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'Ein Trink Mit' Slack Boss Stewart Butterfield

Re/code caught up with the Flickr co-founder and Slack CEO at the DLD conference in Munich.


Running corporate messaging app Slack is keeping Stewart Butterfield pretty busy, but he is trying to find time for his other passion — playing the ukulele.

“When I was younger I used to be a pretty good musician,” Butterfield said, speaking at the DLD conference in Munich. “I basically stopped playing for 20 years.”

He took guitar back up about a year ago. Then a flight got canceled, so he couldn’t practice his guitar. Rather than miss out entirely, he bought a ukulele, which he continues to play. His repertoire includes jazz, Gershwin tunes and Broadway standards.

“I’m eager to get back home again so I can play,” Butterfield said. “It’s so different than regular life that I really enjoy it.”

He also likes reading, but says he hasn’t been finding much time for books.

“I used to be a pretty voracious reader,” Butterfield said. “If I took all of the hours I spend reading Twitter and used that time to read a book, I’d probably have time to read books. Instead I waste all this time in tiny little increments.”

He likened his Twitter obsession to eating junk food, saying it fulfills some neural impulse even if it isn’t all that healthy.

One thing he isn’t looking to do is buy back Flickr from Yahoo. Butterfield said he considered a bid for the company he co-founded back in 2008, but ended up dropping the idea when it became clear that there wasn’t going to be a mutually agreeable price.

As for why his current project, Slack, has been a hit, Butterfield was refreshingly honest.

“I get in trouble with the PR team for saying this, but I have no fucking idea,” Butterfield said in his on-stage appearance at DLD. He added, though, that he isn’t sweating Facebook’s effort to crack into his business. Timing, he said, probably had a lot to do with it.

Slack has also raised a boatload of money, including a $120 million round that closed last fall and $43 million raised earlier in the year.

And, yes, Re/code usually springs for two drinks, but Butterfield is a busy guy and we only got to share a glass of champagne. We owe you another drink.

If you want to see Butterfield’s onstage appearance at DLD, here it is (drinks not included):

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