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.
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.
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.