Amazon reportedly is looking at business messaging service Slack Technologies with an acquisition in mind. The deal could be valued at roughly $9 billion, according to Bloomberg News.
The e-commerce giant is just one of several parties that reportedly have asked Slack, which now has about 5 million active users and 1.5 million paying users, about doing such a deal. Both Amazon and Slack declined to comment for the Bloomberg report.
Such a deal could be a fitting follow-up to the launch earlier this year of Amazon Chime, a video conferencing and content-sharing service that Amazon added to its growing roster of enterprise networking services for business customers, Bloomberg noted.
Slack is one of the hottest start-ups and collaboration apps around right now, well-funded, but reportedly sought as an acquisition target by several larger companies, including Microsoft previously and Amazon now.
Amazon increasingly is evading easy description. Is it a consumer-focused e-commerce giant? Yes. Is it a B2B e-commerce giant? Also, yes. Is it a massive provider of video and music content over the Internet? Uh-huh. Is it a rapidly growing provider of networking services and cloud-based data storage? Again, yes.
The clearest, surface-level reason why Amazon could be interested in Slack has to do with the last of these. Amazon Web Services has become a dominant cloud service provider, and Amazon Chime has drawn comparisons to Microsoft-owned Skype and Cisco’s Webex. So, Slack would fit with Amazon efforts to provide a variety of enterprise services to business customers.
Yet there could be deeper, more intriguing reasons for Amazon's interest. The enterprise is reaching beyond its retail roots to become something a bit more like Apple, a company with a vast ecosystem of devices, content, experiences and financial capabilities. In fact, Amazon would like to do whatever it can to keep its customers in its own system —not only shopping on Amazon, but paying with Amazon payment options, too, for example.
Amazon wants to control the complete customer experience, and in that sense, buying a platform like Slack could be just the beginning. In addition to operating it as a business service, it also could harness Slack as a way to communicate directly with customers — both consumers and businesses — and allow them to communicate with one another without leaving Amazon's world to get on a platform like Skype. And because any messaging platform is also a content platform waiting to happen, it could eventually add product-related content and events like product-focused chat sessions.
This is all just riffing on a rumor, of course. But Slack could be more useful to Amazon than you might expect, and in some very imaginative ways.