12 Comments

Summary:

Sometimes one company’s failures can provide valuable lessons for other startups. That’s definitely the case with a major strategy shift from productivity upstart 6Wunderkinder, which we can reveal.

Wunderlist 2 logo

If you read my recent chat with 6Wunderkinder chief Christian Reber, you may have come away with the impression that the company was cooling on its new Wunderkit project management app.

You’d have been right. Reber has just revealed exclusively to GigaOM that Wunderkit will never make it out of beta, and will in fact be removed from the App Store when Wunderlist 2 – a serious revamp of the firm’s core task management service – comes out later this year.

“Once we have implemented options to export your data, we will shut it down completely,” Reber said.

It’s a pretty big shift, and one that could be interpreted as failure. But the reasoning behind the decision is more complex than that, and potentially quite instructive for other startups.

Numbers

In its six months of beta availability, Wunderkit has amassed around 400,000 users. Not to be sneezed at, but also significantly behind Wunderlist’s almost three million users – indeed, Wunderlist picked up a million of those customers during the same six months.

For 6Wunderkinder, Reber said, that was “not a success”. The company has around 35 employees (this will become relevant again in a moment) and supporting two vastly unequal platforms simply spelled trouble.

So who made the decision: Reber and his colleagues or 6Wunderkinder’s investors?

“We did it together,” Reber said. “Our team noticed it but we had trouble realising it. Our investors definitely gave us time to think about it – they believed in Wunderkit totally – and we all saw together that Wunderlist is the working product and Wunderkit has some problems.”

One of those problems seems to have been the lofty expectations for Wunderkit, which is after all a much more complex product than Wunderlist. While Wunderlist is available on a broad range of platforms, Wunderkit is only out there as a web app and an iPhone app. This limited adoption, but it also left 6Wunderkinder staring at a huge pile of further development if Wunderkit was to achieve the same platform spread.

However, Wunderkit had a more existential problem: many of its best bits are or will be found in Wunderlist.

“Our idea was to reinvent project management and we’ve basically noticed Wunderlist is a much simpler, much broader product,” Reber said.

Development

Wunderlist 2 is a completely rewritten sequel to the first iteration, which was built using Appcelerator Titanium. The original approach was largely responsible for Wunderlist’s cross-platform nature (Mac, Windows, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone) but, as is becoming increasingly evident, smartphone apps tend to benefit from going native.

Which is what’s happening with Wunderlist’s various versions. That’s where the size of the company comes in, and that’s where one of the key lessons of this episode can be found: limited resources need to be strategically targeted.

“We don’t want to scare our users. We don’t want them to think this company is in danger,” Reber said. “For us it’s really important everyone understands it’s a strategic decision to help our company focus and be successful in the long term and in the short term, and to make sure we can really deliver great products as we promise.”

And what can we expect from Wunderlist 2? After all, there have been no updates for eight months.

Stability, for one thing; Reber says it needs to be reliable for 10 million users. Also, a “dramatic” update every two months. And some paid options from early next year (an Evernote-esque freemium model that was originally going to underpin Wunderkit).

There’s apparently more, but 6Wunderkinder’s keeping a lid on that for the next couple of weeks.

Was Wunderkit a waste of time? A waste of money maybe, Reber says, but a worthwhile entrepreneurial lesson.

“It was very tough for everyone in the team,” he told me. “Everyone here today is proud we were able to ship that fast. And if I wouldn’t have had this experience, maybe I’d get it in two or six years’ time. It made me a better decision-maker.”

UPDATE: The company has now published its own blog post on the matter.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Ciarán O’Leary Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Respect to Christian and the whole 6W team for taking such a tough decision decisively & at the right time. Excited about WL2!

  2. Meanwhile just take a look at other native task management tools like Asana, Remember the Milk, Things, EISENHOWER or Any.do…

  3. Given the beautiful and highly useful products that have come out of 6Wunderkinder, I’m really excited to see what is coming with Wunderlist 2. I really appreciated many of the features of Wunderkit so I’m a little sad to see it go, but as a user of that and Wunderlist I have to admit I am happy that they have decided to focus, focus, focus. I would much rather have an amped up Wunderlist with more and better features at a regular pace. Congratulations to Christian Reber and the whole team for having the courage and decisiveness to make the right decision!

  4. Roberto Valerio Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Citing Christian: “We also started to see scaling issues and had some really unnecessary bugs”

    Well, we tried to use WunderKit at the company. First of all, private Workspaces were visible to others. A complete No-Go! Then we realized that a lot of really important features in terms of productivity were omitted to keep a clean and simple design.

    It’s basically the same reason why we stopped using BaseCamp’s new version as well. For the “beauty” of simplicity everything gets cut down. But it seems that no one at these startups seems to use the product on a hourly rate. These are supposed to be productivity tools, not screensavers.

    We opted for Asana. At that time it had a terrible iOS app. But on a desktop it was a productivity tool and it was rock solid. Now with the new iOS version they finally got it right.

    We had a last look at WunderKit and realized the performance and scaling issues as well. Good lord, with a team of 20 developers (citing Christian) you should probably have 2-3 good DevOps guys getting the infrastructure working :)

    I wish them all the best, but I do not see a €6 million funding and a team of 36 people necessary for rolling out a task manager.

  5. yes, bing on wl2!

  6. Christian Gerecke Thursday, September 6, 2012

    I use it every day and its the best for my needs.. I love it and cant wait to see the new wunderlist 2..

  7. Christian Gerecke Thursday, September 6, 2012

    i love wunderlist, its the best app for my needs.. cant wait to see the new wunderlist 2..

  8. I understand 6Wunderkiner’s commitment to their products, and agree that Wunderlist is their flagship product and needs the most attention, especially if Wunderkit isn’t meeting their expectations, but it’s still disappointing.

    If anyone has any good alternatives to Wunderkit, I’d love to hear them – I prefer it to the much simpler and more restrictive Wunderlist, so I’m looking for a new service to move to.

  9. I would recommend checking out http://www.Gtdagenda.com for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web version, and Android and iPhone apps.

  10. Wunderlist is okay, but I really like this new task management tool called ‘Taskup’. Very simple, Intuitive and is free for now!!

  11. Lifehacker just posted a review on a great alternative to people have used Wunderkit. It’s called Kona.com and it’s free, no start-up time and also has an app for iOS and Android. If you’re looking for a new “home”, you should check them out. http://www.kona.com

    Lifehacker article: http://lifehacker.com/5944124/kona-is-a-workspace+based-to+do-manager-ideal-for-groups-and-people-with-multiple-projects?tag=productivity

  12. I was using the original Wunderlist with Bitrix24.com – it’s a killer combo. Let’s see what Christian rolls out.

Comments have been disabled for this post