Stewart Butterfield - We Don’t Sell Saddles Here - [Founder’s Field Guide, EP. 43]
Play • 1 hr 7 min

My guest today is Stewart Butterfield, founder and CEO of Slack. Stewart’s 2014 essay “Why We Don’t Sell Saddles Here” had a massive impact on my own business journey, which made this discussion extra special. During our conversation, we discuss the concept of owner’s delusion, how to frame the boundaries between product and market, and the challenge of changing people’s mental models and behavior when introducing innovative products. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Stewart.


Before we transition to the episode, I also wanted to highlight our newest series Business Breakdowns. Each week, we do a deep dive into an individual business to understand what makes it tick. For more information go to or search for and sign up to the Business Breakdowns feed on your preferred podcast player.


For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content, check out the episode page here.



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Show Notes

[00:02:51] - [First question] - Discussing his essay We Don’t Sell Saddles Here  

[00:06:19] - Important contrast between innovation and the product

[00:06:46] - Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? 

[00:08:07] - His thoughts on marketing from both ends and how he’s gotten better at it

[00:10:45] - What across Slack’s history has been the most successful market messaging creation strategy

[00:13:43] - The 5K contest and how it taught him about the design unlock of limitations

[00:17:44] - How limitations and constraints can power and incentivize innovation 

[00:21:21] - Why both of his attempts to build videogames ended up as consumer software

[00:27:55] - Whether or not there is still white space in digital communication software

[00:30:15] - The dynamic between effective communication and building communication tools

[00:34:02] - A future of digital-first companies and what that might look like

[00:40:15] - Leadership and Self-Deception and what self-deception means to him

[00:43:39] - Examples of self-deception he underwent that he was able to learn from

[00:46:59] - Mastery and its importance in the world of business

[00:48:59] - Why hippies and APIs may have a tighter correlation than we think 

[00:54:01] - Whether or not technology is fundamentally amoral 

[00:56:10] - Interesting and open questions about the future that remain unanswered 

[00:58:33] - His current creative outlets that he engages with the most 

[00:59:24] - Yahoo Resignation Letter and why he wrote it the way he did

[01:00:31] - Lessons for investors and builders that he’s learned from building Slack

[01:03:07] - The kindest thing that anyone has ever done for him 

[01:04:27] - Why a philosophy primer would be beneficial for virtually everyone

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