Facebook Cofounder Finally Reveals His New Startup

Dustin Moskowitz Asana cofounder

Photo: Flickr, davemc500hats

Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz is finally ready to reveal what he’s been working on since he left Facebook two years ago.His new startup, Asana, is a software company focused on making collaboration for businesses simpler.

TechCrunch shot a video of the one-hour demo and vision statement that Asana presented at an event for friends-and-family investors. (The demo section starts around 12:00 in the video, which is embedded below.)

It’s hard to judge any product based on a short video demo, but at least Asana is taking a fresh approach to an old problem.

The basic idea: Users create tasks and post them to a public message board as a list. They can then update each task with new messages, creating a kind of real-time conversation about what’s going on .(If you’ve ever used Yammer, it’s similar in concept.)

All updates are synced in real time, and any user who has subscribed to that task will see an email message about the update. Users can respond to the email directly and the update will appear on the task board — a nice step for users with mobile devices who otherwise might have trouble logging into the site to make a change.

At first glance, it looks like a dramatically simpler version of Microsoft’s SharePoint, which also lets users create and update lists in a shared online space — along with a ton of other functions.

But Asana is keeping the product simple on purpose to avoid the fate that befalls so many SharePoint (and other) “enterprise collaboration” installations: people use them for a week or a particular project, then abandon them forever.

That said, Asana doesn’t look like “enterprise collaboration” software at this early beta stage. Rather, it’s a useful tool for small teams — particularly teams with members scattered across different locations — to keep track of what everybody’s doing. Enterprise collaboration implies all sorts of things that the video doesn’t discuss: integration with data from a wide range of legacy enterprise software systems, complicated project management, real-time communication and presence detection, hardened security, and much more. You have to please IT as much as you please users, or it’s no sale.

Asana may have luck selling to startups and mid-size businesses. But selling to enterprises is a whole different game. Even Google, with its massive resources, is having trouble turning its enterprise software into a serious revenue-generating business.

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