How Notion Can Take on Microsoft Office 365 and Loop – Business Insider

How Notion Can Take on Microsoft Office 365 and Loop – Business Insider

  • Microsoft’s new Loop project-management app looks and works a lot like Notion, a hot startup.
  • It brings Notion into closer competition with Microsoft — but that’s not necessarily a lost cause.
  • Microsoft is powerful, but a startup’s edge is in finding its focus, industry insiders say.

Notion is one of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley. It achieved a $10 billion valuation earlier this year as tech workers and TikTok influencers alike embraced its approach to teamwork and project planning.

The Notion app is billed as an “all-in-one workplace” combining documents, internal wiki pages, task-management tools, and spreadsheets. Founded in 2012, Notion was long considered something like Silicon Valley’s best kept secret until the pandemic-driven remote-work boom pushed it into the limelight.

Notion bills itself as an “all-in-one workplace” that can act as a replacement for docs, wikis, task-management tools, and databases.


Last week, Notion’s rising star was briefly eclipsed by the news that Microsoft was launching an app called Loop, which has features and functionality that look a lot like the startup’s flagship product. Loop will be added to the Office 365 productivity suite, which includes Word, Excel, and the Teams chat app.

For Microsoft, the move makes perfect sense as the tech titan looks to entrench the Office 365 suite as a no-brainer way for businesses large and small to get the apps they need to get work done in the cloud. But the move puts Notion in a club with companies like




that over the years have suddenly found themselves at odds with what is variably the most or second most valuable company.

On Twitter, fans and industry watchers fretted over Notion’s fate as Microsoft put its considerable weight behind Loop. Industry insiders like Reforge Vice President Fareed Mosavat, a former Slack executive, told the startup: “Do not underestimate Microsoft’s ability to ruthlessly copy what works, move fast, and leverage unique strategic assets to dominate the market you created.”

Notion, for its part, doesn’t seem bothered.

“We’re on a mission to empower everyone to use software exactly the way they want. It’s a long journey and we’re just at the beginning,” Notion CEO Ivan Zhao told Insider in an emailed statement.

Notion has also been cozying up to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft’s chief cloud rival, by way of a recent partnership.

Microsoft told Insider that it saw Loop as its own thing, which brings together the other Office apps into one main way for people to work together, though it has pledged that developers will be able to integrate their own products with the tool in the near future.

The good news for Notion is that there are plenty of companies out there that have faced this challenge and not only survived but also thrived. Some in the industry have found that while Microsoft is indeed a heavyweight, the size of the opportunity is such that going up against it is far from a lost cause. 

“It’s literally the best time to be building enterprise software because of how much innovation there is,” Aaron Levie, the CEO of the cloud-storage company Box, said. “And with opportunity comes competition, and that’s something that you just have to sort of accept as a reality of a business.”

There are some big recent success stories: Slack, whose CEO called Microsoft a “surprisingly unsportsmanlike competitor” amid the explosive growth of the Microsoft Teams app, sold itself to Salesforce last year for a whopping $27.7 billion. Zoom, which was also put under significant pressure from Teams, is worth almost four times as much as it was at the beginning of 2020, even after its recent stumbles on the stock market.

Microsoft’s new Loop app can be used to collaborate on documents and other tools in the Microsoft productivity suite.


But even on the smaller end of the spectrum, there’s plenty of room for more specialized tools. Mathilde Collin, the CEO of the Sequoia Capital-backed email startup Front, said her company had been able to stand out against Microsoft’s email and chat tools by focusing on what customers want from it.

In Front’s case, that’s acting as a combined inbox for users to bring together all the various internal and external messages they receive and act on them. For startups like Notion, she said, the challenge and the opportunity are in figuring out the one thing they do better than the combined power of the Office 365 suite.

“At the end of the day, you should deeply understand the needs of your customer, and if your product meets their needs in a better way than theirs, there is a high chance that this product is going to win,” Collin said.

Levie, whose company is both partner with and competitor of the Office 365 suite, agreed: “It’s really important that you work backwards from what is the customer problem, and you can only win if you solve the customer problem.”

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