It was a whirlwind kind of day at Salesforce and Slack as the company learned that Slack CEO Lidiane Jones would be leaving at the end of the year to become CEO at dating app Bumble.
Sources, who chose to speak on background because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, confirmed multiple reports that Jones’ replacement would be announced a week from today. The company has kept a pretty tight lid so far on the identity of that person, and industry experts we spoke to were mostly reluctant to speculate.
Brent Leary, co-founder and partner at CRM Essentials, believes it will be an internal hire, or perhaps someone who left the company, and has knowledge of the culture and operations of Salesforce. With the company focusing more on AI, he thinks it could turn to an executive who can lead Slack through this major transitional period for Salesforce — and enterprise software in general.
“Generally speaking I think this particular point in time is one of the most consequential for most if not all tech companies, which means Salesforce really has to get the right person to see Slack through this period,” Leary added.
Salesforce spent close to $28 billion to acquire Slack in December 2020 and will be on its third CEO in two years. Jones came on board last year, replacing Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield. She announced her departure in a company-wide Slack channel this morning. Marc Benioff in an official statement expressed sadness at her departure.
“A hugely-deserved achievement for one of our most incredible executives. While we will all of course miss her greatly (especially me), we recognize what an amazing opportunity this is for Lidiane in becoming a public company CEO. And all the more so at Bumble, a truly great company, with great values that we admire dearly,” Benioff said in the statement.
Slack seemed to be doing well under Jones, and people liked her, according to IDC analyst Wayne Kurtzman. “Slack appears to have increased revenues in recent quarters. Lidiane Jones commands loyalty within Slack, but we do not always have control of when opportunities arise,” he told TechCrunch, adding, “The next CEO will have to both garner loyalty of the Slack team and bring the product to the next level, both within the Salesforce ecosystem and as a standalone product.”
A source told TechCrunch that the chatter internally on Slack suggests Kurtzman was right, with employees wishing Jones well, and like Benioff, sad to see her leaving for Bumble. Regardless, it is certainly unusual for an executive to announce she’s leaving just 10 months into her tenure, and Leary said it had to be a shock, considering the amount of time she had been on the job.
“I don’t know, but I think this has to be a surprise, given it’s been less than a year and there was a lot of fanfare made when they announced her taking over the helm from Butterfield,” Leary said.
A dating app may seem like a strange landing spot for an enterprise software executive, who spent the last four years in various roles inside the CRM giant, but Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says the move to Bumble makes a lot of sense for Jones, and would be a better fit for her skillset. “Slack is no longer a growth play, but an integration play for Salesforce, and Lidiane’s talents are better at Bumble for turnaround and growth,” he told TechCrunch.
And as Benioff pointed out, she gets to run her own public company, rather than be CEO of a division inside Salesforce. As she prepares to leave, Jones will help her successor, whoever that turns out to be, transition to the new job, just as Stewart Butterfield helped her — but just 10 months later, she’s moving on.