Twitter acquires Quill, a would-be Slack rival; team will work on DMs as Quill shuts down

Under a new CEO, Twitter’s made an acquisition that speaks to what it might be looking at developing down the line to diversify away further from ad-based, open-ended consumer chatter. It has acquired Quill, a business-focused messaging service meant to compete against the likes of Slack and keep people, well, more focused.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed. Quill had raised around $16 million from backers that included Sam Altman and Index Ventures and it came out of stealth in February of this year. One of its biggest selling points — apart from being bold enough to speak out about the shortcomings of Slack and to try to build something to compete against its juggernaut-like momentum of growth that has been boosted by it getting acquired by Salesforce — was that it was founded by Ludwig Pettersson, the former creative director of Stripe, who is much admired by many in the startup community.

Quill is not making the cut in the acquisition: it will be winding down as an app, a spokesperson from Twitter said.¬†Specifically, Quill notes in a brief announcement on its site that users will be “able to export your team message history until¬†1pm PST, Saturday, December 11th 2021, when we will be turning off our servers and deleting all data.” It will issue refunds for all active teams.

But the team and its IP are joining the flock: Specifically, Quill’s people will be joining Twitter’s Experience organization to work on messaging tools, specifically Twitter direct messages. Pettersson will be taking a role as product manager, reporting into the Conversations team under Oji Udezue, Twitter tells me.

DMs have long been a source of interest for Twitter observers, and some have wondered when and if Twitter would ever seek to develop them into a more standalone product (something that they’ve toyed with apparently) and possible business line. That would make some sense, given the huge boom we’ve seen in messaging apps in recent years, and the moves so many other open-ended social media platforms have made to boost their own direct messaging businesses.

Now, with Twitter making more moves to diversify its business, maybe this could be an opportunity to rethink DMs too.

It’s something of a bittersweet ending for Quill: The company was bold both to make the assertion that business people need collaboration and communication, but not at the cost of distraction, and then to try to make the leap to build and scale a completely new product to address that.

But scaling a new entrant in that space would have been tough even without the aggressive presence of a lot of other deep-pocketed, platform-squatting players in the space. Quill assembled a talented and ambitious team, so it will be worth watching what their IP, and that grouping of people, get applied to next.

We’ve asked if Pettersson is joining the flock, too, and will update this post with that and anything else we learn. (Updated in story above with his new role at Twitter.)