‘The new enterprise is about making work fun,’ says Slack’s April Underwood

5 Nov 2015

Slack's head of platform April Underwood

The revolution in productivity and next generation enterprise software driven by hot start-ups like Slack, Trello and Wrike is about making work pleasant and more fun, says Slack’s head of platform April Underwood.

Valued at over $2.8bn, Slack is very much at the centre of the future of work communications and the company has just revealed a slew of new platform integrations that include the ability to order cars via Lyft, pick lunch spots with FourSquare and access a Swiss Army knife of commands for Slack via Blockspring.

Driving this is April Underwood, a technology veteran who earned her stripes at some of the biggest tech firms in Silicon Valley.

Before Slack, she was part of the Twitter rise to fame and its IPO journey, building some of its advertising and developer products, including the tweet button and Twitter API, as director of product.

She has also recently launched #Angels with five of her former Twitter colleagues, an investors’ club to identify and support worthy start-ups. Underwood was also recently voted one of the ‘Most Creative People of 2015’ by Fast Company magazine.

Underwood was also previously a senior partner (technology) at Google in charge of content acquisition for the brand’s maps, news, finance and blogger features, and she was also a product manager and software engineer at Travelocity, one of the first online travel agencies in the world.

The enterprise world has never been more diverse, nor more rich

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com at the Web Summit, Underwood said the range of tools and applications available for teams has never been more diverse or rich.

“This presents an opportunity for Slack to be more tactile and help put all these tools back together,” she said.

For example, she said that Slack integrates with platforms like project management tool Trello.

“If we can make communication within teams better then we can be a platform for all these new enterprise platforms to plug into and then communication and collaboration can happen and Slack can be a jumping-off point into these other software’s capabilities.”

I suggest that Slack should create a button like the Twitter sharing button and she cuts me off: “We already have one.”

She continues: “Instead of scrolling through long threads in third-party apps, just push notifications to users into Slack. This makes it easy for users of services like Trello and other apps to subscribe to updates to their team from within an application.”

Coding for a new revolution

Underwood formed the #Angels venture investment firm along with Twitter female leaders Chloe Sladden, Jana Messerschmidt, Jessica Verrilli, Katie Jacobs Stanton and Vijaya Gadde.

#Angels is an angel investor group formed to fund start-ups and bucks the trend in being an all-female group of investors.

“It just so happens that we are all women and that has afforded us the opportunity to bring more women entrepreneurs who had been in a full-time role into the investment world.

“A little more than half of the companies that we have backed have female founders,” she added.

One of the companies Underwood has backed is Jewelbots, which is led by Sara Chipps, co-founder of the national non-profit Girl Develop It, and fashion-tech entrepreneur Brooke Moreland.

“They are working on technology around programmable bracelets targeted at teaching teenage girls how to code.”

She concluded that it has been a dream come true “being able to participate in the investing world and backing a company like that in teaching girls interested in technology”.

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Open Eir (formerly Eircom Wholesale), Fidelity Investments, Accenture and CoderDojo.

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