Project Management and Collaboration

How big is the market for solving pointless "work about work"?

“I was enormously frustrated,” says Justin Rosenstein when we meet at the Rotunda Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel near Tower Hill in central London. “I seemed to spend the majority of the time doing work about work. At first I thought it was me doing something wrong…” then he realised the continuous drain of pointless meetings, hunting for lost emails and getting drafted into incomprehensible projects, was the same for everyone else too.

Rosenstein has a history at Google (where he created Google Drive and G-Chat) and Facebook where he devised the Facebook Like button and the less well-known Tasks. This was an internal project management tool, which has since turned into Asana, and aims to solve all the problems described above.

“I worked with the co-founders at Facebook to build an internal tool,” he says. This was built at night and used to improve Facebook processes during the day.

Asana was initially founded in 2008 – raised $88.2M in funding along the way – and has steadily grown via a blend of free bottom-up adoption and commercial top-down subscription. Today it has over 25,000 paying customers (up from 10,000 in 2015) and 45% of these come from outside the US although the product is still only available in English. The company’s ambition is to increase adoption round the world, with a particular emphasis on Europe, and a newly solidified base in Dublin.

Not surprisingly there is endless research around the need for such tools and it makes for pretty familiar reading. In 2012 McKinsey published “The social economy” which suggested that each week, the average knowledge worker spends 19% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. While in September Asana research from the UK reported that 42% of employees spend most of their day on futile “work about work”.

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