Asana, the white-hot task management app from a team of web wunderkinds, is going into business in earnest with its new product launch today.
Formerly free, the Asana product will now come in paid versions with fancy features for larger teams. Asana workgroups, as teams using the product collaboratively are called, had been limited to 30 people. Now, they can be much larger, from 50 people to hundreds, based on a sliding monthly subscription scale.
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Asana is also bringing priority support, cross-workgroup collaboration features, and advanced permissions settings to the paid versions of the product.
The software in question was created by former Facebookers Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein. This will be their first crack at selling a product to enterprise-level clients rather than making web-based freebies for the masses, but they’ve been developing the application since their Facebook days. In fact, Rosenstein said during a call with Moscovitz and VentureBeat yesterday, Facebook still uses an older version of the software that became Asana.
“Trying to get everyone on the same page is really, really hard,” said Rosenstein. While a project manager at Google and also during his Facebook tenure, Rosenstein said, he had a lot of frustration over coordination on goals and projects. “We spent a huge amount of time not doing work, but doing ‘work about work.’”
Some of the biggest names in the web startup ecosystem are using Asana — Airbnb, Twitter, and Foursquare, just to name a few. With his company taking off like a rocket, not just throughout the startup ghetto but also in mainstream industries, Rosenstein said he task-management software an unappealing pursuit. “The idea of people accomplishing their goals — it’s hard to imagine anything sexier than that,” he said.
Nevertheless, when we think of software built for businesses, we think of painful, bloated, difficult, and ugly programs that are force-fed to us by middle managers.
“Everyone has the same reaction: ‘I’m being forced to use this. This is crap. This is annoying.’ They end up running back to email and Google Docs,” Rosenstein told us. “That other stuff isn’t getting used in practice.”
Still, there’s a glut of project management software on the market, due in no small part to the fact that it’s such a lucrative niche, “A lot of people are realizing this is an exciting opportunity,” said Rosenstein. “The leader is likely to be the next $100 billion company.”
What Asana is doing differently, the team explained in our call, is making the design friendlier and the technology more elegant than any other comparable product “so you can sync your thoughts with the computer incredibly fast,” said Rosenstein. “It’s actually faster than Notepad.”
Second, the team is focusing on flexibility, making a product that’s simple enough to be used in a huge range of tasks across an organization, from CRM in the customer service department to bug-tracking in IT to traditional project management.
The flexibility is key, because it’s Asana’s not-so-secret plan for infiltrating organizations with tens of thousands of members and earning those enterprise-grade monthly checks. You see, rather than pitching Asana to executives, the startup is hoping the product will get picked up by smaller team managers within the organization, slowly trickling up little by little until it gains a cult following throughout the company.
And as that happens, Asana will build out more features, for example, to allow the IT department’s workgroup to accept bug reports from the customer service workgroup.
Of course, in the heady highlands of the enterprise, Asana will be facing the usual competitors — Basecamp, Yammer, Google Docs, and email — but also custom-built software and legacy systems. We’ll see if the startup’s cult status and web-genius cachet pay off.
Asana officially launched in November 2011 and currently has “tens of thousands of teams” using the product. Altogether, Asana users have created 10 million tasks and have completed about 4 million tasks.
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