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Summary:

Productivity startup 6Wunderkinder made a big noise on the Berlin scene when it launched, but it’s been quiet for a few months. Now CEO Christian Reber explains why other German startups should follow suit and focus on their product — and why he’s worried about Windows 8.

6Wunderkinder CEO Christian Reber

6Wunderkinder has been laying low for a while. The Berlin startup, which offers the task management app Wunderlist and the collaborative project management platform Wunderkit, used to regularly pump out updates about its progress, but its usually chatty blog has been schtum since April.

But something was clearly in the works – Earlybird’s recent purchase of HTGF’s stake was largely intended to ensure future investment, and it came with talk of 6Wunderkinder taking a heads-down approach. So I spoke to CEO Christian Reber to find out what’s happening with the company’s two products – as it turned out, he had some interesting opinions to share about Windows 8, too.

Meyer: You’re pretty much in between major releases of Wunderlist, right?
Reber:
Yeah, you’re totally right. We launched Wunderlist 18 months ago and it’s going great – 2.5 million users, more than 5.5 million downloads, 100 million tasks created. And we launched Wunderkit in February as a beta product. We’re analysing it, testing new features, improving improving improving – but right now we’re working on the evolution of Wunderlist.

Is Wunderkit actually an active avenue for you, or is it more experimental?
It’s totally experimental, totally numbers-driven – if we see something works, we work on it. For Wunderlist we haven’t pushed out updates for eight months on some platforms. With the new release, Wunderlist will be able to talk with Wunderkit.

During creating Wunderkit, we realised a startup should be careful of doing two products at the same time, which is why we merged them somehow, at least technically.

You’ve not given numbers for Wunderkit’s adoption yet. Is the platform still growing?
It is growing – it has hundreds of thousands of users. It’s not a product that doesn’t work. We built the product in order to see if this is the future of our company, and does it meet our vision. We launched it and knew really quickly we had to improve something because it was not growing as fast as Wunderlist.

We made decisions in terms of how we continue with it, but overall in terms of strategy we can’t talk about it too much, because the productivity market is crazily active right now. You see a lot of products that adopt features or design ideas from Wunderkit, so it can’t be wrong [laughs].

Is Wunderlist just an easier proposition for people? How would you characterise the difference between the two?
Right now Wunderlist is the easier product. Wunderkit is maybe a niche product – it’s smaller than Wunderlist. The model I have in my head is that Wunderlist is task management for consumers, and Wunderkit is more project management for consumers. The question is, what do you have more of? More tasks or more projects?

More tasks, I’d imagine.
[Nods] We have a vision and I definitely want to build up a company that’s able to build more than one product. If we see something isn’t working… I mean, Apple did the same [with] MobileMe and iCloud. If you want to be successful, disrupt yourself.

What are your thoughts on the productivity app scene in general?
It’s a very interesting market. At first nobody believed in it – for us fundraising was super-hard because social was the big thing. Now it’s crazy, with Evernote and Dropbox. The space is getting more and more interesting – that’s why I stopped talking too much about strategy. It was interesting that Podio did an exit [sold to Citrix for $53m]. That was an interesting milestone for them.

I know you’d prefer not to talk strategy, but what will Wunderlist’s evolution bring?
Without going too deep into features, we want to continue going in the direction we came from. It was never a geeky product, it was never made for teams to organise or anything. It was made for consumers, for mothers. We built a product for the eight-year-old kid in school organising his homework, but also the fifty-year-old organising his company. Many task managers focus on one direction, such as team organisation. That’s where we let the product evolve. There will be new features that have never been implemented in a task manager before, and even to move away from the task manager thing… I can’t talk too much about the features now…

With a task manager, how most people use it is they put stuff in, and if they don’t have anything to do, they open it and look. For us the biggest focus is making it a product people can’t live without. If someone else completes a task, you want to know.

So it’s going to become social?
Maybe a little [laughs]. I wouldn’t say we’re going into a typical social product, but if there’s a feature that’s smartly integrated and is kind of social, you could say that.

We’re currently building a Wunderlist app for Windows 8 Metro. We won’t relaunch Wunderlist on every platform at the same time, because it’s too crazy, too much work. We will focus on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and the web. Windows Phone will follow, but not as part of the initial launch.

Have you been working with Microsoft on that?
Everyone knows Microsoft wants every developer to build product for their platform. My personal opinion about Metro – OK, we came from Windows development and went to Mac. If Microsoft does it right, they can definitely have a huge impact on the cross-platform market. The question is, are they doing it right? It’s HTML5 so it’s a good technology, it’s a good interface, but I have my concerns.

What concerns in particular?
It’s more about how Microsoft approaches this concept. You have to build two different apps, for the normal Windows platform and for Metro. We had huge problems creating our app for Windows 8 – we had to stop because we had problems doing it. The tech wasn’t ready.

At what point was that?
Four to five months ago. The problems are fixed now, but if you take a look at the [Metro] interface, not everyone will like it. If it was my project I’d stop it, tell the designers to think one more time about the interface, and find a solution that everyone loves. But we support it at least. Microsoft is smart – they have the right people to market it and launch it.

6wunderkinder has been around for a couple of years now. Are you finding the Berlin scene’s getting even more active these days?
I’m definitely seeing more companies evolving. A year ago I’d have said it’s amazing, et cetera, but right now the scene is realising it should maybe do less hype and focus on building serious businesses that make money and really are relevant globally. Hype is great but it’s not sustainable. The scene is doing a strategy shift in terms of professionalising. Many founders are hidden now, focusing on their businesses 24/7.

And in the long term, are you looking for an exit or IPO?
Every startup entrepreneur who doesn’t think a single time about an exit is probably naïve. But I’m definitely not thinking about an exit right now. IPO is the goal, definitely.

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  1. Thomas from Berlin Friday, June 29, 2012

    Talking about hype….comes Wunderkinder. Don’t know if they ever made a Dollar yet and this guy big mouth is all over the place. This guy has a serious attitude problem and should come to reality: he is not Steve Jobs! His campaign requesting to be received by senior politician in Berlin was plain ridiculous. Same for the copycat debate. Dude, the “less hype, more focus” you should start applying it to yourself! Seriously.

  2. I don’t think they can have more focus. This for a simple reason; its not that much more to focus on. It took them long time to release the Wunderkit app, and then they did, it was a complete flop. And still is. Apparently the rumor is that Niklas (skype) is not that happy and that the Wunderkit was suppose to have been release over one year prior to proper release. Now its called Beta. Its will unfortunately always be a Beta. The company needs a real CEO. Someone who knows how to fail graciously and if there is still energy to get up; At least have smartness to stay down if the market demands it. That is not the case. And never will be.

  3. @thomas +1

  4. Agree on @Thomas

    They hyped their small product (Wunderlist) because it was free and nice to look at.

    Then they tried Wunderkit. Really, we spent two weeks in the office trying to use it. But it had downtimes, bugs, security issues (outside people would see our private workspaces). No way we could use it for something serious.

    Then Christian showed some ego problems handling a refusal from the Berlin mayor.

    Honestly: Get Wunderkit up and running, get the bigs and the security issues solved and concentrate on your products functionality, not on the beauty of the wallpapers used, for gods sake.

    And concentrate on Wunderkit, because Wunderlist would be dead the moment you actually charge for it!

    There is still room for some “nice to look at” collaboration tool, get in there!

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