The Making of the “More than a Document” Document

Coda co-founders Alex DeNeui and Shishir Mehrotra

In the venture capital business, it’s not often that you have the opportunity to invest in founders who hit the trifecta of having an elemental understanding of a universal challenge, a personal drive to address it, and the experience and determination to see a solution through to market.

I’ve known Shishir Mehrotra and Alex DeNeui since we were recent college graduates living in Boston and navigating our first startups. Even then, Shishir was obsessed with using elaborate spreadsheets to tame the chaos of a fast moving company. And Alex was cranking out code to solve the world’s most intractable, practical problems.

A decade or so later, Shishir and Alex sat down with us at GC’s Palo Alto office to contemplate their “what’s next?” following stints at Google, Microsoft and YouTube. It’s during this time that they collectively trained their attention to rethinking the world’s fundamental basis of work: the document.

Documents and spreadsheets have progressed from analog to the desktop and then on to being a cloud-based, mobile, and collaborative experience. Even with those incremental degrees of freedom, two limitations remain true: We spend our days conforming the way we work to the software we use. And, when every business has access to the same tools, software no longer provides a differentiating edge to anyone.

These seemed like the right kind of challenges for Shishir, Alex and their team. They took the idea of a how a document works down to its foundation. Starting with the tech stack, they set out to create something new — a document that would be flexible, malleable and would actively conform to the way teams naturally work together. Rolling up their sleeves, they got to work.

Today, their efforts have come to fruition with the launch of Coda. The document has just become something profoundly more than a static vessel for communication. It’s now a place that can evolve and grow, capturing institutional knowledge and becoming a team’s “secret sauce.” It’s a profound development.

In many ways, Coda reminds me of Stripe. Both teams are using first principles thinking to solve challenges they themselves faced in their previous entrepreneurial experiences. And both are aiming well beyond what could have been their most obvious goals — a new payments option, a new document format — to create something much more expansive. Stripe has abstracted away the complexities of global commerce, Coda removes the constraints of packaged software solutions so teams can work in the way that’s most authentic to them. And like Stripe, I believe Coda has the potential to become a platform that will power the generation of startups to come.

So, congratulations to the team on their beta launch! We’re psyched to see our friends hit this important milestone today. I highly encourage you to give Coda a try.

— Hemant Taneja