Why World's Youngest Self-Made Billionaire Shuns Life Of Luxury

Dustin Moskovitz working startupBy Marcus Wohlsen


SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook co-founder and former Mark Zuckerberg roommate Dustin Moskovitz is by many accounts the world's youngest self-made billionaire. But the 27-year-old isn't sipping champagne in the Caribbean.

Instead he's thrown himself back into San Francisco's startup mix, even as Facebook's looming IPO seems likely to send his wealth spiraling even higher.

Moskovitz and his friend Justin Rosenstein, a former Facebooker himself worth $150 million, head a company called Asana, which just launched the first paid version of its online project management service. During a recent interview at their inconspicuous Mission District offices, the pair said they come to work every day because, their fortunes already made, they still have to do something with their lives.

"When we think of work, we think of work as an act of service, as an act of love for humanity," said Rosenstein, 28.

Added Moskovitz: "If we were just retired, we wouldn't be serving anyone."

While such idealistic sentiments might sound too easy coming from two guys who never have to worry about money again, they both do keep working even though they'd never have to again. And like Zuckerberg himself they seem uninterested in the flash and status-hoarding that great wealth makes possible.

In keeping with the recent startup trend of shunning hierarchies, the pair do not have separate offices but sit among the other employees at Asana, which numbers 24 in all. They don't have an entourage. Rosenstein likes to cycle (he recently had his bike stolen).

Also like Zuckerberg, they dress down, Moskovitz in an untucked shirt, Rosenstein in a sweater and Chuck Taylors. On the streets of their neighborhood, which brims with twenty-something hipster geeks, they'd blend right in.

What sets them apart, they acknowledge, is their absolute freedom to pursue their particular vision of how to change the world. And they seem to have no doubt that their software will do just that. After all, as some of Facebook's earliest engineers, they've seen their code change the world once already.

Asana will speed human progress by changing the way people work together, Rosenstein said. Too much time at work is spent doing "work about work," Moskovitz said. They say Asana will free people up to do more important things.

"We could go work on curing cancer. We could go work on building spaceships. We could go work on art projects," Rosenstein said. "What's fun about working at Asana is we get to work on all of them at the same time." Or as Moskovitz, the more circumspect of the two, said, "We're working on a meta-problem."

Whether Asana's world-changing potential exceeds that of competitors in the crowded project and task management software marketplace remains to be seen. Like other similar products, their software lets users set up Web-based to-do lists that any group focused on a common goal can use to assign jobs and keep track of what gets done.

The pair believe Asana will win out on its speed, versatility and ability to maintain the flow alluded to in its name, which in yoga refers to the poses meant to aid the flow of spiritual energy in the body. (Regular yoga sessions are among the perks of office life at Asana. Other benefits include an in-house chef and $10,000 for new hires to set up their desks with whatever computing gear they want.)

Several marquee tech companies have embraced Asana, the company reports, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare. Individual backers betting on Asana include venture capital celebrities like Peter Thiel and Mark Andreessen, as well as several of Facebook's earliest employees.

None go as far back as Moskovitz, however. He spent two years at Harvard where he helped Zuckerberg start the site before they dropped out and moved to Palo Alto. He left Facebook in 2008 and started Asana with Rosenstein.

According to Facebook's pre-IPO filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Moskovitz holds nearly 134 million shares of Facebook stock, giving him a 7.6 percent stake in the company. Based on the value placed on Facebook's stock in its $1 billion cash-and-stock deal for Instagram, Moskovitz's pre-IPO net worth stands at more than $4 billion.

Like many of the richest Americans, Moskovitz has signed a pledge initiated by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to give away most of his money. His wife runs his philanthropic foundation, which is still getting off the ground.

For now, he said he's focused "110 percent" on Asana. To hear Moskovitz tell it, the choice of coming to the office doesn't come at the expense of some wished-for life of luxury.

"It feels very much like a default. Of course you do that," Moskovitz said. "We're fortunate not to have things that would distract us from being able to act."



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Dustin Moskovitz at Disrupt SF 2011

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JudKast

This is a person who has the right attitude to wealth. He doesn't exude and show off what he has and wants to give back. Hope more of the wealthy take his attitude and example. It's not what you have but what you do with what you have and give back to those that are in need.

February 27 2013 at 5:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JudKast

This man's attitude as a very wealthy person is something the Lord would even like. Wish more of these individuals were styled after him. Just hope he doesn't change and gives back to those in need

February 27 2013 at 5:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
God Is Love

I like the way this Young man thinks. I wish all good life has to offer and especially Long Life and Good Health In the name of Jesus.

May 02 2012 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to God Is Love's comment
ks

LOL you're an idiot.

May 15 2012 at 12:10 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Herb

great position to be in,power 2 you,keep doing the right thing.

May 02 2012 at 6:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
thomasrroper

I find interesting the things people ask money for. Do they expect to receive it? I know an American guy (Vet) that is stuck in a foreign country without a dime to his name because the VA fouled up his pension and temporarilly suspended it--it will only take six months for them to correct their mistake. In the mean time, he has no money for food, rent, medicine or hospitalization. He had a stroke about a week before the pension stopped last month, so he is now unable to walk. His wife had a miscarriage two days ago and is in pain and needs to go to a doctor or the hospital. They have no food. The rent is due. The embassy has refused help because they think his family, (non existent) and friends should be the responsible ones. All this and he wouldn't even dream of asking these guys for help.

May 02 2012 at 6:42 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to thomasrroper's comment
Naveen N

and they still support the war?

May 15 2012 at 10:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Naveen N

why are you crying, as if you care?

May 15 2012 at 10:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Naveen N's comment
gthomp7227

Fun being a snarky *******, isn't it Naveen?

May 16 2012 at 9:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
Kay Worley

I work with a few orgainizations who help others in our community. I would love to help you with a job, maybe from home, expanding your endevors helping others. I could also use a job since I am retired and could use the extra boost in funds. Please contact me to see what we could do together.

May 02 2012 at 4:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kay Worley's comment
Elaine

When opportunity knocks, I listen. Let me know how to pursue this for a job and helping out the community at the same time. I live in New Jersey if that helps. I am not sure how to contact you off of the blog.

May 02 2012 at 5:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tpcmktg

Dustin,
You are special and your partner also. How would I be able to invest in your new company Asana?

Richard

May 02 2012 at 3:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tpcmktg's comment
ks

riiiight.....like he's going to be reading your post and reply with investment advice, let alone read this article.....
lol

May 15 2012 at 12:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bhawk33224

Dude.

May 02 2012 at 3:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
24 k LADY

What a wonderful MAN!

May 02 2012 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Schwenke

Mr. Moskovitz would please help a Hurricane Katrina family we are still in need of help . Thanks

May 02 2012 at 3:27 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

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