Facebook co-founder Moskovitz retools look of future-of-work startup Asana

1 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Asana Debuts New Version Of Its Collab Software, Claims 140K Companies Use Its Service.

This morning at Asana’s San Francisco headquarters, the startup announced a new version of its product, a new brand — logo — and, happily, some metrics about its growth.

Does your team spend 90% of its time requesting status updates, chasing deadlines, or trying to remember exactly who’s responsible for what—leaving just 10% of the workday for actual work?Asana, the work tracking app founded by Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, just made a number of updates on Wednesday at a press event held at its headquarters. As you will recall, the startup picked up a new Head of Business from Google on Monday, announcing at the same time that it has expanded its revenue by 230 percent over the past year. Asana, the collaboration software company co-created in 2008 by Facebook FB 3.73% co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and well-respected engineer Justin Rosenstein, would like to restore a healthier balance. The updates are largely split into three categories: a redesigned layout that gives it a more simplified look, a new “conversation” feature that lets users leave comments under specific projects, and a new tracking feature that turns Asana into a bigger platform.

Its self-serving prescription: Spend less time organizing projects in email and more time using its newly redesigned Web software to manage work tasks. “No matter how great your tool is, most people can’t answer the most critical questions,” Rosenstein told Fortune in a pre-launch briefing. “What steps are left to accomplish a goal? The firm also announced that it is expanding that number by 10,000 companies a month, giving it just under 100 percent year-over-year growth, on a customer basis. (You can grok the implied positive dollar churn of Asana’s revenue growth compared to its customer growth.) (Protip: Looks good.) (Other protip: Ignore me.) In addition, Asana described a fast ramp-up to profitability.

It basically adds more clarity to who’s working on what, and on the progress of the project, without having to go through long, cluttered email threads. “It’s a simplified form of email thread, with enhanced features like being able to control the follower list, tracking work, and status updates,” Moskovitz said. But Moskovitz made it clear the new updates were not aimed at replacing Slack or any of the messaging apps. “Conversations is what you’d do in a mailing list, around a particular project or a subject. You as a human run around trying to interpret the world.” Since setting its sights on larger corporate accounts two years ago, San Francisco-based Asana has picked up subscribers for its work-tracking platform in more than 140,000 companies on every continent (except Antarctica).

While most use it for free, more than 10,000 companies pay per-team fees that start at $21 a month, and Asana now has “tens of millions of dollars” in annual recurring revenue, Moskovitz said. It’s pretty different from a Slack channel,” he said. “It’s really meant to be an email killer.” Moskovitz also gave some updated numbers around its business. Onstage, the company extended its revenue chart to include a note about going into the black, off of the red: That matters, because so many companies in the software as a service (SaaS) space grow quickly, but do so while main-lining a molotov cocktail of Other People’s Money, leading to a years-long binge that can help some on their board presume that the bigger the loss, the greater the future positive cash flows.

The new Asana, as the company styles it, is a significant improvement in terms of design and interface. (I’ll admit that I hissed out loud when Moskovitz and Rosenstein showed a screenshot of the older version in their presentation. And from there Asana can notify those who are involved with a task. “These three dots represent teammates working together, with this glow of energy that’s uniting them,” Asana cofounder Justin Rosenstein told reporters. Like many eager software startups, the Asana product team raced to add new features requested by those early customers in order to keep them in the fold. Well, perhaps I am, or I wouldn’t be mentioning it.) Far more significant than the design rethink Asana went through is the shift the company is making in its approach to developers.

The downside of keeping certain users happy: Asana’s dashboard became overwhelming, an issue that Rosenstein and Moskovitz seek to address with the update rolling out this week. In a sign that it’s beefing up its business unit, Asana also hired Chris Farinacci, former senior director of Google for Work, to lead its business operations earlier this week. This lets companies like Wufoo and Github create integrations that take activity from an online form or a software repository, respectively, and create tasks in Asana.

Asana therefore managed to complete the Current Business Trifecta, if you will, stressing quick growth, product advances, and a strategy to integrate its product into the workflow of others. The redesign unveiled Wednesday is a nod to the desire for “consumer-feeling” software that serves business needs, said Matt Cohler, general partner with venture capital firm Benchmark and an Asana board member since 2009. “I think everyone in the modern work world expects a combination of power and simplicity in their [software as a service] products,” he said.

More than one-third of his 300-person staff relies on the software to do everything from monitoring fund-raising activities and recruiting new employees to tracking the delivery of medical supplies in rural Nepal. “It’s not hyperbole to say that this is my core system of record. That’s because the label applies equally well to messaging startups like Slack, one of this year’s hottest unicorns, and cloud file-sharing outfits like Box BOX 2.28% , which is prioritizing partnerships with the likes of IBM IBM 1.75% and Apple APPL 0.00% as it seeks enterprise credibility. If your brain craves competitive comparisons, Asana’s closest rivals in next-generation project management include Trello, which recently reached the 10 million-user milestone, and IPO-ready Atlassian, which has branched out from its early following among software developers to address the concerns of other teams.

A publishing company might create a system for tracking an article from assignment to editing and fact-checking to publication. (I did similar work, using a now-archaic-sounding tool called the Quark Publishing System, for a magazine I worked at in the prior decade.) Where things will get really interesting is if Asana starts developing versions for specific industries. That’s a strategy Box has pursued to its advantage, and would give Asana both a route into bigger businesses, with partners potentially selling Asana alongside services and other offerings. Journalists at The Intercept, for example, famously despised the project-management tool when it was imposed on them by managers who weren’t familiar with the process of putting out a publication.

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