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Asana, the productivity management startup from Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and lead engineer Justin Rosenstein, has raked in $9 million from Benchmark Capital and Andreessen-Horowitz.
Asana is probably one of the more anticipated startups in Silicon Valley right now. Moskovitz, Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Hughes founded Facebook together during college at Harvard University. Rosenstein was another early Facebook employee. The pair are trying to re-imagine productivity management in a way that’s completely native to the web and overcomes many of the problems associated with other mediums like e-mail.
They went with two of the Valley’s best-known firms — Benchmark Capital has funded Twitter, eBay and Red Hat and Andreessen-Horowitz is the new fund from Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz. The new round is specifically to attract the best engineering and user interface design talent around: Asana boasts perks like in-house yoga, organic home-cooked meals and $10,000 to set up your workspace any way you want.
That’s not to diminish some of the technical infrastructure the company has built underpinning their product. While the pair didn’t say much about the look or feel of what they’re building, they did talk a bit about the some of the underlying technology. They haven’t released a time-line for when they’ll demo the product.
“We’re building a new kind of end-to-end system for developing web applications at literally an order of magnitude faster than is possible today,” said Rosenstein. “It’s fundamentally groundbreaking technology that involves many different kinds of problems in software engineering and computer science from infrastructure, algorithms and database work to programming languages and compilers.”
Rosenstein said the new programming system, called Lunascript after Moskovitz’ cat, eliminates a lot of the grunt work involved in software engineering.
“When you’re programming, there’s a lot of work that’s really quite repetitive and rote which we ended up doing over and over again,” Rosenstein said. “We’ve created a new kind of programming system that allows a developer to express the essence and intent of the application and handles that other 90 percent of the rote, repetitive work for them.”
As for the product itself, it’s productivity management software that can be applied to anything from engineering work to personal tasks. It rivals Google Wave in ambition, although Rosenstein said it doesn’t resemble anything out on the market. Asana’s team uses their own product to manage development work inside the company.
In designing the product, there were a few critical issues the team wanted to address. For example, if you’re working with a group of people, you might finish a task but then you have to spend time explaining to other people that you’ve done it.
“There’s this redundancy — I know I’ve done the work. The machine knows I’ve done the work. But there’s this completely superfluous task of making sure that other people who need that information have it,” he said. So Asana would automate that more. They’re also focused on speed through designing shortcuts and keystrokes to get things done quickly.
The company name’s, Asana, comes from yoga, which the company does together twice a week. Benchmark’s Matt Cohler, who knew the pair from his days as an early executive at Facebook, joins Asana’s board.
The two left Facebook last fall and founded the company out of some of the productivity issues they ran into there.
“We were thinking about how we could maximize the efficiency of Facebook and we realized it was such an important problem that it warranted its own company,” Rosenstein said. “Our goal is that, much in the spirit of something like e-mail, this will be useful to all people.”
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