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Facebook co-founder fights Amazon culture and wins praise

Asana co-founders Justin Rosenstein, center, and Dustin Moskovitz, right, pose for photos at the company's headquarters in San Francisco.
Eric Risberg | AP
Asana co-founders Justin Rosenstein, center, and Dustin Moskovitz, right, pose for photos at the company's headquarters in San Francisco.

During last year's imbroglio over Amazon.com's hard-charging culture, Asana co-founder Dustin Moskovitz wrote a blog post titled "Work Hard, Live Well," promoting a very different kind of tech environment.

Employees have rallied around that message.

In a report released Thursday from Glassdoor and Battery Ventures, Asana was the top-rated place to work among private cloud-computing companies. The report ranked the top 50 companies with at least 200 employees, taking into account how workers view their CEO, how optimistic they are about the business over the next six months and their overall company rating.

Asana scored a 4.9 out of 5, with Moskovitz receiving 100 percent approval as a CEO. Glassdoor's website has 67 Asana reviews, including some from former employees of the San Francisco-based company.

All 50 companies on the list have ratings of at least 4.1. Among the 580,000 businesses on Glassdoor, the average rating is 3.3, while Amazon is just above average at 3.4.

Asana's web-based software helps teams collaborate on projects and track and manage their work. Moskovitz started the company in 2008, but he was already a mini-celebrity in Silicon Valley. Moskovitz was Mark Zuckerberg's roommate at Harvard University and helped launch Facebook, where he worked for over four years. Forbes estimates Moskovitz's net worth at $10.7 billion.

Top-rated private cloud companies

Name Company rating CEO CEO approval Positive biz outlook
Asana 4.9 Dustin Moskovitz 100% 99%
Greenhouse Software 4.9 Daniel Chait 99% 100%
WalkMe 4.9 Dan Adika 98% 93%
Chef Software 4.9 Barry Crist 100% 100%
Sprout Social 4.9 Justyn Howard 98% 98%
Grovo 4.9 Jeff Fernandez 99% 97%
Procore Technologies 4.9 Tooey Courtemanche 99% 97%
PagerDuty 4.8 Jennifer Tejada n/a 100%
Addepar 4.8 Eric Poirier 100% 88%
nCino 4.8 Pierre Naude 93% 94%
Source: Battery, Glassdoor

Last August, Moskovitz took to publishing site Medium four days after a controversial article in The New York Times, which exposed Amazon as a "bruising" place to work. Employees would commonly be seen weeping at their desks from stress, others were criticized for not working while on vacation and some were treated unfairly for taking sick leave, the article said.

Amazon disputed many of the facts and claimed the newspaper left out key information. But there's little denying that Jeff Bezos is an intense and demanding CEO, who expects managers to show a commitment similar to his own.

"Fundamentally, this is a familiar part of tech culture: at high performing companies, employees work extremely hard, to an extent that is unsustainable for most people," Moskovitz wrote in a post that's been liked by 4,600 people. "But it doesn't have to be this way."

Moskovitz, 32, wrote that had he lived a healthier existence earlier in his career with more of a focus on exercise, sleep and his diet, he would have been a better leader and less prone to panic attacks. He cited data showing that work weeks extending beyond 40 or 50 hours are counterproductive and that by promoting healthy work-life balance, he's actually building a more profitable enterprise.

Asana now has 230 employees, and Moskovitz said in an interview that fewer than 10 people have left voluntarily this year. There are certainly times when engineers go into "war room" mode to meet a product deadline, but Moskovitz said he asks employees to be honest about it.

"You can sprint, you just can't sprint forever," he said. "We're trying to be very objective and analytical about the best way to maintain speed over a long period of time."

The top seven companies in Thursday's report each have ratings of 4.9. Battery and Glassdoor used research from Mattermark to segment out companies based in the U.S. that sell software to businesses and raised funding in the past three years.

Neeraj Agrawal is a partner at Battery focused on cloud start-ups and a board member at Glassdoor. Given the amount of growth in the cloud and the increased acquisition interest from large tech brands as well as private equity firms, Agrawal said that Glassdoor's data could give some unique insight into which companies are poised to win.

"How employees feel about these companies, we think, is a very important indicator of the probability of success," said Agrawal. Battery is an investor in eight of the companies on the list, including Chef Software, Coupa Software and AppDynamics.

The companies in the top 50 employ a total of more than 26,000 people (average of 525 per company), a number that's increased 15 percent in the past six months. The median amount of funding they've received is $96 million.