Kara Swisher

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Asana Gets $9 Million (No, It’s Not a Yoga Stance–It’s a Workplace Productivity Start-Up From Former Facebookers)


Yet another goofy Silicon Valley name did not prevent Asana–the workplace productivity software start-up founded by former Facebookers Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein–from nabbing $9 million in funding from Benchmark Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.

The round, which was announced today, will be used to turbocharge Asana and its small team, who are aiming at the very dull and unexciting but very large and problematic workplace collaboration and communications software market.

In Sanskrit, “asana” means “sitting down” and refers to strong but relaxed postures in yoga–so presumably, Moskovitz and Rosenstein are trying to help frustrated workers achieve a digital form of nirvana.

Former Facebooker Matt Cohler, now at Benchmark, will have a seat on the Asana board. Asana had previously raised just over $1 million in an angel round, which included a spate of Silicon Valley bigwigs.

In an interview today, Rosenstein said that solving the “friction of communications” in the workplace by innovating via “information transparency” was Asana’s goal.

But, said Rosenstein, “We are not taking existing tools and porting it over the to Web…but rethinking how people can productively work together.”

He added: “We want to change the way you manage information and how you keep everyone on the same page…there are tons of misses here everyday in the workplace and it is death by 1,000 cuts.”

Moskovitz said he was always trying to solve such issues at Facebook, the social networking site he co-founded and where he once was CTO.

Ticking off a variety of workplace collaboration tools he employed, including some newer Web-based ones such as Yammer, Moskovitz said, “We could not find any easy solution, because there is not any one that answers all your issues.”

The pair said they had working product that was being used internally at the company, but would not say when one would be released publicly.

Finding one would obviously be a magic bullet, said Benchmark’s Cohler.

“This is a really big existing problem that no one has solved,” he said.

Here’s the press release:

Asana Announces $9 Million in Funding from Benchmark Capital and Andreessen Horowitz


The challenge of groups of people working together effectively is fundamental to human endeavor, but the state of the art falls far short of real efficiency. Despite advances like email and wikis, the friction and overhead of communication remain acutely painful to organizations large and small. Group leaders spend an enormous portion of their time trying to keep everyone on the same page, and knowledge workers struggle daily with inadequate, disparate tools to wrangle the information they need to do their jobs.

The technical hurdles to building the right system to address these problems are immense, and the design challenges subtle and complex. The Asana team has thought deeply about these problems for many years, in leadership roles at some of the world’s best software companies. We are undertaking an ambitious project to tackle them with a vision that reimagines the way people manage information, to speed up knowledge work and communication by an order of magnitude. This is not another enterprise application suite, nor is it an ajaxification of existing desktop software concepts; it is a new kind of software product, built for the Web from the ground up, with a focus on speed, collaboration, and ease of use.

To help us build the company, we’re bringing in Benchmark Capital and Andreessen-Horowitz. The partners at these firms bring a tremendous amount of experience building companies and helping entrepreneurs reach their goals. Benchmark is leading the $9 million round of funding, and Matt Cohler, with whom we already have a close, trusting relationship, will have a seat on the board. Andreessen-Horowitz is the only other VC firm participating, and we’ve already started enjoying the benefits of Marc’s and Ben’s great wisdom.

We plan to use the funding most immediately for growing our team. We’re currently mobilizing a group of world-class peers, and looking for passionate engineers and UI designers to join us. We need people to help us tackle some of the hardest software engineering and computer science problems, including developing a ground-breaking programming system that decimates the time required to build a web application end-to-end.

“When you look at the sheer talent, vision and ability to execute that Dustin and Justin demonstrated at Facebook and Google, you know something big can happen here. In addition to being two of the world’s best engineers in their own right, they have an extraordinary ability to rally teams around a vision like very few people can, and they are putting together a world-class team of people at Asana. This is a company with limitless potential.” –Matt Cohler, general partner, Benchmark Capital

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik