Entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield Failed With “Glitch” Before Succeeding With “Slack”

(p. A15) Entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield once tried to build a multiplayer online game but switched to photo sharing, selling Flickr to Yahoo in 2005 for $25 million. Success, but not a home run in Silicon Valley. Mr. Butterfield left Yahoo in 2008 to help found a company called Tiny Speck and build another multiplayer online game called “Glitch.” Persistence! “Glitch” attracted tens of thousands of gamers, but not enough to cover its costs, so Mr. Butterfield killed it in 2012.

Tiny Speck pivoted, which in Silicon Valley means fail and scramble to do something else. The company had built its own crude internal communications system for employees to chat digitally during the development of “Glitch.” Maybe others would use it. Seven months after they started work on Slack, the company announced its preview release. On the first day of the press blitz, 8,000 people requested the preview version. In February 2014 Slack had 16,000 users and by November it had 285,000, with 73,000 paying for it. Now more than 10 million people use it daily. Mr. Butterfield sold Slack to Salesforce for $27.7 billion last year. That’s failing upward!

For the full commentary, see:

Andy Kessler. “INSIDE VIEW; Failure Is Always an Option.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Oct. 18, 2021): A15.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date October 17, 2021, and has the title “INSIDE VIEW; Failure Was Always an Option for Elizabeth Holmes.”)

One thought on “Entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield Failed With “Glitch” Before Succeeding With “Slack””

  1. If you’re defining success purely by monetary standards then yes Glitch failed & Slack is successful.

    I beta tested Glitch. I loved it.

    The game naturally created a culture that was antithetical to the “prey and predator” aspect of the internet that we all unfortunately know too well.

    It was a game that inspired creativity, community, absurdity, kindness, individuality, generosity

    These attributes are not money makers though. So of course it failed.

    You know what Slack inspires out of me? Not a damn thing. It is handy to communicate with coworkers though.

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