Marc Benioff and Stewart Butterfield are now united, with a mutual Microsoft grudge

Marc Benioff and Stewart Butterfield are now united, with a mutual Microsoft grudge
Marc BenioffReuters/Mike Blake

Hello, and welcome to this Wednesday's edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech.


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This week: The tech mega-deal that COVID brokered

The year of the pandemic is closing with what may be remembered as the era's signature deal. Salesforce is plunking down $27.7 billion — its largest acquisition ever — to buy Slack, the workplace collaboration platform that's become as integral to the work-from-home lifestyle as sweatpants.

What a change a few months make: It was only in August that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff insisted that big-ticket M&A was no longer in the cards.

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  • And Salesforce's recent pattern of high-priced acquisitions, like Tableau and MuleSoft, are very clearly skewed towards assets involving data analytics and back-end cloud systems integration — not quite the same breed of product as a chatroom app.
  • Salesforce's growing rivalry with Microsoft however, means it was likely to eventually find its way to Slack.

But what about the person on the other side of the table — Slack founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield?

This is the guy who sold his first startup Flickr to Yahoo and bolted for the exits three years later. If anyone would be reluctant to sell out to a big company it would be him, right?


It's an interesting question amid the current antitrust zeitgeist. And it's not very difficult to make the argument Microsoft's anticompetitive tactics effectively forced Slack into a marriage with Salesforce, unable to compete on its own.

Marc Benioff and Stewart Butterfield are now united, with a mutual Microsoft grudge
Stewart ButterfieldSlack

Don't count on this deal being scuttled by regulators though. Enterprise software doesn't rank as high as social media on the regulatory hit list.

Butterfield himself may have also made the case for why its acquisition is a good outcome.

"We could sell it right now for a billion dollars" he told Wired in 2014. "The thing is, those options aren't going to go away."

Butterfield was right. His options didn't go away. They increased by about 2,700%.


Read more of our coverage on the big Salesforce-Slack deal:

Salesforce's $27.7 billion Slack acquisition comes with a new secret weapon against Microsoft: CEO Stewart Butterfield

CEO Marc Benioff says Salesforce's $27.7 billion acquisition of Slack brings his 'ultimate vision' for workplace collaboration to life

Showdown: Lame duck vs Section 230

On Tuesday night President Trump took another shot at Section 230 — the decades-old law that shields internet companies from liability over content posted by users. In a series of late-night tweets, Trump threatened to veto the annual defense spending authorization bill unless the bill also contained a provision to "completely terminate" Section 230.

The backstory: Trump's obsession with Section 230 was probably stoked by a weekend of derision on Twitter in which the trending hashtag #DiaperDon poked fun at the curiously small desk Trump sat behind during a press conference. (Tellingly, Trump's Tuesday night tweets made reference to the "very beautiful Resolute desk.")

There's no obvious connection between Section 230 and the defense bill. But Axios reported earlier on Tuesday that Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican, had proposed slipping a provision limiting some of Section 230 into the defense bill as a compromise over a sticking point about renaming military bases.


With Trump's threat of a veto, this attempt at compromise has now become an ultimatum. But Trump's term ends in eight weeks, so it's not clear how much leverage he really has.

Quote of the week:

"Candidly, some of those leaving have already found great wealth here in the Bay Area ecosystem, and so they have the privilege of leaving and declaring some other city 'the next big thing.'"

Ron Conway, the founder of SV Angels and longtime San Francisco tech investor, discussing recent high-profile CEOs and VCs leaving Silicon Valley.

Snapshot: The bookstore of the future

You don't have to be a bibliophile to fall in love with the surreal splendor of this recently opened bookstore in the city of Dujiangyan in China's Sichuan province. Designed by the X+Living studio, the Dujiangyan Zhongshuge bookstore looks straight out of a movie, or perhaps one of MC Escher's famous, mind-bending lithographs.


The store carries 80,000 books. But thanks to a variety of mirrors, black tiled floors, glowing shelves and other optical tricks, its collection appears to be infinite. The awe-inspiring space is intended to emulate the mountains and rivers that form the region's natural landscape.

Recommended Readings:

Meet the 50 CEOs, investors, and hackers who helped lead the cybersecurity industry through an unprecedented and tumultuous year

A 'random Joe Schmo' IT specialist in England is claiming to be the creator of VCBrags, a controversial Twitter account that mocks VCs with over 86,000 followers

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy explains why it's making huge bets in hybrid cloud computing, a market it spent years ignoring


Tesla just settled its yearslong lawsuit with a whistleblower who enraged Elon Musk. But it leaves questions about where hundreds of millions of dollars went.

SpaceX may shell out billions to outsource Starlink satellite-dish production, an industry insider says — and lose up to $2,000 on each one it sells

Not necessarily in tech:

The rise and fall of J. Walter Thompson, the world's oldest advertising agency

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— Alexei