Durham-based workplace automation startup Wrangle has raised $2 million in pre-seed funding. The round was led by San Francisco-based Bloomberg Beta and Eniac Ventures (NYC/SF) and included participation from Liquid 2 Ventures, Hustle Fund, TDF Ventures and more than 20 fellow founders as angel investors, including a number from the Triangle.
Wrangle is an innovative solution to automate and clarify workflows, approvals and tickets across mediums that we first profiled last August. UNC alumni Adam Smith and Adam Long founded Wrangle after working together at the natural language generation startup Automated Insights. (Vista Equity Partners acquired Durham-based Automated Insights in 2015.)
Moving into their funding round, Smith said they wanted partners who knew about the future of work and the larger business-process management and automation ecosystem. Some of the Triangle-area angels include Automated Insights Founder (and For Starters podcast host) Robbie Allen, Kevel Founder James Avery, Green Places founder Alex Lassiter and ArchiveSocial Founder Anil Chawla.
“The thing that Adam [Long] and I really wanted was fellow founders who had done it before,” Smith said, “who we could lean on for advice and make sure we’re not tripping on any landmines as we grow—and when we do that, they can help us up.”
The timing may be especially right for Wrangle as the pandemic brought forth an increased need for novel solutions in the workplace. In fact, a 2021 study by McKinsey predicted 20-25 percent of workers in advanced economies and 10 percent in emerging economies could work from home 3-5 days a week moving forward.
But the new ways that remote employees communicate with each other means there will be gaps in workflows, and it is these types of gaps that business-process automation startups like Wrangle work to fill. Communication across different mediums and chats can hamper productivity and cause some work to fall through the cracks, but Wrangle works to prevent that.
“We’re trying to avoid a lot of the mistakes we made trying to scale Ai,” Smith said, referring to Automated Insights. “I think once we started to see glimmers of product-market fit, we decided it was a good time to raise money because you can try to construct it forever, but we needed more teammates to help us grow this thing faster.”
Robbie Allen, Ai’s Founder and now a Wrangle investor, says that “the Adams” were great teammates when they all worked together, calling them instrumental in the company’s success.
“The Adams are both super-smart but in different ways,” Allen said. “They are a great entrepreneurial complement.”
Though Allen couldn’t resist adding that he used to regularly beat both of them in ping pong, he thinks Wrangle has a big opportunity ahead of it because it’s solving a problem faced by many companies.
“They’ve got a tiger by the tail,” Allen said, “so I can’t wait to see how they manage their growth in 2022 and beyond.”
Avery, another one of Wrangle’s angel investors and the founder of Durham-based Kevel, said he first met Smith when Avery moved to the Triangle in 2007. Over the years, he’s continued to be impressed with Smith’s hustle alongside Long’s approach to product.
“It’s a great founding team and as an early beta user of the product I have watched it evolve into a valuable tool that is expanding inside of the companies who use it,” Avery said.
Wrangle integrates into existing communication channels, where users can use its no-code workflow builder to create custom processes that help automate task and project management. Wrangle has so far focused its efforts on Slack but plans to expand beyond that into Microsoft Teams and its own web app so clients can get even more capabilities from Wrangle.
“As they grow, they’re going to want more and more horsepower,” Smith said.
On Slack, users can type “/workflow” or “/wrangle” to begin a workflow and generate new ones. This workflow tool can reduce clutter in Slack channels and create a built-in to-do list of users’ workflows, no matter if it’s employee onboarding, contract approvals, help tickets or any other type of recurring work. Wrangle gathers requests with forms, assigns and notifies people to follow up and tracks the progress for everyone to follow.
More than 800 organizations have used Wrangle to conduct more than 10,000 workflows. With the funding now secured, Wrangle is looking to grow its team by five people this year (from its current three) and focus on product development and marketing efforts.
Since the startup has clients in several verticals, Wrangle also hopes to solidify its product-market fit, Smith said.
“What I’ve always learned from raising money before is: that’s where the real work starts,” Smith said. “That’s where the real efforts begin. Making sure you’re partnered with the right people is super-critical because there’s always bumps along the road.”