Culture Amp Acquires Disco, And A Funny Story

Today CultureAmp, one of the Unicorns in the employee experience space, acquired Disco, a fast-growing company that developed a culture recognition system in the flow of work.

CultureAmp is an interesting company.  Founded by an entrepreneurial I/O psychologist and two engineers,  the company has become the darling of fast-growing companies as they build “culture-first” teams and want engagement, feedback, and development tools to grow. Culture Amp competes with vendors like Glint (LinkedIn), Medallia, Perceptyx, and Peakon (now part of Workday) and also acquired Zugata in 2019.

But let me tell you the story of Disco.

Four years ago I was at the HR Technology conference in Vegas (it was a zoo as always) and an entrepreneur named Justin Vandehey came up to me to show his new product. He had built a social recognition system that worked directly in Slack (it was called GrowBot initially). It was a very cute product that watched your activity in Slack and prompted you to give teammates kudos and cultural feedback in the flow of work.  (Justin was a few years ahead of his time.)

Justin and his brother were software engineers so they understood how great this could be, so he reached out to me and insisted I take a look.

I was walking through the MGM Grand to some big speech and I was pretty busy, so I told Justin I just didn’t have time to see it. But he was insistent and really a nice guy, so I gave him a challenge. I had come to Vegas with lots of stuff in my briefcase (as I always do) and during the trip my shoulder strap had broken. I was dreading a long week of shlepping around my bag from place to place and I had absolutely no time to go out into the strip and find a new strap for my luggage.

I said to Justin “hey if you can do me a favor I promise I’ll look at your product and spend some time with you. Would you mind taking an hour and helping me with this luggage and I can run off to my speech?” Sure enough Justin went out into the 100 degree heat and found me what I needed.

Right after the speech Justin came up to me with several options, I got the strap I needed, and we became professional friends for life. He showed me GrowBot that day and I started to coach him on how to bring it to market. His willingness to be a good friend and understand the stress I was under really paid off.

GrowBot, now called Disco, is quite an ingenious product. As you can see from the website, it is an AI-based “nudging” system that helps you and your team pay attention to each other, support each other, and develop each other over time. Initially developed for Slack, it was kind of a “geek tool” for software engineers. Today, as we use Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Workplace to communicate, it has a massive and broad market.

Social recognition tools like Workhuman and Achievers (and many other “kudos” tools in HR platforms) are enormously valuable. They not only help people feel good, they give the organization all sorts of new signals about who is well recognized, who is helpful, and who may be ready for a promotion. And the “nudge tech” acquired with Disco is powerful, it complements the social intelligence software Culture Amp acquired in Zugata.

I want to recognize Justin for his innovation, perseverance, and just plain kindness. Justin, as you close this deal and join Culture Amp, here’s my “Kudos” to you – Culture Amp is a fantastic company and I know this will become a massively successful product in the market.

Additional Resources

A Classic:  The Business Impact of Employee Recognition

Employee Experience: The Definitive Guide