Some people assume that Guild competes with Slack. We don't think so. We think Guild competes with the business use of WhatsApp. And, to some degree, with LinkedIn.
So, why not Slack?
What is Slack?
I have my reservations about Slack and there are plenty of others who voice concerns that it actually saps productivity and can be addictive in a way that is not good for attention, or wellbeing, at work.
#Slack works when teams treat messaging back and forth like email. When teams have Slack guidelines and obey them, it works. However, a Slack community can be chaotic and not productive. Creating too many channels that have no meaning and suck up time.— Kourosh Behnam (@kouroshbehnam)
Despite mixed reviews on its productivity, Slack had a successful IPO valuing it at over $20bn and its growth has been impressive. This chart from Mary Meeker's recent internet trends deck shows that over 30% of Slack accounts are paid for – consider us impressed.
However, there is also mounting evidence that Microsoft Teams might crush Slack like Facebook crushed Snapchat.
And Slack struggles to describe what it is in a particularly consistent or coherent way. Their own prospectus outlines that
“We (and the rest of the world) still have a hard time explaining Slack. It’s been called an operating system for teams, a hub for collaboration, a connective tissue across the organisation, and much else. Fundamentally, it is a new layer of the business technology stack in a category that is still being defined.” - via Slack's prospectus
There is no particularly obvious product category for it. Perhaps 'workplace productivity tool'? Or 'enterprise collaboration platform'? Or 'team communications tool'? Something like that.
More problematically still is that in the same document, Slack writes that the "most helpful explanation" of Slack is that it "replaces the use of email inside the organisation” – something which couldn’t be further from the truth.
It is for teams, mostly internal or remote, who use it to communicate about projects they are working on together. And it gets used for social communication at work too. Marketplace writes that their most popular Slack channels are non work related, with the #goodlunch and #nowreading channels seeing regular updates – although seemingly quiet on the channels calling for workplace productivity.
Slack competes most directly and most obviously with Microsoft Teams and it will be interesting to see how those two battle it out in the enterprise collaboration space, particularly now Slack has floated.
What is Slack not?
Slack is not a lightweight mobile messaging app like Guild. With its developer-led bots, add-ons and integrations occupying shared channels, threads, private channels, broadcast lists and direct messages, it's often described as confusing and complex. It can get quite overwhelming quite quickly unless you exert some self-control and master the various settings and configurations.
Users also complain about the ability to notify entire channels using special commands, which adds to group overload and leads to spam by push notification.
This overload and confusion leads to Slack remaining on desktop, which means it doesn't work externally across organisations and communities. It was not designed as a community-based networking platform, and so only works for teams who know each other. Quite like WhatsApp groups, users have a hard time getting to know strangers due to lacking professional profiles.
Slack is therefore also not for personal professional networks, like LinkedIn is. It is not a way for individual professionals to connect or communicate.
Slack is not a platform for businesses to create branded experiences for their users. It allows some very basic customisation but is largely a standardised tool and design. Furthermore, Slack only allows workspace owners to set up accounts or do any account admin via the web.
Slack is not a project management tool. It is hard to assign and track tasks in Slack and there are many other better tools for that, like Asana, Jira, Trello, Basecamp etc.
So how is Guild different from Slack?
In short, Guild manages to pick up the things above that Slack, well, slacks on. Guild is a lightweight mobile messaging app for professionals and business. Guild is used almost entirely on mobile weaving seamlessly into a user's workday.
Guild is easy to use, like most consumer messaging apps. Guild has group conversations and direct messages - similar to WhatsApp - but not all the channels, threads, add-ons, bots etc that make Slack overwhelming.
Guild is optimised for communities and networking e.g. users of Guild all have a professional profile that is closer to a LinkedIn profile than the minimal information available on Slack.
Guild does provide customised branding.
Finally, Slack is more than 10X as expensive as Guild on a per-user basis in the paid version. Whilst we don't think they compare on a price point due to their differences, if what you actually need is what Guild provides then there seems little point over-paying by 10X.