Business Technology

Monday 21 October 2019

Building a powerful new tech backbone for business

A valuation of $1.5bn, one of Fortune's best places to work and exceeding 50,000 paying organisations for the first time - Asana's 10th birthday has seen the company make serious strides, says Louise Kelly

Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana, at the company’s Dublin offices
Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana, at the company’s Dublin offices

Asana is more than just a case of 'what Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz did next'.

Implementing a tool to manage tasks, cutting through other communication channel 'noise' while increasing productivity has landed the firm a big list of clients.

The project management software's early adopters included the likes of Uber and Airbnb but it is now also used by long-established companies such as GE, Deloitte and Air France.

And a recent funding frenzy into the San Francisco firm - a Series E round raised $50m last month, just 10 months after a $75m investment - is a reflection of how much the market values work management technology.

According to co-founder Justin Rosenstein, Asana is the fasting growing SaaS firm in this category with seven quarters of accelerating ARR (around 90pc) under its belt.

"It's both powerful enough to run giant companies while also being the easiest to use. There's no other one that's near the same power while also being simple to use," he told the Irish Independent.

Tough talk. But the sentiment seems to be shared by both new and existing investors - which include Generation Investment Management, 8VC and Lead Edge Capital - who are putting money where Rosenstein's mouth is.

The confidence in creating a product with a global impact can perhaps be linked to Asana's origins - the idea for the tool was first conceived when Rosenstein and co-founder Moskovitz were building software at Facebook.

Moskovitz co-founded the company at Harvard University with Mark Zuckerberg, and Rosenstein helped create the platform's 'Like' button.

"With our background, it is perhaps apparent that the scope of the projects that interest us are ones that affect the entire globe," said Rosenstein.

"We want to be in the position that every business is using Asana, that it is the backbone - the fundamental architectural platform - that all others plug into.

"We want to harness and combine artificial intelligence (AI) with human intelligence - so that we end up with a GPS for organisations, you tell it where you want to go and it will direct you there."

The motivation behind Asana was spurred by the rapid team growth in Facebook's early days.

Now the company boasts almost 400 employees across San Francisco, New York and Dublin, more than doubling its EMEA HQ team to 43 employees in Dublin over the past 12 months.

Head of EMEA Robbie O'Connor said this hub - recently located at Hatch Street, close to messaging tool partner Slack - is hugely important to the company as it acts as a gateway to their best performing European markets.

"As a company, we have reported 90pc year-on-year growth overall but the EMEA region has actually experienced a 140pc year-on-year growth. We've just moved into our shiny new offices which has capacity for 60 employees and we expect we will need a larger space next year.

Dublin's mix of skilled talent and operational ease, and support from the IDA, has proved a winning case for Asana when they were looking for an EMEA HQ location.

With speculation rife on possible outcomes post-Brexit, O'Connor said Asana are set to "roll with all the punches".

"There is so much unknown, to be very frank, so we are just pushing ahead with the current strategy with all of our international organisations."

Part of this long-term vision includes expanding Asana's global footprint further as it accommodates the needs of its wider customer base; around 50pc of its revenue comes from outside of the US. Last November, it adapted the tool for French and German, for Spanish and Portuguese in February this year, and it has just added Japanese as its sixth language and "will support more in the future".

The company also introduced its Timeline capability feature over the last 12 months, in addition to integrations with Slack and Microsoft Outlook and a new product tier plan, Asana Business.

Opening a European data centre in Frankfurt in the first half of 2019 is also on the cards, in addition to laying down roots in Asia Pacific, starting in Sydney and Tokyo.

Rosenstein said the recent investment is also going to be used to improve its product even further - and maintain its high uptime figures.

"Customers tell us that they are 45pc faster using Asana, so that makes a job complete in two weeks rather than three weeks," he said.

"A lot of people who want to get in to these hot new spaces struggle with the ability to be all online all of the time. We've been committed to that from the beginning."

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