asana: first yogourt, now software start-ups

This headline in my newsfeed grabbed my attention: “Start-Up Asana Announces $9 Million in New Funding.” I had to do a double take (and click through, of course). What could that combination of words possibly mean?

What it means is that the yoga vocabulary has moved beyond healthy eating habits and casual clothes into the tech world. Asana is a new “workplace productivity software start-up founded by former Facebookers Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein.”  The young company has been around for just over a year and apparently their work is directed at “the very dull and unexciting but very large and problematic workplace collaboration and communications software market.”

An article on All Things Digital tried to explain the yoga connection:

In Sanskrit, “asana” means “sitting down” and refers to strong but relaxed postures in yoga–so presumably, Moskovitz and Rosenstein are trying to help frustrated workers achieve a digital form of nirvana.

Good effort! But there could have been a little more research on the definition of asana. Anyway, even though I’m not really a fan of working, I’m all for making work more efficient, transparent and open. And from what I can gather from Asana’s website, they are doing their best to incorporate yoga-esque values into their small company, including: action in the face of fear, honesty & transparency, chill-ness, company as collective of peers (vs. command-and-control hierarchy), investing in people, and trust in wisdom over rules and incentives.

I’m willing to work for any company that values “chill-ness.” While Asana wants to keep their staff small and intimate, they’re also hiring. Check out their perks:

  • Small company with respectful, rational, chill peers. We are as dedicated to building a great culture as we are to building a great product.
  • Medical, dental, vision and life insurance coverage.
  • In-house yoga. Every week we do yoga as a group, including +1s, with a private instructor. (Optional, but pretty awesome.)
  • Organic homecooked meals twice a day.
  • Three 30″ monitors. Actually, we let you spend up to $10K on your setup, however you think best.

Those perks are pretty similar to the perks of working at a yoga magazine. Except for the organic homecooked meals twice a day (though we did have Thursday Soup Days). And the 30″ monitors and $10K setup budget. Yikes! Anyway, I hope that the yogi incognitos behind Asana can put this $9 million to good techy use and live up to their values and ideals.

See also: yogourt-asana; the great asana taste test

  1. This is very interesting to me, since I had a long career as a software entrepreneur, and we frequently won awards for “best places to work”, and the like.

    So far I haven’t done any mixing of my former entrepreneurial life with my current Yoga life, but occasionally a blog like yours makes me start thinking about the connections.

    I once wrote a manifesto on leadership called “Leadership is Like Tennis, Not Egyptology” (available at http://wp.me/PlVS9-3 if you are unable to restrain yourself.)

    One of my Yoga teacher friends once suggested that there is so much Yoga-like thinking in this essay that it could be rewritten as a “Yoga in Business” essay, which is interesting, since it was written long before I got involved in Yoga.

    I haven’t really given it much thought beyond that, but it’s an intriguing idea. I’m not sure I really want to go back there right now.

    Thanks for the interesting blog.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  2. yep that was pretty interesting. not quite sure I still get it….

    but there ya go. 🙂

    sounds like a sweet job though…

  3. haha! i don’t really get what they do either – one article described their software as a mash-up between basecamp and some other programs (the techy stuff just went right over my head).

    what i find interesting about this is simply the choice to call their company “asana,” especially in an industry where company names are catchy but ultimately meaningless (ie: facebook – what kind of word is that? who would even think about putting those 2 words together?).

    to contrast this with the yoplait yogourt, which had a strong marketing angle and demographic analysis, it’s pretty innocuous. just interesting, and one of the many ways that aspects of yoga pop up on the cultural landscape…

  4. “Facebook” was perfectly descriptive for the original software program at Harvard, which was simply an online book of faces and bios, so you could keep track of your college buddies. It probably started as only that, then they added messaging, and so on.

    I looked at the asana site. An unbelievable group of names, but many wildly successful tech companies have been surprises that started in someone’s garage or close, with very little money (H/P, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc., etc.)

    These second generation highly-funded, software-celebrity driven concoctions have often bombed, especially when tackling such big, broadly-defined challenges as “office communication” and “faster web development”.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

    • interesting perspective, bob! i have no idea how well this company will fare in the tech world ~ and if a name like “asana” will be a detriment or a boon.

      re: facebook… now that i think about it, given its beginnings, it was probably riffing off the word “yearbook.” of course…

  5. like I said at YogaDork….if something goes wrong, then it will be a pain the asana…man, I need to copyright that phrase….;)

  6. All I have to say is…I’d like to work there : )

    Thanks for posting this! Very interesting.