The founders of Asana, a San Francisco-based task management software start-up, are on a crusade to rid the world of busywork, particularly those time-sucking status reports.
"When I ask people how much time they spend not doing their job--time spent on 'work-about-work' or phone calls or e-mails--people regularly tell me 60, or even 90 percent," says Justin Rosenstein, Asana's co-founder. "So if Asana could take that down closer to zero, we could potentially double the effectiveness of humanity."
Asana was founded by Dustin Moskovitz, Facebook's co-founder, and Rosenstein, a former product manager at Google and Facebook. The start-up was born out of one problem: how do you make people more effective at their jobs? The earliest iterations of Asana were actually developed as task management software within Facebook, where it still exists today. But recognizing that the software could help all organizations--not just Facebook--the pair struck out on their own in 2009.
Since the company launched its core product in November 2011, its developed a near-cult following among some of the country’s fastest-growing start-ups, including Pinterest, Dropbox, Foursquare, airbnb, Stripe, and Uber, who use the service. The way it works is simple: Asana lets users assign tasks and deadlines, and track the progress of projects. Unlike more basic task management systems, Asana gets extremely detailed, offering its users features that track items like procurement, issue management, and even brainstorming ideas.
Asana is free for unlimited teams of 15 within an organization, and $10/user per month above that. Though the company doesn’t disclose user or revenue numbers, the founders say its users have created about 45 million tasks--and completed about 22 million of them.
"They're both extraordinary--and exactly the type of the entrepreneurs I want to back," says Matt Cohler, a partner at Benchmark capital, which has funded Asana. "They only left Facebook because they were so passionate about this project. They were thinking about this in their sleep. I talked to them about it all the way back then."
He adds, "There's so much room for technology to dramatically improve the ability of people to work together."
Those numbers have investors interested. The company has raised $38.5 million in investment capital since it launched, which has helped scale the team to 39 full-time employees. They’ve taken on smart money, too: their most recent round of financing was led by Founders Fund, Benchmark Capital, and Andreessen Horowitz.
There are plenty of task management and internal communication tools out there--Basecamp and Yammer, come to mind--but Asana’s insistence on perfect design is what puts the company in a class of its own. (During interviews, even the company's engineers are given design questions.)
"User experience is the raison d'etre of this company," says Moskovitz.
Ultimately, Rosenstein and Moskovitz say the play for Asana is ultimately much larger, and believe the company can revolutionize communication itself.
"If you look a the history of communication, new technologies like the phone and e-mail didn’t just let people do things faster, it fundamentally changed the scope of the kinds of projects people dared to take on," Rosenstein says. "The kinds of things we do today we couldn’t even try to take on 30 years ago. A big part of our vision is 'Can we enable people to dream bigger dreams in the first place?'"