Home office of one of the employees of Rocket.chat, open source communication tool that competes directly with Slack. Photo: Rocket.chat/Courtesy
Technology

Remote work boost the usage of tools such as Rocket.chat, Zoom, and Slack

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, remote communication tools are seeing their usage grow. Rocket.chat spoke to LABS about it

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As new coronavirus cases approach stabilization in China, allowing the country to gradually resume its economic activity, Europe, the new epicenter of the disease, and the Americas see COVID-19 spread exponentially. One of the measures taken voluntarily in the United States and Latin America to fight against the rapid advance of the new coronavirus was the effective implementation of remote work by startups and technology-based companies in general. As a result, broadband service providers, cloud storage and management services, as well as organizational and communication tools are seeing their usage and the number of new customers growing impressively.

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Rocket.chat, an open source team collaboration platform with more than 350 mil customers worldwide, saw an increase of 30% in the tool’s usage in the last couple of weeks. On Monday, in particular, the company recorded a growth of more than 130% in website accesses, in addition to an increase of more than 100% in installations and trials of the tool. 

Rocket.chat was founded by the Brazilian Gabriel Engel in 2015, and is one of the top open source competitors of Slack. In Brazil, the company has customers such as the state-owned bank Caixa Econômica Federal, Samsung and the business solutions provider TOTVS. Outside Brazil, Rocket.chat also provides tools for Nokia, Boeing, the U.S. Navy, among others.

The platform was created at the request of customers of Konecty, a startup that Engel also helped to found. They wanted the company to create a chat feature for their customer relationship application. Over time, the idea gained a life of its own.

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As a platform born for remote work and originally with around 50% of the team working in this way, Rocket.chat has also taken 100% of its employees to home office mode in the past few weeks. 

“The fact that we managed all of this through our own collaboration platform made the transition to 100% home office a lot easier compared to companies that had to do it from scratch. In addition, we created a special channel on our platform to daily inform employees about the most relevant points of the situation in the world, and provide guidance on best practices for challenging times like this,” Otávio Torres, head of People at Rocket.chat, told LABS.

Otávio Torres, head of People at Rocket.chat. Photo: Rocket.chat/Courtesy

Zoom Video Communications is one of the few stocks that has so far been immune to the coronavirus stock market crash. According to the Investors Daily, while the Dow Jones index has fallen as much as 33% off its February high, Zoom stock has found support at its recent buy point. Throughout the year, the company’s shares went up 74%, while the S&P 500 went down 21% in the biggest sell-off since the financial crisis of 2008. Alongside with Google’s Hangout, Microsoft’s Teams, and Cisco’s WebEX, Zoom has expanded its free offerings to help businesses and schools in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Video conferencing softwares have expanded their free offerings to help businesses and schools in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Shutterstock

This Wednesday “ZOOM Cloud Meetings” topped the free charts in the Apple and Google mobile app stores in the U.S., ahead of Netflix or TikTok. On Tuesday Zoom’s CFO Kelly Steckelberg told CNBC how the company is handling the increased demand for its online services. According to Steckelberg, Zoom’s engineering operations team has been adding servers and other equipment inside every one of the company’s 17 data center locations. Two more will become available this week or next week, she told CNBC.

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The idea is that if one of the locations is getting swamped with networking traffic, it can send the load to the others. “In general, we architect our data centers and have built them so they run at 50% of peak capacity,” Steckelberg said to CNBC.

Zoom has also been increasing its capacity with its two cloud infrastructure providers: Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure. Like Amazon in the United States, the company is hiring more engineers and salespeople in the midst of a crisis.

Unlike Zoom, Slack is not yet a profitable company. Still, it has also seen its revenues grow (49% year over year to $181.9 million for the quarter ended Jan. 31). The problem is that the company’s projection for the current quarter and full fiscal year came in below analysts’ estimates. For them, coronavirus could offer the opportunity for this company to finally reach critical mass and make break even happen, but this wasn’t considered in the company’s guidelines. Slack’s shares slid 20% last Thursday following the disclosure of its last quarter results.

While Slack’s total number of paid customers rose 25%, to 110,000, only a bit more than 800 of them spent more than $100,000 annually. The way out of the company to profit, investors believe, is there: to win bigger clients and to pay more recurrently. Compared to the previous year, this number has already grown 55%, but more needs to be done.

According to The Information, Slack revealed in a securities filing it had added about 7,000 paying customers since Feb. 1. That’s a big number, considering Slack added around 5,000 paying customers in each of its past two quarters. Slack shares jumped 17% on the news.

Microsoft Teams, another strong competitor in this kind of business, is not well too in the investors’s eyes. This is because Microsoft’s service went down as people started working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak, said TechCrunch this week.

Even so, Microsoft’s tool numbers are growing. According to The Information, Teams now has 44 million daily active users, up by 12 million daily users. This data was added after this article’ first publication.

Updated on Friday, March 20th.