Based on a true story…

A behind-the-scenes look at the video Sandwich Video created about how they got on Slack

You might have seen the video on the home page of our website. It’s pretty funny. And, just like it claims, it really does tell the story of how Sandwich Video got on Slack. Long ago we promised to publish the transcripts of the conversation that lead to the creation of the video. And now, for you dear reader: behold!

It is mid-2013. A while before launch, Slack is in the process of becoming what it is today. Taking a gamble, CEO Stewart Butterfield emails Adam Lisagor of Sandwich Video, hoping to make a connection (and a video).

From: Stewart Butterfield
To: Adam Lisagor
Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 11:18 PM

Dear Adam Sandwich,
I am Stewart Butterfield. If you’ve ever heard of me, it is because I co-founded Flickr. But, I am no Lisagor Video. The thing is, I think I want to be.
My company, Tiny Speck, spent several years trying to make a web-based MMO called Glitch. That didn’t work, though there was a both a lot of beauty and a lot of happiness made through it.
But, all ends are new beginnings and, as it happens, we also built some things inside the company which we all agreed we’d never work without again. So, we decided to turn those things into a unified product and we decided to call that product “Slack” and we are nearly done making Slack.
If you’ve ever used IRC or HipChat or Campfire or Flowdock for work then Slack will be very familiar (though it is pretty different from any of those because the emphasis on search and file management).
If you have not used any of those then: it is group messaging which teams use in order to make communication easier. It’s more immediate than email, but the real advantage is that it creates a model where communication is public by default — questions are asked and answered in public, so everyone’s in the loop. And though that means you see more information than email, the format makes it much easier to consume so the overall burden is lower: less effort AND more coordination.
But Slack’s distinguishing feature is the search. You simply can’t underestimate the value of having your team’s communication archived, searchable and retrievable with a scant few keystrokes until you’ve tasted it for yourself. Drag a PDF onto the app: boom, the full text is indexed. Paste in a link to a Google Doc and it too is slurped up. Even text on layers in Photoshop files.
Every discussion, every decision, every link, every comment and image and document (and with easy integrations for things like bug trackers, support ticketing systems, source control, CRM software, analytics tools and so on) just *everything* gets into the same place and is at your fingertips.
When a new person joins the team, rather than starting with an empty inbox, they have the entire company archives right there. Reading back through a few weeks of the relevant channels and they not only know what’s going on, but, much more importantly, they know who has the answers to what kinds of questions, who makes what kinds of decisions, who does what, how things happen … they know the culture and the people. That’s a leapfrog which collapses what’s typically a month worth of experience into a few hours. It’s huge.
So, we say some things like “All your team communication, instantly searchable, available wherever you go.” or sometimes “Zero-effort knowledge management” or “Your team’s infinite brain” or just “Be less busy”.
There’s a lot more to do it than that, but who cares. No one wants to read all this shit. They want to see a video. And, as to that, we want to make one with you.
I have few concrete ideas but that is the merest matter of an hour of rapping. No problem. I think this would be much heavier on the editing/post production/effects than the camera and the shooting, but I’m open. However, it would need to be short (like 45–60 seconds). And, though we were at one point a well-funded startup ($$) the humbling failure of Glitch has put us closer to the small and scrappy startup ($). And we have less than six weeks.
Adam. OK. I could go on forever. But, I have to pee. So: what do you think?

Adam replies the very next morning.

But not with what we were hoping to hear.

From: Adam Lisagor
To: Stewart Buttterfield
Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 11:32 AM
Hi, Stewart. It’s great to hear from you. Of course I know you — I’ve known you for years and years. I also remember having been really impressed with that first Glitch trailer. The music alone was enough to sell me, let alone the cute characters.
Company communication-wise, my whole business runs on email and email alone. We don’t IM or Basecamp or Flow or anything. We’ve tried, but it just turns out that nothing works like good old fashioned email. So I’m one of those people for whom an alternative solution is a very tough sell. Which makes it even harder for me to be a good person to make a video for you. But I’m not giving up hope.
To be frank, the other two constraints are probably the more impactful, because of course I’d love to work with you. But on a short timeline when we’re booked quite solid, and a budget on the lower end of our spectrum, it’s kind of a long shot.
Anything you could show me of the product itself that could give me a better idea?
Again, thanks for the note, and if it doesn’t work out this time around, I hope we get the opportunity down the line.

Eight months pass. Then Slack launches.

Adam gets back in touch.

From: Adam Lisagor
To: Stewart Butterfield
Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 4:29 PM
Dear Stewart,
I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about Slack. Everyone on my team is clamoring to try it. I think I have to admit to myself and to you, for the first time in my whole adult life, that I may have been wrong about whether it’s something that we could integrate here at Sandwich. And I wanted to be a big man and let you know that.
Congratulations on the big launch.

In an attempt to make Adam feel better about his earlier slight, Stewart compares early Slack to weak beer.

From: Stewart Butterfield
To: Adam Lisagor
Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 5:44 PM
Come on!! I totally understood (and understand) where you were coming from. It’s like if someone told me “hey … check out this beer … it tastes great, but it’s also less filling.” I’d be like “FUCK YOU!” and then never believe anything they said ;)
It’s also a hell of a lot better than it was 6+ months ago :)

Minutes later, a reply.

From: Adam Lisagor
To: Stewart Butterfield
Feb 14, 2014, at 6:05 PM
Well, awesome. Can’t wait to give it a go.

The Sandwich Video team got an invite to the beta the next morning. Then he went quiet.

Stewart waited.

Five days later, Adam emailed.

From: Adam Lisagor
To: Stewart Butterfield
Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 3:32 PM
My team took to it like ducks to water and this has been the first of any of this category of app to actually stick. IT’S SO GOOD. YOU MADE SUCH A GOOD PRODUCT, STEWART.
Thank your team for me.

Then, as is normal, the initial first-flush giddy enthusiasm ebbed away.

…To be replaced by longstanding, whole-hearted, deep-seated giddy enthusiasm — and the desire to make the video that had first been mentioned all those months ago.

From: Adam Lisagor
To: Stewart Butterfield
Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 3:26 PM
Reporting back, almost six weeks in with Slack in my 9-person office. This is not hyperbole — Slack has changed my company culture for the better.
I have a fantasy that we now get to make a video for Slack, using ourselves (Sandwich Video) as the subjects, shooting it in our own office, making a Sandwich video for a product that has improved Sandwich Video. If there is even a chance this could become a reality, I’d be a very happy guy. I don’t want to be a pushy guy because that’s not my style, but think about it because I think it could be really fun.

Phew. “Find someone to make an amazing product video?” Tick.

From: Stewart Butterfield
To: Adam Lisagor
Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 3:59 PM
OK! We’re in. Let’s do it. (For real.)
It’d be a good excuse for me to fly to LA and eat crazy food and have some Korean shampoo or whatever is the very latest thing.

Fortunately, Adam didn’t take the opportunity to feed his newest client haircare products. But he WAS just as excited as we were.

From: Adam Lisagor
To: Stewart Butterfield
Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 4:01 PM
Korean Shampu (as it’s called here, duh) is on me.
Okay, I’ll follow up soon. First, I’m going to tell everyone (on Slack) that we’re doing this. I’m so pumped.

And the rest is history.

See? Told you it was a true story.


Slack is the collaboration hub, where the right people are always in the loop and key information is always at their fingertips. Teamwork in Slack happens in channels — searchable conversations that keep work organized and teams better connected.