Facebook billionaire shuns luxury for startup life

Associated Press Modified: April 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm •  Published: April 29, 2012
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — 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."