Collaboration at a Venture Capital fund

September 23, 2009

Using CentralDesktop at OpenView Venture Partners

After showing Diana Winings, our new recruiting specialist, through our internal collaboration network on CentralDesktop today, I realized that it had been almost 2 years since we started using the platform for internal communications and collaboration. At OpenView, the CentralDesktop platform has become the very fabric of what we do everyday. For example, logging into CentralDesktop is what I do first everyday at work, even before catching up on emails or starting our “scrum” meetings. We will be the very first people to notice if for any moment, the website is somehow down (fortunately, that only happened on one or two very rare occasions in the past 2 years).

So, why did we decide to use CentralDesktop in the first place?

As an expansion stage venture capital firm with a unique focus on providing exceptional operational support for the portfolio, we recognized very early on the need for collaborative content creation and management, as our most important outputs would be the intellectual content that guides our business development services. Not only so, we had a need for web-based virtual collaboration – doing work together across geography and time zones, as we looked to leverage our specialist advisors network. The ideal system would be simple to use but had to be robust enough to support a large volume of messages, discussion and collaborative activities across our organization.

In the fall of 2007, I started looking at collaboration software. It was already a crowded market then, with many offerings ranging from a simplistic Basecamp to enterprise wiki platform such as SocialText or enterprise level content management systems like Microsoft Sharepoint.

Needless to say, I instantly fell in love with CentralDesktop. Besides satisfying all of the requirements described above, CentralDesktop was also powerfully unique because it was extremely intuitive in the way it set users up for collaborative with each other – I am quoting myself from an internal memo discussing CentralDesktop features in 2007 here:

“They have something that other system lacks: the ability to create very simple discussion thread to which members can comments, send email into (again, even with attachment), subscribe to (so that they get updates via email, and potentially via a RSS too) etc.”

To summarize, CentralDesktop spoke the language of collaboration that no other does, and to me, at least, it was a no brainer that the best solutions had to come from the people who understood collaboration the most.

How are we using CentralDesktop?

As I have noted, CentralDesktop is really the center (no pun intended) of our activities. Each project or business practice area is managed through a separate workspace accessible to all project members as well as the whole company. Project documents are stored and versioned in the appropriate folders in the workspace. Discussion, email exchanges on project progress and outputs are all communicated via CentralDesktop. Company meetings have their counterparts scheduled in CentralDesktop so that anyone on the road can still participate. The online spreadsheet component is also heavily used for real-time, collaborative data analysis and reporting.

How can we use CentralDesktop better?

It is my belief that we can still do more and do better in CentralDesktop. For example, we have not really embraced the idea of the living wiki as a knowledge sharing tool. I think we are still not yet comfortable with the wiki-based document creation process. While we collaborated very well in small group, we have not been able to try out a company-wide collaborative project and get everyone involved.

On a more conceptual level, OpenView is currently using CentralDesktop as a professional services organization would, with a strong focus on project management, project documentation and communications. In the future, we want to use CentralDesktop to streamline our work in sourcing and evaluating investment opportunities. I would love to learn from the experience of any other venture capital companies who are using a collaboration software platform such as CentralDesktop.

I hope that with these new initiatives, we will be able to realize even more benefits from using CentralDesktop. We will be able to work more effectively and more efficiently on our projects. Ultimately, CentralDesktop allows us to help our portfolio companies use their expansion capital well and grow into large, successful companies in their respective sectors.

Chief Business Officer at UserTesting

Tien Anh joined UserTesting in 2015 after extensive financial and strategic experiences at OpenView, where he was an investor and advisor to a global portfolio of fast-growing enterprise SaaS companies. Until 2021, he led the Finance, IT, and Business Intelligence team as CFO of UserTesting. He currently leads initiatives for long term growth investments as Chief Business Officer at UserTesting.