Tandem, a startup that creates corporate communication tools, has launched a new product called Spaces, hoping to combine remote and in-office work so that all staff feel properly connected to their co-workers. The launch of Spaces comes as many companies are coming to terms with the return to offices and the question of how to manage a team working from multiple locations.
In 2019, Tandem was the most popular company to come out of Y Combinator. At the time, TechCrunch noted that the company was “developing communication software for remote teams after moving on from crypto work.” He made $7.5 million before the pandemic hit.
Talk about the right place and the right time, okay? Rajiv Ayyangar, CEO and co-founder of Tandem, told TechCrunch recently that things at his startup went vertical with the onset of COVID-19 and the ensuing massive move to work from home. The CEO said that his company grew about 30 times in a few weeks.
I took a tour of Tandem’s current software to get a feel for their new service. In general terms, Tandem is an application that allows teams to communicate, keep track of their meetings and communicate in chat rooms.
You have used related software. What I will say is that Tandem’s design is quite slick, which means it has an easy-to-learn user experience. It also has some nice touches, like icons near usernames so you can see what software your co-workers are using at any given time. If you see a developer using an IDE, maybe you wait to ping them, right?
But where Tandem looks to break out of the pack of software products that enable computer-to-computer communications is its Spaces product. In short, the service works with video-ready hardware inside office spaces such as conference rooms and general-purpose areas, allowing remote staff to connect to different parts of the office, listen in, or actively participate.
In a demo, I was taken around the Tandem office in real time, attending meetings and generally being a nuisance for a while. We appeared on televisions in conference rooms and in what I think was some sort of living room.
Right now, I need to establish my good faith in remote work. I have been an intermittent remote worker since my first years in college. My first journalistic job was for a company on another continent. I never made it to the office in years of working there. At TechCrunch, I’ve worked both remotely and in real life, and my last gig was more in person than not. So when it comes to zooming into meetings, managing over the phone, and generally using every piece of software available over time, I’m aware of the benefits and problems of remote work.
With that in mind, I like what Tandem has built. It works with many hardware options, including budget laptops, so even the most frugal teams will be able to access the service. You don’t need to buy a huge piece of equipment to bridge the gap between your office staff and those far away. Naturally, having a big screen with a good camera and microphone will make Spaces better, but you can also throw a cheap laptop into the mix if you’re on a budget.
When you select a particular office “space” within the app, you can connect silently or with video and audio, depending on your needs. Do you feel creepy in practice, showing up on office screens? Not really, because remote employees access the office, not their co-workers’ homes.
The service launched on April 4. Naturally, we asked the company how its launch is going. According to Ayyangar, it’s “too early to share numbers,” but the CEO sent an email with some positive customer feedback that he said was disclosed “verbatim.” Both comments highlighted the importance of community connection, which was probably music to Tandem’s ears.
Tandem is a SaaS startup, which means that their customers subscribe to their service on a recurring basis. Regular Tandem costs $8 per month per user, more for business features. Slots, by contrast, are $50 per business per month, or more, again, for business-grade fixtures.
Ayyangar said that about 800 businesses use Tandem today, but we couldn’t dig any deeper to get a count of customers. (The startup features a free tier, as many self-service products do in the modern software world.)
The spaces could help Tandem generate more revenue from its existing customers, or perhaps attract new customers. Either way, it’s a good time.
What we’re curious about next is how much the new product helps Tandem grow; It hasn’t raised more capital since that round in late 2019, according to Crunchbase data, which means it’s probably gearing up to do so. If Spaces does well, we may hear from the company sooner rather than later.