by the federal government on national wildlife refuges. (Feb. 16)
  12. The unemployment insurance drug testing rule, which limited drug testing for unemployment benefits. (March 14)
  13. FCC internet privacy rules, which would have required companies get their customers' permission before sharing their data with advertisers. (April 3)
  14. Title X abortion funding rule, which restricted states from withholding federal funding to Planned Parenthood and groups that provide abortion services. (April 13)