The majority of cells that build the nervous system of animals are generated early in embryonic development in a process called neurogenesis. Although the vertebrate nervous system is much more complex than that of insects, the underlying principles of neurogenesis are intriguingly similar. In both cases, neuronal cells are derived from polarized progenitor cells that divide asymmetrically. One daughter cell will continue to divide and the other daughter cell leaves the cell cycle and starts to differentiate as a neuron or a glia cell. In Drosophila, this process has been analyzed in great detail and several of the key players that control asymmetric cell division in the developing nervous system have been identified over the past years. Asymmetric cell division in vertebrate neurogenesis has been studied mostly at a descriptive level and so far little is known about the molecular mechanisms that control this process. In this review we will focus on recent findings dealing with asymmetric cell division during neurogenesis in Drosophila and vertebrates and will discuss common principles and apparent differences between both systems.