Project-management meteor Asana has collected about as much buzz as funding in its single year of life. Few startups demonstrate consumer Web DNA bleeding into the enterprise like Asana, led by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein who were cooking it up while working for Zuck. The money behind Asana, nearly $40 million of it, is beyond smart. It's Mensa money: Conway, Thiel, Andreessen, Horowitz, Kapor, Parker.
Aiming to own the group collaboration space, Asana calls itself a "collaborative information manager" that cuts down on all the work about work. Users ranging from small informal groups to hundreds working across departments inside Fortune 1000 companies use Asana to sync on projects, initiatives, and campaigns. Perhaps what the ill-fated Google Wave aspired to be, Asana's dashboard is a single space where team members deposit, organize, track, and communicate what they're working on.
Asana is a task list manager and communication hub that exists in the space between email and IM. Users post comments around an easily found nugget of work rather than deep inside myriad reply-all emails. It organizes and prioritizes tasks, milestones, and task owners. Given its strong communication reach and its independent, secure workspaces, Asana also aims to extend into CRM and vendor-client collaboration.
The laudable big idea here is to help teams avoid the La Brea tar pit that is email. Trello also has good momentum in the collaboration space (ditto Pivotal Tracker). Trello rates because it's a little more graphically appealing than Asana, with more obvious UI metaphors -- for now.
The explosion of cloud-based data demands new tools to interpret and present all that data. Some of the hottest big data startups help manage massive data sets: Cloudera, pioneer of the ubiquitous open source framework Apache Hadoop (backed by top-shelf enterprise VCs Accel and Greylock), and Qumulo, suddenly a big data player with its $25 million Series A that included resurgent Seattle-based Madrona Ventures (early Amazon money).
Neither Cloudera nor Qumulo focus on the next step, the interpretation and presentation layer for data, whether big or little. That's where you'll find Narrative Science, analyzing and organizing the rush of data coming from performance dashboards; sensors on turbines, hospital beds, or pills inside your body; and nontraditional sources like the proliferating "graphs" of social, interest, intent, and mobile. "The problem of big data is no longer the data," says Narrative CTO Kris Hammond. "It's the communication layer (between data and human)."
Applications include everything from sifting management reports or market analysis out of spreadsheets to reporting on Little League baseball games. Immediately, profit-pressed media companies like Forbes understood the value. Now, SMBs use Narrative to produce internal reports. Ancestry.com uses Narrative for its users to turn reams of unwieldy genealogical records into family stories. Stuart Frankel, former head of DoubleClick's Performics subsidiary, was so impressed that he became CEO of the company. Narrative investors include Battery Ventures (Exact Target, Angie's List), Ron Conway, and former DoubleClick powerhouses David Rosenblatt and Chris Saridakis.