Email is not dead yet as Slack acquires productivity start-up Astro

25 Sep 2018

Image: aodaodaodaod/Shutterstock

Slack takes over Astro in what is reportedly one of its biggest acquisitions to date.

Workplace communications platform Slack has acquired Astro, an email client that uses AI to help users manage their calendars and email inboxes. It is understood that Slack intends to merge Astro into its channels platform to bring together conversations, files and best-of-breed software tools.

It is also an admission by Slack that email, despite its notorious inefficiencies, is far from dead but could benefit with better management via Slack channels.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed but it has been reported as one of Slack’s biggest acquisitions yet.

Astro confirmed that on 10 October, it will shut down the Astro apps for Mac, iOS, Android, Amazon Alexa and Slack.

Last year, the company created its Slack app called Astrobot to connect email, calendar and Slack, and enable users to get results back from both Slack and email in a single search, including what’s next on their Office 365 or Google calendar.

Are channels the future of productivity?

“Billions of emails are sent every day, and in those are millions of documents exchanged, contracts negotiated and decisions memorialised,” Slack said in a blogpost.

“We’ve taken some steps to make it possible to integrate email into Slack, but now we’re in a position to make that interoperability much simpler and much, much more powerful.

“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to help teams shift conversations to where they would be most productive: in a channel, alongside the relevant context and software tools teams use at work, from ServiceNow and Salesforce to Workday and Box.”

The team behind Astro – Andy Pflaum, Roland Schemers and Ross Dargahi – is noted for having built popular mail and messaging tools including Zimbra, Acompli (acquired by Microsoft and the foundation for Outlook Mobile) and Mumbo (acquired by LinkedIn).

“We see this as a natural next step as channel-based collaboration becomes the default way of working,” Slack said.

In recent weeks, Slack secured a round of Series H funding worth $427m, earning it a valuation of $7.1bn.

The company reports that it now has 8m daily active users and more than 70,000 paid teams, with many more smaller teams opting for its free service.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years