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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House and Trump administration to delay insurer subsidy case

(Atef Safadi / EPA Pool via AP)

The House and the Trump administration will seek an additional 90 days to resolve a pending court case over the legality of Affordable Care Act insurer subsidies, the Washington Examiner and CNBC report.

While the subsidies may continue to flow to plans operating on exchanges, the failure to reach a decision doesn't give insurers the certainty they're looking for. Plans must decide whether to participate in federal exchanges by June 21. If they don't get a guarantee that they'll keep receiving the subsidies, plans will likely drastically raise premiums or pull out of exchanges.

The Examiner reports the House and the White House are working on a plan to ensure the subsidies continue going to insurers, who pass them on to low-income enrollees.

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Supreme Court strikes down North Carolina redistricting

Jon Elswick / AP

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina Republicans placed too many African-Americans in two congressional voting districts it re-mapped after the 2010 Census, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: The 5-3 ruling upholds a federal district court decision that argued North Carolina lawmakers packed more African American residents into the districts than was necessary, which was challenged by the state. But even with the new lines, Republicans continue to hold 10 of the state's 13 districts.

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Pittsburgh sours on Uber's driverless car experiment

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Nine months after Uber rolled out its self-driving car trials in Pittsburgh, the relationship is deteriorating, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Self-driving car companies are forming partnerships with cities that will allow them to test their vehicles on their streets. It's a high-risk, high-reward proposition for city leaders.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told The Washington Post this fall, "Is there going to be an accident in a robot car? Yes there is. But the greater goal is to make our streets safer in the long term. We have to start at some point and we can't wait for regulation to catch up with innovation."

The city's complaints: Uber began charging for rides that were expected to be free; it withdrew support from Pittsburgh's application for a major federal grant to overhaul transportation; and it hasn't hired local workers as it promised.

Uber's response: "Uber is proud to have put Pittsburgh on the self-driving map, an effort that included creating hundreds of tech jobs and investing hundreds of millions of dollars," Uber told the Times in a statement. "We hope to continue to have a positive presence in Pittsburgh by supporting the local economy and community."

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Another U.S. chemicals giant strikes global merger

Huntsman Corp. of Texas and Switzerland's Clariant have agreed to an all-stock merger that would create a specialty chemicals giant valued at around $20 billion (including debt). Clariant shareholders would hold around a 52% stake in the combined company, which is expected to generate $13.2 billion in annual sales and $2.3 billion of EBITDA.

Why it's a big deal: This tie-up is part of a trend of cross-border consolidation in the mega-chemicals space, following the pending deal between Praxair (Connecticut) and Linde (Germany) and PPG Industries (Pittsburgh) attempting to purchase Dutch rival Akzo Nobel. It's also notable for private equity buffs (yes, such people exist), as Huntsman was at the center of what arguably was the most contentious M&A failure failure of the financial crisis era.

Fun fact: "Huntsman... is best known for inventing the clam-shell styrofoam box for McDonald's Big Mac burgers." ― Reuters

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Report: Michael Flynn will plead 5th, decline subpoena

Saul Loeb / Pool Photo via AP

The Associated Press is reporting that Michael Flynn, the former general fired from his National Security Advisor role by President Trump for lying about his contacts with Russians, will decline a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

  • The sourcing: "[A] person with direct knowledge of the matter... spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private interactions between Flynn and the committee."
  • Why this was coming: "Legal experts have said Flynn was unlikely to turn over the personal documents without immunity because he would be waiving some of his constitutional protections by doing so. Flynn has previously sought immunity from "unfair prosecution" to cooperate with the committee."

Background on the subpoena, here.

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First-class travel, hotel suites: WHO spending under scrutiny

Raphael Satter / AP

The World Health Organization nearly spent more on travel for its 7,000 staffers in 2016 — $201 million — than its combined programs for AIDS, hepatitis, malaria, tuberculosis, mental health, and substance abuse, which total $213.5 million, per the AP.

  • How it happened: Lax rules surrounding first-class travel and hotel bookings allowed WHO employees to ignore official travel policy. For example, the agency's Ebola head spent nearly $400,000 in West Africa during the crisis, often opting for helicopter travel.
  • Comparisons: Doctors Without Borders spent $43 million on travel for its 37,000 aid workers; UNICEF spent $140 million for its 13,000 staffers.
  • Worth noting: The agency's polio expenditures hit $450 million last year.
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Zuckerberg: I'm not using this trip to run for office

Jeff Chiu / AP

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a Facebook post Sunday:

"Some of you have asked if this challenge means I'm running for public office. I'm not. I'm doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we're best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative."

His learned insight: Zuckerberg said he sees an opportunity for Facebook to connect users beyond people they already know, and is hoping to soon introduce a system that recommends "people you should know," like mentors and people outside of your social circle who can provide "a source of support and inspiration."

Read next: Inside Zuck's real political strategy

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Ford replaces CEO Mark Fields with autonomous driving exec

Carlos Osorio / AP

Ford will announce Monday morning that it is replacing CEO Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, who ran Steelcase furniture for 20 years before joining the car company, reports The New York Times. Hackett most recently headed Ford's autonomous vehicle subsidy, known as Ford Smart Mobility.

Under Fields, who served as CEO for three years, Ford shares dropped 40 percent. He also was criticized by investors and the board for failing to make Ford a competitive player in the development of high-tech vehicles for the future.

Between the lines: The shake-up shows that Ford is shifting its focus to accelerate its self-driving technology. As the NYT points out, Ford has lagged behind other large automakers like General Motors and tech companies like Google, both of which have already begun testing their own autonomous vehicles. Ford is promising it will have a fully operating driverless car on the road by 2021.

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Striking AT&T workers head back to bargaining table

CWA

Over the weekend, AT&T stores were closed in a number of cities — from San Francisco to Boston to D.C. — when 40,000 workers walked off the job on Friday after the company failed to reach an agreement with the Communications Workers of America union. (AT&T told Fortune the majority of stores stayed open.)

In Oregon, Sen. Jeff. Merkley joined the picket line with workers. In New York City, Mayor Bill DeBlasio signaled support on Twitter.

Why it matters: It's the first labor strike AT&T has faced since 2012. AT&T is the largest U.S. telecom company, and the only one with a major union presence in its wireless business — the fastest growing part of the company. As a result, AT&T is having to contend with the pressures of competing with nonunion rivals in the increasingly competitive wireless sector, a company spokesman told the NYT.

At issue: CWA says AT&T has cut 12,000 U.S. call center jobs while moving jobs overseas, and has shifted jobs from company-owned retail stories to third-party reseller chains. Workers are also frustrated about rising healthcare costs and changes to commission rates. AT&T, for its part, says it's offering fair wage and pension increases and healthcare benefits. "Our employees are returning to work, and we remain committed to reaching fair agreements in these contracts," a spokesperson said.

What's next: In an email to members Sunday evening, CWA rep Dennis Trainor said the union will be back at the bargaining table Monday: "We stood up not only for ourselves and for our families, but for all working Americans who are sick and tired of being taken advantage of by greedy corporations. This fight is even bigger than AT&T. Let's congratulate ourselves for a job well done and walk into work tomorrow very proud."

Updated to include AT&T statement.

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Tech adoption skyrockets among older adults

Over 40% of American adults ages 65+ own a smartphone, more than double the amount since 2013, according to the latest survey from Pew Research Center. At the same time, more than two-thirds of seniors use the internet — a 55% increase from 2000. And for the first time, half of seniors have broadband at home.

Reproduced from 'Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults' Pew Report

Why it matters: Despite these milestones, seniors still report feeling disconnected from the internet and digital culture. The study also found that roughly one-third of older internet users say they have little to no confidence in their ability to use electronic devices to perform online tasks, and roughly half of seniors say they usually need someone else to set up a new electronic device for them or show them how to use it. As more aspects of daily life become dependent on technology, particularly health care, senior adoption of new technologies will become increasingly important.

Other takeaways: The study also found that broadband access was dependent on household income and education levels. It's important to note that tech adoption among seniors is happening as the average population of seniors is on the rise in the U.S. Today, people ages 65+ account for 15% of the overall U.S. population and that number is expected to jump to 22% by 2050, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections.