Daniel Stewart Butterfield (born Dharma Jeremy Butterfield; 1973) is a Canadian billionaire businessman, best known for co-founding the photo-sharing website Flickr and the team-messaging application Slack.
Early life and education
Butterfield was born in Lund, British Columbia, in 1973 to Norma and David Butterfield and grew up for the first three years of his life in a log cabin without running water while living in a commune in remote Canada as his father had fled the US to avoid being drafted for the Vietnam War. Butterfield’s jewish grandfather came from Poland to Canada at age 17 in the interwar period. His family moved to Victoria when Butterfield was five years old. As a child, Butterfield taught himself how to code, and changed his name to Stewart when he was 12.
Butterfield was educated at St. Michaels University School in Victoria, British Columbia and made money in university designing websites. He received a B.A. degree in philosophy from the University of Victoria in 1996. Butterfield went on to earn a Master of Philosophy from Clare College, Cambridge in 1998, where he specialized in the philosophy of biology, cognitive science, and the philosophy of mind.
His time in university coincided with the birth of the World Wide Web; his online entre was through his passion for jam bands, and more specifically, the Vermont band Phish to access Rec.music.phish, one of the first usenet newsgroups.
In 2000, Butterfield worked with a friend to build a startup called Gradfinder.com. Following Gradfinder.com’s acquisition, he worked as a freelance web designer. Butterfield also created a contest called the 5K competition centered around people designing websites under 5 kilobytes.
Ludicorp and Flickr
In the summer of 2002, he co-founded Ludicorp in Vancouver with Caterina Fake and Jason Classon. Ludicorp initially developed a massively multiplayer online role-playing game called Game Neverending. The game did not launch, but the company then started a photo-sharing website called Flickr. In March 2005 Ludicorp was acquired by Yahoo!, where Butterfield continued as the General Manager of Flickr until he left Yahoo on July 12, 2008.
In 2009 Butterfield cofounded a new company called Tiny Speck. Tiny Speck launched its first project, the massively multiplayer game Glitch, on September 27, 2011, having raised $17.5 million in funding. Glitch was later closed due to its failure to attract a sufficiently large audience. The game world closed down on December 9, 2012, but the web site, with most of the content, remained online. In January 2013, it was announced that the company would make most of the game’s art available under a Creative Commons license. On December 9, 2014, a fan project to relaunch Glitch under the name Eleven began alpha testing.
In August 2013, Butterfield announced the release of Slack, an instant-message-based team communication tool built by Tiny Speck while working on Glitch. After its public release in February 2014, the tool grew at a weekly rate of 5 to 10 percent, with more than 120,000 daily users registered in the first week of August 2014. As of August 2014, Slack had garnered US$1.5 million in revenue and raised US$60 million in venture capital. In early 2014, the data for Slack’s first six-month usage period since the preview release was published, showing that nearly 16,000 users were registered without the use of any form of advertisinggrowth was based solely upon word-of-mouth.
Butterfield secured an office for Slack employees in San Francisco in 2014 and was expected to commence recruitment during the second half of the year.
As of December 2015, Slack had raised US$340 million in venture capital and had more than 2 million daily active users, of which 570,000 were paid customers.
Slack was named Inc. Magazines 2015 company of the year.
Awards and honors
In 2005, Butterfield was named one of Businessweek’s “Top 50” Leaders in the entrepreneur category. In the same year, he was also named in the TR35, a list collated by MIT in its MIT Technology Review publication, as one of the top 35 innovators in the world under the age of 35 years. In 2006, he was named in the “Time 100”, Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and also appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine.
In 2015, Stewart was named the Wall Street Journal’s Technology Innovator for 2015, awarded TechCrunchs Founder of the Year Crunchie, and included in Vanity Fairs New Establishment, Advertising Ages Creative 50, and Details Digital Mavericks lists.
In May 2017, he featured in Masters of Scale, a podcast series by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Linkedin, along with other successful businesspeople such as Mark Zuckerberg, John Elkann, and Brian Chesky. In it, he discussed the scaling strategy adopted by Slack.