Slack Buys Screenhero To Add Screen Sharing And Voice Chat To Its Work Messaging Platform

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Slack, the enterprise collaboration service that has raised $180 million and proven to be a runaway success with 365,000 daily active users, has made another acquisition to add more functionality to its platform and position itself as a sharper competitor against the likes of Microsoft. It has bought Screenhero, a Y Combinator alum that competes against WebEx, letting users speak to each other and access each other’s screens for editing and more.

Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder and CEO of Slack, tells me that Screenhero will continue to operate for the time being as a separate product for new and existing customers, but that will not include its current pricing tiers, which start at $11 per user per month, and scale up to $444 per month for 50 users. Features include HD voice, cross-platform access over PC and Mac and P2P encryption for almost all sessions (92 percent, with the other 8 percent encrypted and unable to be tracked in any way by Screenhero).

Over time, Screenhero’s functionality will be integrated into Slack and Screenhero itself will shut down.

All six employees of Screenhero will join Slack, bringing the total number of employees to just over 100. The financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed, beyond the fact that it is a cash-and-stock deal.

When I first heard about Screenhero, it was by way of an email from a YC partner who was raving about how great the company was — following on from other screen-sharing and paired computing services but doing it so much better.

And as someone who has used a number of these services for work, I think that Screenhero definitely stands out for its simplicity and power. With very little lag, it’s easy to forget that the person controlling your screen is potentially thousands of miles away, and the quality of the voice services on top of that add to the slightly unnerving feeling that there are little people in your computer.

It was this functionality that attracted Slack and Butterfield as well. “The cursor control that Screenhero offers,” he says, “we hadn’t seen anything like that before.” He says that they are already working on expanding some of the communication parts of Screenhero’s technology, with video-based conversations coming soon.

Butterfield tells me that in fact he had made an offer to acquire Screenhero last year, but CEO and co-founder Jahanzeb Sherwani refused, preferring instead to integrate with Slack. In the meantime the company had picked up customers that included SendGrid, New Relic, GitHub, Living Social and Automattic.

Over time, the idea of growing within a bigger platform started to appeal more. “We were under no pressure to sell from anyone, but we were using Slack; we were spending more time in it. The product is great, and so is the team. It seemed like a natural fit.”

While Butterfield and Sherwani are reticent on how Screenhero might fit into Slack’s bigger ambitions as a business, you can see where offering these kinds of tools as native to Slack, rather than integrations, makes a lot of sense.

For one, it will offer Slack another service layer that it can use to drive premium (that is, paid) usage, with Screenhero already seeing a growing business for its service that it will carry over into Slack.

Secondly, it could open up Slack to being used by a new vertical. Slack was originally conceived as a way for far-flung developers and others at Butterfield’s last startup, Glitch, to communicate and collaborate with each other, but it’s proven a hit with a lot of other kinds of knowledge workers. (Butterfield likes to tease that TechCrunch is practically the only tech blog that doesn’t use Slack… we’re waiting for threaded comments.)

Adding Screenhero functionality could mean the potential for Slack to market its platform to businesses in the customer support vertical, with its voice and screen support powering online help desks.

Prior to this, Slack bought collaboration tool Spaces in September 2014. Butterfield says that a new product will be launching as a result of that acquisition “in the next few months.”