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7 Things to Know About Asana: Facebook Co-Founder’s Collaboration Startup

April 1st, 2011 04:30 admin Leave a comment Go to comments

Asana logoAsana is a company founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-Googler Justin Rosenstein. Its aim is nothing short of reinventing how we collaborate. It’s a lofty goal, especially with so many enterprise 2.0 tools aiming to do just that. But it has deep pockets, high profile advisors, a strong vision and lots of buzz.

The team has been toiling on the project in secret for two years, but have finally started talking about it over the past few months. In February, the company held an open house where Rosenstein demoed and explained the product. It’s currently in private beta, but don’t hold your breath waiting for an invite.

Here’s what you should know about the company and its product.

Asana Open House from Jerry Phillips on Vimeo.

Founders, Advisors

Asana was co-founded by Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook, and Justin Rosenstein, who was a tech lead and engineering manager at Facebook and a product manager at Google.

Asana advisors include Marc Andreessen, Ronald Conway, Adam D’Angelo, Ben Horowitz, Mitch Kapor and Peter Thiel. A full list can be found here.

For Asana, Changing the Nature of Work Starts at Home

Asana doesn’t give its employees official job titles. For example, when it recently hired Kenny Van Zant the company announced he was joining the team in a “COO-type of role.”

There’s a Huge Waiting List for Its Beta

Despite its quirky organization structure, businesses are beating down the door to give Asana a try. According to TechCrunch, there is a 1,200-company waiting list to get a beta invite.

At Its Core, It’s a GTD System for Both Individuals and Groups

But what exactly is it? It can perhaps be best described as a task manager for both individuals and groups. Its heavily influenced by the “Getting Things Done” methodology of David Allen.

In the presentation by Rosenstein, he explains that enterprise collaboration and project management systems typically fail because individuals don’t manage their task lists in them. Individuals use calendars, text editors, sticky notes, legal pads – whatever helps them be productive. They do this because those centralized enterprise project hubs don’t give individuals individuals good enough tools to manage their own tasks. Enterprise project management tools are slow, and don’t give a good view of an individuals tasks – especially the ones that aren’t assigned as part of a group project.

To solve this, Asana is focused on making its product work well for individuals. Its goal is to make Asana faster for managing tasks than a text editor. To this end, it makes it easy to drag and drop tasks, provides lots of keyboard shortcuts and simple to delegate a task to someone else.

For groups, Asana makes it easy to manage tasks between team members, provides an activity stream view for each task and lets users participate in discussions by e-mail.

If you want more detail, and don’t want to watch Rosenstein’s presentation, check out his answer on Quora about what Asana is building.

It can be used by individuals working alone

Unlike e-mail or a social network, Asana is useful on its own as a task manager. Having other users to collaborate with will create a network effect, but it can stand alone. This could be a driver of adoption because users will be able to use it productively immediately.

The Company Built Its Own JavaScript Framework Called Luna

In order to make Asana as fast and responsive as the team wanted, they built their own JavaScript framework called Luna. Initially it was meant to be its own language called LunaScript, but the company eventually backed down on developing its own syntax. You can learn more on the company’s Luna page, and on these two Quora threads on the subject.

The Team Plans to Turn Asana Into a Platform

Asana wants to be a platform for almost anything you would need in the enterprise – meetings, applicant tracking, bug tracking, performance reviews, calendaring, discussions, etc. In the project management space, Asana is competing with SaaS providers like Huddle and Manymoon. But as a platform for enterprise applications, it may be competing more in the long term with Force.com, Microsoft SharePoint and the recently launched Podio (coverage).

Source: 7 Things to Know About Asana: Facebook Co-Founder’s Collaboration Startup

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