The future of work is being shaped by two powerful forces: Remote work that is here to stay, and the rise of a maker generation that thrives on social media, constant communication, and the ability to create (vs. consume) content. Knowledge workers expect to work from home for large parts of time - even after the COVID-19 pandemic passes - and companies are committed to making this distributed work productive, even joyful.
Coda is the category leader among collaborative document platforms that allow distributed teams to create shared knowledge and work effectively. As we master the new norms of work, flexible, expressive software like Coda that fit around our workflows and communication styles are getting upvoted. Old processes and concomitant tools that instead need people to be “trained” to use them will be left behind.
The Doc where it happens
At NGP Capital, we feel the forces shaping the future of work. As a geographically distributed team investing out of a single fund, collaboration tools determine our culture. Our decision process is built on the assumption that we are never all in the same room while making multi-million-dollar investment decisions into growth companies in the US, Europe or China. So, we pay close attention to collaboration tools that help us work better, both as practitioners and as investors.
We first started using Coda some months ago as a front-end doc to our internal predictive AI platform, “Q”. Q is the quantitative engine that helps us broaden and deepen our presence in our target geographies, following 700,000 companies and highlighting those of most interest to our team. Over time, we [human] investors hope to train Q to “understand” what a good NGP Capital investment is so it can get more accurate in its predictions.
In building Q, we chose to focus on the data science and looked for an external platform to create an interface for sophisticated pipeline management that could train the AI algorithm in Q. We were happy to discover a solution in Coda and were really impressed with its capabilities. The dynamic, unified interface provides the flexibility to create a polished user experience for our quantitative engine. As we evaluated the product, it became clear that using Coda was the best option for integrating a user-friendly front-end to Q.
We were so excited about what we had created with Coda that we invited its CEO, Shishir Mehrotra, to speak at our Future of Workconference last November and promptly gave him a demo of our Coda implementation. As a result, Shishir remarked, it was “the most unique VC meeting ever”!
What impressed us next was how quickly Coda usage has expanded within NGP Capital. It began with one data scientist maker in late 2019, and now 40% of the firm are doc makers. Our investment team reviews a funding tracker on Coda multiple times a week and we use Coda docs to manage our portfolio, share board reports, track our investment pipeline, plan events, coordinate global calendars, collaborate with our marketing team and more.
From Superuser to Investor
Coda is, therefore, a high conviction investment for us driven by three key observations beyond our direct experience with the product:
- A dominant design: Today’s office productivity tools – documents, sheets, and slides – were originally built to transfer paper processes into the digital world. Word processing was awesome compared to the typewriter forty years ago. But the metaphors from that era continue to create siloed tools that limit creativity. Even Google’s G-Suite, which has done a great job with collaborative editing, has fallen short of truly rethinking siloes. Coda (and companies like Notion and Airtable) are modernizing this experience – integrating document metaphors, incorporating modern collaboration know-how and connecting seamlessly to well-loved products like Slack to allow users to communicate and create smoothly. Coda docs promise to be the first new dominant design to emerge in decades, an opportunity to create a new franchise on the scale of Microsoft Office.
- Indispensable to customers: Coda’s viral spread at NGP Capital is similar to what we see at many of Coda’s customers. Documents are the keystones of the knowledge economy: we think up new ideas, present data and persuade using documents. Big decisions are made and strategic directions picked based on documents. But applications are important too. They are a source of automation within companies: making processes easier to follow and driving operational efficiencies. What teams crave is the ease of expression of the document combined with the automation of a purpose-built application. To its core customers, Coda is already that single source, blurring the line between docs and apps in a thoughtful way.
- Founder-product-market-investor-fit: We believe in the team behind Coda and look forward to partnering with them on their expansive vision for the company. Shishir’s experience at YouTube articulating a strong vision, fostering a culture of product experimentation, and building a community of creators translate really nicely to Coda. The team brings expertise from Microsoft, Google, and other leaders, making it uniquely qualified to innovate in this gigantic space. And to give themselves the best chance of success, they have sought out investors and advisors who bring a wealth of relevant product, market and company building experience.
Future of Work
We are thrilled to announce our investment into Coda as part of their Series C financing round joining Kleiner Perkins, Madrona Venture Partners, and other investors.
NGP Capital has been investing in the intelligent enterprise for over a decade now, with investments in security, enterprise infrastructure, and SaaS companies in the US and Europe. The digital transformation already underway among many of our corporate partners has accelerated with the massive COVID-19 disruption this year. We believe that innovation is the way forward and is actively investing in growth companies that are reimagining the Future of Work. If you would like to share your thoughts on the Future of Work, please reach out to us at ngpcap.com or message @ngpcapital.