Slack vs. the Other Guys: Taking Your Startup's Communication to the Next Level

Here at Stacklist, we’re not biased—we’re just reporting what we hear from founders and operators. Those folks, however, are incredibly biased, and here’s what they have to say: When it comes to internal communication tools, Slack is king. And for a variety of reasons: its top-of-the-line integrations, sleek interface, overall simplicity and more—we’ll get into that later. There are some good alternatives out there, especially for smaller companies who don’t want any added expense, but if you’re on the hunt for a service that has it all, don’t waste your time looking beyond Slack.   

What are the best free internal communication tools for startups?
Google HangoutsGoogle’s communication functions are easy to use and integrate, especially if all of your employees are using Google for email and apps. According to Ryan Vance, head of content at CreativeLive, “We use Google Hangouts because we don't have a lot of specific needs for our communication. We don't need Slack, and Google Hangouts is free, right there and integrates with our email.” There are complaints, however, that the Hangouts video functionality is unreliable and stalls often.

SkypeAh, the ubiquitous Skype. Easy for IM, voice calls and video chats, it’s had a long tenure in the market, but it’s lacking the bells and whistles of the newer platforms that’s making companies think twice. “Skype is universal,” explains Henrik Zillmer, founder and CEO of AirHelp. “Everyone knows it, and it’s easy to connect, share files, chat, talk and share your screen.” Skype’s basic platform is free, with additional fees for the ability to call mobile and landline phones, as well as a business package that offers additional security and integration features, and the ability to hold online meetings with up to 250 people.

HipChatThe service most closely compared with Slack, HipChat offers group chat, IM, file sharing and integrations with many of your existing applications. If you’re looking for additional features, like video chat and screen sharing, you can upgrade for $2 per user per month. Its users are satisfied, though many acknowledge that it’s lacking in certain areas. HipChat is often described as “simple” and “bare bones,” but gives most small companies the capabilities they need to keep their teams connected. According to Jesse Middleton, Director of Business Development at WeWork, “HipChat isn't quite as flexible as some other programs like Slack, but it works for us. We ended up needing to supplement it with some other small programs to fill in the gaps, but we use it heavily.”

Why is Slack the best internal communication tool for startups?
Growth seems to be a common impetus for making the move to Slack. Reflecting on the trajectory of his company, Segment founder and CEO Peter Reinhardt explains, “We started with just email when there were four of us, but we added HipChat when we got up to around five people. When we got up to 20 people, we switched over to Slack. All of the little tiny features it has make it nicer to use.” Having gone through a similar experience, Knozen CEO Marc Cenedella says, “I can't put my finger on exactly why Slack is better. With Slack, you feel like you're enjoying yourself while you're using it, but HipChat feels more like work.”

Slack is a better version of HipChat,” says Russ D’Souza, co-founder of SeatGeek, and over and over again users tell us that Slack is “just a more enjoyable experience overall,” as Bowery’s Steve Kaliski puts it. What is it about Slack that generates near-universal appeal? Point Founder and CEO Ashwinn Krishnaswamy sums up its benefits: “Slack allows for internal team communications (you can chat room with everyone on your team, and you can set up separate channels). The chat function is good, but it's most helpful in serving as a newsfeed between your different systems (Trello, GitHub, Twitter—they integrate with every major service a startup would need). It's also great for file sharing and searching, and I've seen some larger teams use it, too. Slack makes this so much easier and gives you a lot of room for customization.”

It’s Slack’s integrations that seem to garner the most accolades. According to Brian Fitzgerald, founder and CEO of Tinkergarten, “The functionality is not very different than some of the other tools, but they've definitely spent a lot of time pulling it together, making sure the integrations go really well with Google, Trello or whatever else you use. Everything just flows together with one click, so it becomes a really smooth interface to use for everything you have to do--attachments, sharing files, screens, videos, etc. There's a reason they're growing so fast.”

How quickly, exactly? Slack is one of the fastest-growing business applications in history, being used as the primary communication medium for companies of all sizes, across a broad range of industries. After almost two years since its inception, Slack serves over 1 million workers every day, and adds roughly 10,000 new users each week.

Many startups are on Slack’s free plan, which offers a 10,000-message searchable archive, 5GB of total storage and five integrations. If that’s not enough for you, you can upgrade to the Standard plan ($6.67/user/month) for unlimited storage, or to Slack Plus ($12.50/user/month) for single sign-on functionality and additional security features. Those in the Stacklist community who have graduated from Slack’s free plan continue to feel that the tool’s value far outweighs its price tag. They love Slack for its sleek interface and top-of-the-line integrations, which make it a hybrid communication-productivity solution. And while there are certainly plenty of internal communication tools on the market, Slack unanimously rises to the top of the pile, offering companies an efficient and enjoyable platform for keeping employees on track, engaged and having fun.