So you want to successfully build your startup and that means building systems that get all sorts of work done. If you’re funded, you can hire someone to define all the task, marketing, support, recruiting, planning, agile project management and operation systems you need. If you’re bootstrapping, you are that person.
In that case, let me recommend a task management system I’ve been using every day, all day long for the past several months. Now before you scream your eyes will melt in your head if you read about one more damn Getting Things Done web/iOS/android/paper system, hold on. This app has some crazy powerful good mojo behind it that redefines the game.
The service is Asana. And here’s 6 reasons you should check it out especially for managing all the work you need to define, track and complete if you want to build a remarkable startup.
Reason one: The right people are using it. Twitter. Foursquare. Uber. LinkedIn. Rdio. Nationbuilder. Airbnb. Twilio. That is a hell of a lot of successful, smart startups – too smart to be messing around with anything that gets in the way. And by the way, Asana founders include one of the Facebook Billionaires and they’ve already raised $10.2 million – deep, deep pockets for “yet another task manager” with an extremely high conversion rate (25% of the people who’ve tried Asana stick it with Asana).
Reason two: Takes the friction out of your startup. Email is not your friend building a startup – it’s the evil Nemesis that slows everything down and drags you under. Not so with Asana, and really not so if you’re more than a one person startup. Every task and project and workspace is owned and can be followed and thereafter commented on by any other member of the team. No more emails about and instead of work: just work that everyone in your startup can track, comment and contribute to at the right level.
Reason three: A single System will rule them all. Count up the number of systems you’ll need in your startup: a beta user feedback system, a lead gen system, a business task system, a help desk system, an agile development system, a marketing system, a content strategy system. Then add a few more: a getting equity funded system, a hiring system, a create raving fans system. Each with their own strengths, weaknesses, learning curves, commands. Too many systems!
Instead, Asana can be a killer overall getting work done system, with projects built and used to suit why these tasks are being done. See it in action: here’s short videos of Asana being used manage projectstrack bugs, manage customers, recruit new hires. What you get – a single easy system to learn and use – outweighs for a startup having dedicated/custom/overcomplicated/specialized systems. You are not a big fat company – thinking like one will kill your startup.

Reason four: You can haz freelancers. Or contractors. Or vendors. Or whoever you need to give tasks to and get work back from. Asana makes it easy to create workspaces for your core team and the different people in your startup’s life whom you connect with. Or you can invite outsiders to be part of a specific project. Or members of team can follow specific tasks. Being able to define what needs doing, get feedback from the doer, let others track and comment on the item, project or workspace level squeezes out the need for endless email rounds.
Reason five: Secret Ninja Context Powers. A common failing of task managers (I know, I’ve written several) is there’s a primary implied context shaping what you can do and how you can do it. If it’s by Projects, but you need to look at what’s happening by people, tough. You have multiple projects, but you need to tag and focus by tag – good luck. You want to know what you or your cofounders have to do today across all projects – nope. Asana is structured so you can focus by person, you, project, timeliness, tag or any combination thereof. This makes asking key questions (what do I have to get done this week?, who can do graphics?, what projects have must-do this week tasks?, which projects was Joe working on before he jumped ship? – easy to answer and easy to process into action.)
Reason six: They’re not lists, they’re workflows. You can chose to treat a project as a list of things to get done or as a process tasks move through. For example, you can set up areas in your hiring process project so when an initial lead moves to “setup phone screen”, the person who follows that section automatically sees it and is notified of it. Or let’s say you’re a writer who wants to move work from brainstorm to outline to first draft to polish to place as guest post – you can move tasks from section to section, with the right people, checklist and work plan immediately taking effect. Organizing tasks into workflows where you can optimize each step turns death by task list into a system of improvable processes.
Finally, did I mention Asana is blindingly fast, super elegant, has web, mobile and iOS interfaces and is free forever for up to 30 people in one organization? Or the good newborn API, inbound integration with email, outbound integration with your calendar, repeating/reoccurring tasks, file attachment, and plenty of keyboard shortcuts?
Bottom line, you need to be smart about how you create and improve the workflows that will define your startup and corral, oversee and process a huge number of tasks that need to live both on your todo list and on the task radar of others. Asana is being used by several high profile startups to do just that, and scales down to improving the productivity of a single startup founder and is fast, fast and free for under 30 people. Highly recommended.


  1. All good reason, but other application like offer more features that can make a team more productive. Features like task dependencies, sub tasks and Gantt plus collaboration features like interactive whiteboard and group chat make the life is start up easier.

    • Bob Walsh Reply

      All those features (Collaborative Document Markup, Interactive Whiteboard, Group Chat, Document Sharing, Event Notification, etc. etc.) are great for established companies David, and there’s definitely a market for Binfire.
      But, what I find compelling about Asana for startups is a zero learning curve and that it’s equally good at work as lists of tasks and as workflow – two very different productivity modes.

      • Bob, the best thing about binfire is that you can use the features you need and ignore the features you don’t need. The UI is done in such a way that each feature could be used independently of other features and features you don’t use don’t get on your way.
        As example the task page. You can use it like a to-do list, or use it as WBS, or add dependencies etc. The basic feature is easy to use, but can give more experienced users the tools they need for more complex projects.
        We are making the UI even easier to use, so users from novice level to expert can get 100% from the tools.

  2. I’ve been testing asana in the last month and I agree it is really a new of intending task and project management.
    I think asana is a sort of open workflow management system that is capable of adapting to hundreds of different needs.
    I’m actually struggling in finding the best way to use it as project management, task management, CRM, recruiting platform, and so on.. There are a number of different ways you can make asana adapt to your personal need and company workflow!

  3. My team has recently started using Asana and it has revolutionized how we work. We’ve tried Basecamp (too easy for tasks to get lost) MSProject (too complex for short term hires) and unfuddle (too many variety of ways to use… so the team was never really on the same page or using to track tasks the same way).
    Asana gets it right all the way around. I can appreciate David’s perspective above, but what I’ve found is that once you get to the point where you need a task management system, you are at a point where you need to A) better organize and prioritize your workflow and B) provide communication across your team as to priorities and status i.e. getting everyone on the same page.
    Asana is better than any other system I’ve compared at keeping me and may team on the same page. There’s great flexibility in visualizing tasks from various perspectives (by team member, project, date, etc.) but setting up and modifying tasks is stripped down to it’s basic needs, making it very simple to use and insuring that everyone uses the system similarly.
    My only criticism, and an oversight that I feel nobody has gotten quite right yet, is setting ownership of tasks. EX: If I create and assign a task in Asana, it would be nice if that task could only be marked “complete” by myself or by team members marked as “managers”. Oftentimes tasks are marked as “complete” by a developer without having been QC or confirmed by managers. We’ve gotten around this by training our team to reassign all tasks back to their producers, and only having producers close out tasks…. but things still fall through the cracks.
    This isn’t really a criticism of Asana, as none of the major systems offer that option that I know of. And asana offers a much better visualization of tasks status by project so it’s easier for managers to catch those issues.
    Overall we couldn’t be more pleased with Assana!

  4. This is great. My startup has just been using Google Docs/Yammer/Email for everything. Looked at a few other options, but most of them cost $$ to do anything worth doing. Love that it’s free for up to 30 people – will definitely be setting this up.

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