Stewart Butterfield is stepping down as CEO of Salesforce’s Slack subsidiary at the end of January, the same time that Bret Taylor, co-CEO of the parent firm is scheduled to make his own departure.
The two departures are not connected - Butterfield says his move has been in the planning for several months. He will be replaced at Slack by Lidiane Jones, currently Executive VP & GM, Experience Cloud, Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud. Before joining Salesforce in 2019, Jones spent 12 years at Microsoft and four at Sonos.
Explaining his departure in an email to staff, Butterfield said:
We started this company 13.5 years ago (though it's "only" been 10 years since we started development of Slack itself). It's been a long and wild run. I am not going off to do something entrepreneurial. Though it may sounds hackneyed, I actually am going to spend more time with my family. We have a new baby coming in January. Can I tell you something? I fantasize about gardening. So I'm going to work on some personal projects, focus on health, and try to learn as many new things as I can.
Slack Chief Product Officer Tamar Yehoshua and Jonathan Price, Senior Vice-President of Marketing, Brand and Communications, are also departing. Slack co-founder Cal Henderson remains in situ as CTO, while the new Chief Product Officer is Noah Weiss. Slack is in safe hands, according to Butterfield:
Cal remains the CTO which is good because he's plainly, no exaggeration, the best CTO in the world. And Slack's own Noah Weiss is the new Chief Product Officer. In his seven years (!) as part of Slack he's led product development in nearly every area at one point or another, and the ambition of our product strategy owes a lot to his leadership. He's going to keep the bar high, and then keep pushing it higher.
As for Jones, Butterfield reportedly had a major hand in selecting her as his replacement, telling Slack staffers:
You're going to love her. She's pragmatic and practical, insightful, passionate, creative, kind, and curious. She's right at that little diamond-shaped heart in the four-circle Venn diagram of smart, humble, hardworking, and collaborative. Before Salesforce she spent four years leading product at Sonos where she fell in love with Slack. She has a deep respect for our approach to product, our customer obsession, and our unique culture. She's one of us.
She also has enormous credibility inside of Salesforce and will be an effective advocate for Slack's business, customers, and people. She earned that credibility as an EVP & GM, leading Marketing Cloud, Customer Cloud, and Flow through major technology and business transformations. This will be extremely helpful for us over the next few years.
I know this is pretty big news but, if you've known me for a while, you'll know that I just don't say things I don't believe. I can't. So you can trust me when I say that everything is going to be okay. Lidiane, Cal, and Noah already have a great chemistry and are committed to our collective and individual success.
For her part, Jones paid tribute to Butterfield on Twitter, stating:
Simply put, there would be no Slack without Stewart. He's built an incredible company that has redefined modern collaboration with a team grounded in humility and innovation. As we look forward, we are grounded by Slack's mission: to make people's working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive.
We have so much opportunity to bring the digital HQ to every Salesforce customer and many more as we continue to grow together. To the Slack team, I could not be more excited to work with you, and the future is looking bright. Let's get to building the future of work!
A thought struck me last night. It’s less than a couple of months ago that I was chatting to Bret Taylor at Dreamforce about how Salesforce appeared to be able to hang on to the teams that it brought on board via acquisitions. Did I jinx something?
On a more serious note, while Taylor’s departure comes as a bolt from the blue, Butterfield’s going is perhaps less unexpected and has clearly been planned for in terms of succession. It’s not great optics to have news of the two departures coming on top of one another - and indeed the exiting of Tableau CEO Mark Nelson last week - but as noted about Taylor’s decision to quit, there’s a strong executive leadership team in place to keep the ship on track.