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Slack Acquires Corporate Directory Startup Rimeto, Plans To Operate It As Standalone App

Slack is getting into the corporate directory business through an acquisition the publicly-traded collaboration company says it will operate as its first additional standalone app.

Slack announced on Wednesday it is acquiring Rimeto, a four-year-old startup that provides customers with more detailed employee directories and profiles. Slack plans to rename the service, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield says, but will maintain Rimeto as its own app available to non-Slack customers. Slack declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal.

In an interview, Butterfield said Slack and Rimeto began discussions just before offices across the United States shut down in March due to the spread of Covid-19, though the management teams never met in person. Slack saw the need for a service like Rimeto’s first-hand in the past few months, Butterfield said, as it added several hundred employees who have never met their colleagues outside of videoconferencing and chat tools like Slack’s.

On weekly “therapy calls” with other software CEOs, says Butterfield, tech leaders have expressed concerns about how to maintain social connections and human ties within their companies. That challenge is more acutely felt when employees onboard, switch teams or are part of a reorganization or merger, Butterfield says. Rimeto, Butterfield believes, can alleviate some of that challenge by offering more detailed personal profils about employees and making it easier to search for staff by areas of expertise or resume-appropriate details like where someone went to college, or what technical skills in which they may be proficient.

“After video conferencing, it seems like the most obvious thing that people could need, especially to the degree that this [work-from-home] situation continues,” Butterfield tells Forbes.

Founded by ex-Facebook employees Neville Bowers, Maxwell Hayman and CEO Ted Zagat in 2016, Rimeto bootstrapped for three years before raising a $10 million Series A investment in 2019. At the time, the company said it had previously been bootstrapped, or self-funded, and that it was cash-flow positive, and said it worked with some of the world’s largest companies by revenue, though it didn’t specify which.

Slack already offered some tools to beef up its profiles, which for many customers appear as a bare-bones name, photo and phone number. It has been possible to add custom fields, which at Slack include pronouns and “furry friends,” among others, Butterfield says. But those tools were only accessible via APIs and extra work, and, much like Slack’s existing search functionality that could guess who might be relevant to a term such as, say, “revenue,” they were not heavily used.

The acquisition is Slack’s fifth to date, but its first that will remain stand-alone, and comparable in size by headcount to its previous acquisition of startup Astro in 2018. Slack is in talks with partner Okta to integrate more identity authentication into Rimeto’s tools, Slack’s CEO says, to assist in sharing directory information across businesses. Features to encourage company-to-company use of Slack have been a priority for the collaboration business in recent months, under the branding Slack Connect.

Asked for examples of how businesses will use Slack’s new app, or Rimeto’s tools embedded within their Slack app, Butterfield pointed to big companies like banks, where employees can receive hundreds of messages each day asking if a colleague has relevant expertise, and engineering teams, in which Slack’s CEO imagined a situation in which a colleague might want to find only technical colleagues with proficiency in three specific coding tools.

Such searches — and more proactive ways to identify and meet more coworkers — will remain crucial to businesses that continue to navigate a work-from-home or partially remote office environment in the months ahead, Butterfield argues.

“Their mission was to understand every position as well as the people who happen to sit next to you. That’s even more important now because no one sits next to you, not even the people who nominally sit next to you, who would have sat next to you,” Butterfield says. “So we’re going to help people understand every person across the organization the way they know people in their immediate team.”

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