Getting to know Wunderlist, Microsoft's most recent acquisition

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Getting to know Wunderlist, Microsoft's most recent acquisition

Yesterday, Microsoft made their acquisition of 6Wunderkinder official, adding another hugely popular cross platform app to their repertoire.

The story of 6Wunderkinder and the growth of its app Wunderlist helps make the argument that this was a smart decision by Microsoft to acquire the Berlin based startup. Early investor in 6Wunderkinder Frank Thelen today posted on his blog a quick history of the company’s development that speaks highly of not just the software they create but the leadership Christian Reber, Founder and CEO.

According to Thelen’s post, Christian started with early designs of a project management software “that solved many of the existing problems with other products” by being web based and beautifully designed with simplicity in mind. Thelen describes how after developing a prototype, it wasn’t long before big tech blogs started admiring Wunderlist’s approach to managing to do lists thanks to Christian’s co-founder Rober sending out a emails. He then notes that early on Lifehacker created a video praising the app for its design and simplicity.

As Thelen describes the story, this led to more funding, and furthering the development of 6Wunderkinder’s Wunderkit and Wunderlist software, but times were not always easy.

“Months later, in February 2012, Wunderkit finally launched as a full-blown project management platform that even allowed 3rd-parties to build Wunderkit Apps. I truly believe the design and architecture Christian and his team delivered was outstanding. It received a lot of attention and grew very quickly. But it didn’t work. It was too complex. Too much interface, too many features, and an unclear product focus. The team tried hard to optimize the product, but everyone knew we were in trouble, Wunderkit just wasn’t working.”

 Thelen then describes how Christian had to make the difficult decision to refocus the company’s efforts on Wunderlist.

“I have big respect for the way he communicated and executed this dramatic shift with his team, management and investors. The blog post received close to 1,000 comments, which reflects how challenging this decision was:

But Wunderlist showed great KPIs from the very beginning and it was the right thing to do: focus on the “smaller”, yet incredibly popular product and deliver excellence!”

In the concluding section of his post, Thelen does address the question of why would Christian and his investors would agree to an offer from Microsoft when his dream “always was to build a massive company that lasts… He talked about hiring thousands of engineers, building multiple products – and a universe of Wunder-products.”

Getting to know Wunderlist, Microsoft's most recent acquisition

Thelen says the answer simply put is “because it’s a mind-blowing opportunity.” And the reason it is such a mind blowing opportunity for the German startup is:

“Wunderlist will be a part of Microsoft, which is transforming into the leading, platform independent productivity hub. If you think about it, it could become the global layer for reminders and tasks for Windows and Office. Wunderlist will last, and will get even stronger (and much much faster than it could have been without this deal).”

Thelen’s post focuses on encouraging startups with 6Wunderkinder’s story in more detail than quoted here, but the success of Wunderlist’s development and the vision of its leadership does help further show why Microsoft would want to purchase the makers of the popular app.

And Wunderlist is poised to become a very powerful app in Microsoft’s ecosystem as earlier in May 6Wunderkinder opened their APIs to encourage integration with other developers. Some of those announced early on were Sunrise (another recent Microsoft acquisition) and OneNote, and also Slack, HipChat, Zapier, and Scanbot.

Time will tell how Wunderlist fits into Microsoft’s other services. If it could be a “global layer for reminders and tasks for Windows and Office” as Thelen hypothesizes, or if the team at 6Wunderkinder will be developing the app as a more separate yet parallel task management platform than the one available through Office 365’s current offering of apps. Either way it definitely seems Wunderlist, and acquisitions like it, have an important role to play in Microsoft’s path forward.