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  /  Investing Analysis   /  $4.4 billion Asana used its own tool to plan its successful direct listing today, and its CEO says it proves how useful it can be to its next wave of big customers (ASAN)

$4.4 billion Asana used its own tool to plan its successful direct listing today, and its CEO says it proves how useful it can be to its next wave of big customers (ASAN)

  • Productivity startup Asana is worth $4.4 billion after its first day of trading as a public company, closing 37% over its reference price of $21.
  • Leading up to the day, Asana put its own tool to the test, using it to coordinate its direct listing, right down to details like picking its ticker symbol, ASAN, executives told Business Insider.
  • The exercise was an example of how powerful Asana’s tools can be to create a “plan of record” and help organizations coordinate work more efficiently, the executives say.
  • Ultimately, going public is an opportunity for Asana to sell itself and gives it validation from larger businesses who Asana hopes to go after in its next phase of growth, CEO and cofounder Dustin Moskovitz said. Before Asana, Moskovitz was best known as a cofounder of Facebook.
  • An important part of Asana’s growth going forward will be explaining how its different from other collaboration tools, and how exactly companies will benefit from using it.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Productivity startup Asana completed its direct listing and made a debut as a public company on Wednesday, with its stock closing 37% over its reference price of $21 — giving it a valuation of $4.4 billion at market close. That’s well above its last private valuation of $1.5 billion as of late 2018.

Asana — first started up in 2008 by Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskowitz and early Facebook and Google engineer Justin Rosenstein — makes a project-tracking tool that helps teams large and small coordinate and manage their daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. The founders have said they built Asana with the goal of helping people coordinate and get more productive at work.

Leading up to the day of the direct listing, Asana used its own tools to coordinate its public debut, including an Asana project dedicated to picking its ticker symbol, ASAN, executives told Business Insider.

“We use [Asana] for everything from project management, to requesting workflows, meeting agendas, to idea generation,” Moskovitz, who serves as CEO, told Business Insider in an interview on Wednesday. “Coordination for us is really all about answering who’s doing what by when. So whenever there’s a question about, what the plan is, and who’s responsible for each piece that we’re going to turn to Asana for the solution.”

The process saw Asana’s leadership put its own product to the test, and see if it could actually be the “plan of record” for big projects, said Alex Hood, Asana’s head of product. That’s important, the execs say, because going public is an important piece of its plan to win over more customers.

Asana has already built a solid business: Ahead of its listing, Asana told would-be investors last week that it had booked $52 million in revenue in the most recent quarter, up 57% from the same period of 2019, as the pandemic-driven remote work boom drives companies towards the tool. It also showed losses of $33.6 million over the same span. Overall, Asana has over 900 employees globally and 82,000 paid customers.

To win over the larger customer deals it needs to keep growing, Moskovitz said, the company needs the validation that comes with being public.

“As we move up market to larger enterprise companies, it’s an important form of validation that they can trust that we’re a serious reputable business, and we’re going to be around for many years to come, so they can invest in us as a key partner for building their own businesses,” he said.

Asana has previously said its ultimate goal is to become a navigation system of sorts for organizations, to give people clarity on their role and tasks within the company. That’s become even more vital in the pandemic, the execs said, and is a place where Asana can really build out its niche in the market for companies large and small. To do that, it will have to compete with rivals including Atlassian’s Trello, Smartsheet, and Israeli startup Monday.com.

“When we’re all working from home, it is more confusing and it takes more energy to figure out how your work matters,” Hood said. “The way that we are working has changed permanently. Even when we go back to the office, there’s a new set of tools, like Asana, which will help teams work together more effortlessly.”

Moskovitz suggests that the current state of affairs only exacerbates the problems that many companies have when it comes to collaboration. Coordination often revolves around long email threads, endless meetings, or complex spreadsheets, creating what he calls a “firehose of information” that can make the workday feel chaotic.

That’s why Asana is investing in expanding its customer education program, training users not only on Asana but also on more effective collaboration, Moskovitz said. The goal is to show how Asana can “amplify” productivity when used as part of a complete process, he said.

“We really think of collaboration as involving the three C’s: content, communication and coordination. And teams have invested really heavily in the first two categories, content and communication tools, but most of them haven’t invested in coordination,” he said.

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