The How’s, What’s, Why’s, and the…Who the Heck is Tangle?

Cy Wise
April 25, 2023
Tangle co-founders Alex and Cy

Hi hello, and welcome to the Tangle-verse! (We’ll also accept “Tangle-town” or “Tangle-topia,” whatever sounds good to you). If you’re new to Tangle, let me introduce you to our little corner of the Internet where joy and productivity collide. Tangle began life four years ago as a very, very happy accident, when a team of game developers got fed up with present-day online collaboration tools. We solved the apparent problem–this stuff wasn’t built for a remote-first world–by creating Tangle.

We built our app, which reimagines the office as a 2D canvas, with the word “joy” at the forefront. Sure, Tangle teams experience a heck of a lot fewer meetings, faster decisions, and more seamless collaboration. But the best stuff that the IRL office had to offer isn’t so easily quantified: the HUMAN element, and the culture of an engaged team, which we’re giddily recapturing for the new working universe.

Getting to this point has been full of adventures and learnings, so I thought I’d walk you through how we went from a prototyped app, held together with duct tape and a prayer, to a standalone, fully-functional SaaS platform.

Tangle then and now

The Journey BeginsOwlchemy Labs awards

Rewind to 2017, and you’ll find myself and Alex Schwartz beginning the journey that would eventually, circuitously, lead to Tangle. We had worked together at the virtual reality and video game studio Owlchemy Labs–Alex as Founder, me as Studio Director–and built the company to a point where Google acquired our team. After leaving Google, we spent a year meeting and talking to developers across the world in search of our ideal next steps. What was coming in video games and tech? What was and wasn’t working? Where were the best tacos in the world?

Two years into that information marathon, we planted our flag of big-dream intent: we’d build the world’s next big VR experience, as fueled by exciting ideas, angel funding, and a few early rockstar team members (our CTO Andy Moore, who we knew well, and CCO Lyndsey Gallant, who we happened to meet on a conference bus and immediately commenced excitedly yelling). But even our combination of experience, ambition, and optimism couldn’t prepare us for what waited around the corner.

The first four Tanglers

Enter 2020

You might have seen something in the news around March 2020–the pandemic hit everyone, and we were no exception. Many of the VR industry’s biggest barriers were still in front of us, particularly the fact that VR headsets still hadn’t reached a point where anybody wanted to wear them for hours on end. Worse than that, we’d started as a remote-first company before that had become trendy.

Remote work in 2020

There’s no bragging in being a remote-work hipster; it was lonely out there. We had been struggling with meaningful remote collaboration, of fostering the beautiful sense-experience of being a cohesive group. Admittedly, we’d been there before, as early embracers of remote work at Owlchemy. But we were astonished to see, so many years later, that no movement or innovation had been made in remote collaboration. Only now, hundreds of millions more people were seeing the problem first hand. The failings of the remote work industry were compounded by all of us being cooped up in our homes.

Realizing these tools didn’t cut it, we did what any other underdog indie game maker would do: we got heckin’ angry and started working on a solution.

Tangle is Born

We game-jammed for a couple of weeks until we’d made a version of the tool that we wanted. Our earliest priorities for this internal app were around developing a way to better stay connected, though really, the ultimate goal was to boost morale.Tangle early avatars

Turns out, we’d made something that does the same thing as a great online video game: we’d bonded over shared goals, had an easier time talking to each other, and got to show up as the versions of ourselves that we liked–every single working day. This thing we’d made, Tangle, immediately felt more interesting than another VR experience.

We handed the tool to our friends at the esteemed studio Lightforge Games, looking for some outside eyes and testing. Soon after, their friends had heard about Tangle and asked to be let in. The dominos kept falling. We’d seen other companies do this before (like other SaaS companies including Unity, Slack, and Discord), where a background project became their best idea, and we saw no reason not to follow suit. (In other words, we totally threw a pivot party and that’s where the real fun began.)

By August 2021, our updated prototype and vision video had led us to our first seed funding, with March Gaming at the helm.

Tangle early reactions

Plot Thickens in 2022

2022 began with an inward turn to transform our app from a limited, functional prototype to a scalable, stable platform. Our prototype became a compass bearing for an entirely new engineering foundation, while our experience in making games and connecting people offered its own “magnetic north”: joy and fun in how Tangle both looks and works. Our design team dove deeply on palette design, accessibility features, UI redesign tests, UX research, and a sprinkle of respectful gamification.

Alpha Tangle

We knew our ‘slow-and-steady wins the race’ approach was essential for something that could become the centerpiece of a better remote-working life. That meant taking the time to listen to our earliest testers and customers, who guided us towards refining what worked once the app was in people’s hands (“stickies,” “fingies”) and what didn’t (“stackies,” shared whiteboards). We’re grateful to our earliest testers across the entire world, as they steered us toward remote studios’ most urgent needs during, you know, *gestures wildly*.

Tangle pre-Early Access

And all that work, well, worked! By the end of summer 2022, we released our fully rebuilt Tangle app to our Alpha teams to test its day-to-day usability and functionality, which led to our first Early Access launch by October of that year. This wasn’t just a secure-stable-scalable-Tangle kind of Early Access. We also overhauled our look and feel, launched a new website, and changed our public-facing name. After all, our best product is Tangle, so now we do business as Tangle!

Tangle Early Access

Most important, with Early Access also came our second seed round, making our total funding over $10 million raised to date. With it were our fast friends over at March Gaming, AND ALSO Qualcomm Ventures, who led Owlchemy’s Series A. In an absolutely brutal market, it was a testament to their belief in our team and vision. We ended 2022 with 20 full time employees, multiple contractors, and over 1,000 Early Access signups.

2023 and a Look into the Crystal Ball

Tangle canvas concept

Right out of the gates, we launched Early Access 3. And we don’t have any intention of slowing down. We’ve made a few more hires; we’re gathering even more feedback from customers; and we see General Availability on the horizon. Once those flood gates open, that means we not only helped more customers experience the joy of remote work, but also heard from a few that they were experiencing up to 50% fewer meetings and made decisions up to 75% faster. And now, we’ve got an action packed year in store.

Tangle is truly putting humans front and center of remote collaboration with less meetings and faster decision-making. Super interested? Kinda want to try it out? Join Tangle today and start making remote work an absolute joy!!


Bye for now

Cy Wise

By Cy Wise

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