Start-up Asana promises workplace nirvana

Heavy on vision but light on the details, new workplace apps company emerges from Facebook tech talents.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

After contributing to the destruction of productivity at work by helping Facebook through its early days, Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein are launching a new service aimed to make people and businesses productive once again. The company, Asana, announced details today on its funding. However, details on the service itself are still vague.

Here's what we know: The company just raised a $9 million venture round lead by Benchmark Capital with additional funding from Andreessen Horowitz. Marc Andreessen is an advisor and will not be on the board. Benchmark's Matt Cohler, formerly at Facebook himself, will be.

The rest is borderline hand waving. I talked with Moskovitz and Rosenstein this morning about their vision, which anyone who's ever worked can relate to. The product that embodies this vision, though, we don't know much about.

Justin Rosenstein
Justin Rosenstein Asana

Rosenstein told me, "We started Asana to change the way people manage information, and speed up work by an order of magnitude." They're going to help individuals and teams become, "vastly more productive," he said.

We want more, of course. Rosenstein: "We're not trying to be stealthy, but it's tricky to describe."

Try, please? Here's a bit more: Asana will improve work by solving problems of information transparency. With Asana's hosted service, status meetings will be unnecessary. Organizing yourself and communicating what you're doing should be the same act. We'll fix the explosion of information that knowledge workers need to manage. It will be a software solution to a human problem.

Dustin Moskovitz
Dustin Moskovitz Asana

Asana is answering the question, "How would you design productivity for the Web from the ground up?" The founders believe they have hit upon the necessary data and interaction model to improve all of our jobs. You can read more on the Asana blog, if you dare.

We'll believe it when we see it, won't we?

Rosenstein did say the Asana team is using the product internally. He also said that Asana will be a Web app, but that they're trying to provide software-type speed and responsiveness from it. Good.

The product is being built on a new programming system, called Lunacript. The platform itself will be open to users, so they can code in their own business processes. However, all apps will be hosted by Asana, not federated, as Google Wave allows.

When I get a demo, I'll report back. Until then, I don't hear anything that leads me to believe that Google Apps, Microsoft Office, and Lotus Notes have much to worry about. I would very much like to be proven wrong.

Bonus fact: I asked Moskovitz how he felt about Jurassic Park actor Joseph Mazzello being cast to play him in "The Social Network" movie about Facebook. "We are both scared of velociraptors," he said. "That's about all I know."