At Goodwater Capital, knowledge-sharing is important to ensuring consistency in processes and that teams are well-informed and have access to long-term knowledge. However, using Google Docs to store documentation made it hard for the engineering and data science teams to find the information they needed, hindering collaboration and transparency.
With knowledge-sharing embedded in their culture, the Goodwater team began using Slab to store long-term information. Slab now serves as the source of truth for the organization, housing technical documents, postmortems, career progression information, and more. Using Slab's Insights feature, leaders can understand how engaged the team is.
Goodwater Capital, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund, believes in the power of consumer technology to improve lives. It invests in entrepreneurs across the globe to solve problems that people face every day. Khang Tran is the SVP of Engineering at Goodwater Capital—leading the engineering function and differentiating the fund from other VCs. From day one, engineering was part of the firm, responsible for developing software for two primary purposes: finding and making great investments and helping those investments grow while supporting their founders.
The reality is portfolio companies need help with things like recruiting, growth, community, and operations—software is a key component of all of those parts of the business. Having an engineering team sets Goodwater apart, and Khang's team helps to provide outsized value to their founders.
For Khang, knowledge sharing is critical for engineering—after all, engineers are always trying to optimize and are typically more willing to adopt technology. “Companies that care about knowledge should—and will—invest in a knowledge repository," Khang says.
Within his knowledge-sharing philosophy, Khang makes an important distinction between the various purposes for different documents—and the need to separate them. The first kind he considers is real-time collaboration in documents that are rapidly changing. Because these aren't referenced often after the fact, where people store these doesn’t matter much. The second is long-term knowledge. Previously, the team used Google Drive to store long-term knowledge, but it wasn’t designed to be navigated through—it felt like a folder, not like a website, and, as a result, finding things was difficult.
Since he had used Slab in his previous roles leading engineering teams, Khang suggested the team use it for long-term knowledge-sharing. “Slab feels snappy—it feels like Google Docs but without the bells and whistles," he says. "It’s fast, and there are a lot of thoughtful shortcuts, like mentioning and formatting with slashes, which makes it feel modern—like how you would normally use the internet.”
Goodwater’s Engineering and Data Science teams use Slab starting in onboarding, where new hires can learn about things like Goodwater’s seed program, performance rubrics, and key decisions made. People typically start by browsing and then move on to searching. Introducing Slab during onboarding encourages folks to explore topics, helps them use Slab intuitively, and promotes the use of the tool organically.
For Engineering and Data Science at Goodwater, Slab is the source of truth. No matter what they're discussing, they'll always have a Slab post as a reference to help guide the conversation. Both teams read and write information in Slab, and Khang uses Slab to guide discussions, whether a postmortem, technical discussion or chatting about career progression. He'll pull up the content in Slab, take notes when necessary, and assign action items if they come up.
Across other teams at Goodwater, such as operations, Slab is used to document processes so they are always repeated with consistency. For example, they keep a record of how to run Goodwater's seed program in Slab, including the processes and repeated steps to follow. Documenting these key details ensures scalability and consistency across all cohorts of the program.
“Because Slab is fast, modern, and intuitive—and its alternatives clunky and slow—it’s fully purpose-built for knowledge and helps teams adopt it on their own.”
While Goodwater uses Slab to store long-term knowledge, sometimes, things change. Processes and core information evolve, and documentation has to change in order to stay up to date. To know when changes are made to critical documents, the team relies on notifications in Slab—something that isn’t possible in Google Docs. “Google Docs tend to change so often that you don’t want to be notified of changes," Khang says. "Because Slab is where we store long-term knowledge, we do want to know something has changed.”
Slab is also where they document key decisions and architecture, and it matters if these things change. Edit notifications let leaders or document creators know when someone has made a change to their document instead of having to check the version history every time.
Overall, Slab notifications lower the barrier to sharing because if someone makes edits, the post’s creator knows they’ll be alerted. Plus, they don’t have to decide on making the post editable, commentable, or view-only upfront, as they would with Google Docs.
In a remote workplace, there aren't many signals of engagement, so finding subtle ones is important for managers to measure how their teams are doing and have all the tools they need to succeed. Khang uses Slab Insights to get a signal of engagement at work—when people write or read posts in Slab. If people aren’t reading or writing content, it tells Khang that either they’re not getting the information they need, or they’re disconnected.
In addition to seeing overall Slab usage, he can see if specific posts have been read. Once he gets a holistic picture of someone's engagement, he can follow up with them to understand why they might be disengaged, point them to resources they might not be aware of, and ensure they have everything they need to achieve their goals.
Ensuring Khang's team is engaged is critical to Goodwater's success and the differentiation they provide by offering an engineering team to their portfolio companies. Having a tool like Slab that helps the team better collaborate and provides insights into engagement levels is immeasurable as they scale and support even more companies.