Formal workplace training drives hundreds of billions in yearly spending by corporations, with few results to show for it. Tango, a startup founded by Harvard Business School dropouts Ken Babcock, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz, is the “workflow intelligence platform that streamlines the creation of process documentation.” The remote-based startup raised a $14M Series A funding round led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from Slack Fund, Atlassian Ventures, Wing VC, General Catalyst, GSV Ventures, Red Sea Ventures, Outsiders Fund and a few angel investors.
Chris Truglio, co-founder of Stress-Free and angel investor in Tango, says, “After meeting with Ken, Dan & the Tango team, I was excited by the potential their product was promising. It only took one use (and one attempt!) to seamlessly capture my first workflow with Tango and the results blew me away. Before Tango, quality documentation could easily take the better part of an hour, if not longer for more robust workflows. Tango dramatically reduced that time to a few minutes.
“As a fellow startup founder, Tango power-user, and proud Angel investor in their most recent raise, I appreciate the value Tango delivers in facilitating quality documentation, while also personally saving me hours (yes, hours) of my time each month. As my company continues to rapidly grow & onboard new employees, I find myself using Tango more frequently, with greater fulfillment after each workflow capture.”
Frederick Daso: Why does formal training fail to capture organic learning patterns and habits in the workplace?
Ken Babcock: Formal training provides the foundational aspects needed to succeed at a company or within a company culture. Often, formal training lacks emphasis on the skills, tools, and tasks required to perform within a role. Because institutional knowledge accumulates and evolves over time, we wanted to tap into those employees who possess it—explaining how it is routinely underserved, with team leaders relying on 1:1 shadowing and clunky forms of documentation.
Daso: How have corporations evolved their formal training in a remote-first or hybrid environment? What are the shortcomings of their approaches?
Babcock: Many companies have adopted screen recording software and video messaging to provide asynchronous updates in a remote-first environment. Unfortunately, videos fail for both the creators and consumers of knowledge. Creators feel the burden of performance art while consumers struggle to follow along at their own pace. On top of this, videos quickly become stale, representing a point-in-time update over a longstanding reference document.
Daso: What types of workplace learning do corporations spend hundreds of billions on? How much of this spend is on external solutions versus internal learning & development initiatives?
Babcock: Companies spend $370B per year on corporate training and learning. Almost all of that spending goes towards skill-based or company-specific training. It lacks the context of what’s needed to succeed in a role based on tools, team members, and business goals. 90% of development happens on the job and outside of formal training.
Daso: What drove Tango’s development as a Chrome extension versus a standalone software external to a browser? Is there an (implicit or explicit) assumption that most of the work is done in a browser; thus, a tool like Tango must primarily live in the browser to capture that work as it is being done?
Babcock: Tango now supports both desktop and browser capture through our desktop application and browser extension, respectively. We started with a Chrome Extension for ease of distribution and because 80-90% of use cases we tested in early development were native to the browser.
Daso: Which tools (or types of tools) has Tango prioritized integrating with? How does that prioritization influence Tango’s product-led growth?
Babcock: Our strategy has focused on meeting people where they consume content already, whether in a chat, internal wiki, or email. Rather than spend time on specific native integrations, we made our export (PDF, Magic Copy) and embedded (Iframe) capabilities extremely flexible. We have users bringing their Tangos into all kinds of software (Quip, Confluence, Slack, Guru, Intercom, etc.).
Daso: What has motivated the development and launch of Tango’s Team Workspaces?
Babcock: Documentation is a team sport. Inherent to documentation is sharing knowledge with team members. Viewership, sharing, and discovery are all core to our Workspaces experience. Launching Workspaces signifies shifting from a single-player product toward a multi-player, collaborative product.
Daso: How will Tango evolve into a centralized resource to organize, curate and disseminate the complete body of an organization’s internal knowledge base?
Babcock: Documentation has two key attributes: comprehensiveness and relevance. To date, we’ve focused our efforts on comprehensiveness at lightspeed. Relevance will become a large part of determining an organization’s best practices and tying those workflows to tangible business outcomes (beyond saving time).
Daso: Given that Tango has chosen a product-led growth strategy, would that imply that Tango is a product-led startup? If so, what are the advantages or disadvantages of such a product-driven firm instead of engineering, sales, or other core business segments setting the tone of the startup?
Babcock: We are firmly a product-led startup, which we define as facilitating self-serve adoption by our end users. In developing Tango, we quickly realized the most acute pain was being felt by our end users’ creators and consumers of documentation. Team leaders agreed with what we were solving but didn’t feel the pain of doing something the old way (without Tango). We saw rapid viral and referral-driven growth by speaking directly to end users in our product and messaging, which converted to team-level sales. Being product-led also helped us learn more about our core personas, segmenting based on role or function and tying that to engagement. We will complement this with a sales-assist strategy, but self-serve has already driven significant user growth and revenue.