Asana Keynote: Dustin Moskovitz

Dustin Moskovitz, Co-Founder of Asana, joined BT at our 2015 Start @ a Startup Conference for our fourth keynote. After leaving Harvard in 2004, Moskovitz co-founded Facebook, and held a number of key leadership positions with the company, including CTO and VP of Engineering. Later, in 2008, Moskovitz left Facebook to co-found Asana with Justin Rosenstein. Asana began as an internal tool within Facebook, but Moskovitz and Rosenstein quickly realized its more broad potential and built Asana into its own corporation. Today, Asana operates under the mission statement: “help humanity thrive by enabling all teams to work together effortlessly.” We’re really glad Dustin was able to join BT, and his experience—both at Asana and at Facebook—gave valuable insight to all conference attendees.

Moskovitz’s initially instructed conference attendees on the factors and characteristics that they should seek when evaluating a company. Working at a startup can provide invaluable experience and opportunities to all employees, and Moskovitz highlighted a few key characteristics that all applicants should optimize for when applying. Throughout his talk, it became clear that Asana’s focus—much like the other startups participating in this conference—was the applicants themselves. While some companies might focus almost entirely on the goals and needs of their firm, Moskovitz instead highlighted all of the factors that would allow a prospective employee to get as much value out of their experience as they can provide to their company.

Initially, Moskovitz emphasized a few key characteristics that every applicant should look for in their potential companies, especially when applying to startups. The first was that all applicants should experience fast growth, with which he noted two distinct definitions of experiencing growth. First, he mentioned that all employees should experience a company growing quickly, but he also mentioned that the employees themselves should be growing quickly as individuals—with regard to their skills, their confidence, their personal enjoyment, and achievement. Following that theme, Moskovitz noted that strong corporate culture is important for any company, from the smallest startups to the largest tech firms. The environment of the company, he argued, should suit the employee, and not the other way around.

Next, Moskovitz went through different potential sizes for companies, and noted the advantages and disadvantages of each. For applicants, he said, companies can be more broadly divided into three separate and distinct groups—though he also noted that some companies can provide exceptions to every rule. The first category included companies whose headcount ranges from only a handful of people to about 40 individuals at a time. Many of the companies participating in the conference, and many startups at large, fall within this range. The next category would likely have a headcount of 40 to 800 individual employees at any given time. These type of companies often provide a middle ground between the smallest of startups to the largest companies he noted next, which would be any company with 800+ employees. Examining each category in detail, Moskovitz discussed specifics like the role of the employee, the opportunities for growth and autonomy, the worker’s product influence and even the payment structures provided by different types of companies.

Peppering with examples from his own company and some of the other companies participating in Start @ a Startup, Moskovitz highlighted the greatest values provided by startups and focused on the startups most significant asset, the employee. As he looked out on a crowd of motivated and highly successful conference attendees, Moskovitz quoted his co-founder Justin Rosenstein, saying “We have a greater capacity to change the world today than the kings and presidents of just 50 years ago.” Through the lessons he was able to impart from his time at Facebook and current experience at Asana, and through Asana’s continued support of the 2015 Start @ a Startup conference, our attendees are given a starter kit of the tools that they’ll need to make that change a reality. What follows, he concluded, is up to the applicants themselves.