Sick of E-mail? Asana’s Looking for a Few Good Customers in Austin

Sorting through the daily flood of e-mails can feel like a Sisyphean journey.

A San Francisco company called Asana, which was created by one of Facebook’s co-founders, is trying to end the dominance that e-mail holds over our lives, especially in the workplace. The company is one of a few that Xconomy featured last year as we explored the notion that e-mail is an antiquated method of communication, highlighting the innovations being brought to market by a few modern businesses.

Asana considers tasks that can be assigned and completed—rather than things such as e-mails, meetings, shared documents, and to-do lists—as the organizing principle to workplace communication. And the company is actively spending now to promote its work management tool, specifically in Austin, TX, where it launched a marketing campaign in May to attract more users.

The company is spending an amount “in the six-figure” range to post billboards in downtown Austin and on the way to Austin Bergstrom International Airport, and is hosting events for its already existing customers, such as Capital Factory, the city’s incubator, accelerator, and co-working space, according to Kenny Van Zant, the head of Asana’s business and operations teams. Asana is trying to reach a bevy of new customers by highlighting success stories of its current local customers, which range from restaurant and food truck Chi’lantro to transportation startup RideScout, Van Zant says.

Van Zant is an Austin native who was an executive at startups SolarWinds, BroadJump, and Motive before becoming the seventh employee at Asana. He gave a demo of the tool during a sunny day in April while visiting Austin from San Francisco, just before the company kicked off the marketing drive.

Austin has been the second fastest growing city for Asana, only behind the company’s homebase, with customers ranging from government to tech to cookie-delivery service Tiff’s Treats, Van Zant says. Asana considered other cities for the push, and has only so far focused on Austin, partly because of the variety of industries, he says.

The system allows users to create projects and specific tasks within those projects, with due dates and goals. Other users can comment on the tasks, attach files, and do the equivalent of “liking” others’ comments, very much like a social network.

That makes sense, given that Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg, built Asana from scratch with Justin Rosenstein, another former Facebook and Google engineer. Rosenstein helped create the Like button and the Beacon advertising program at Facebook.

The tool is free for groups of smaller than 15, and then Asana charges a rate starting at $10 per person per month, Van Zant says. Asana raised a Series B round in 2012, pulling in $28 million led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. Van Zant expects the company to raise another round in the next year.

“Collaboration is what it’s built for,” Van Zant says. “Before you know it, your meeting, your work, your e-mails, your whole cadence on how you work shifts to this product.”

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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  • Jacob

    I think it’s so funny that their business is predicated on the notion that “Email is Outdated”, yet they are using billboard advertising to spread the message.

  • Antonius

    I like Asana and use it daily, but I also find email useful. IRC is outdated too but it’s still the best group chat platform there is. Some things are timeless. Other things, like email, are abused. I think Asana can help email be the application it probably should be however i.e. not a file repository, not a tacit knowledge black hole.