Startup Stories : The “wunderlist” you never heard of, probably!!
A young CEO rushed into his board meeting.
As he excitedly began explaining a new product feature, a board member pretended to fall asleep.
Mortified, he made a key decision right then and there. Microsoft later bought his company for ~$150M!!!
Here’s how that meeting went….
In 2005, an 18 year old Christian Reber moved to Berlin with no plans to start a company, but ended up doing exactly just that. YouTube had just started gaining popularity, but Christian couldn’t help feeling that it was missing something.
Music was one of the hottest video categories.
“Why isn’t there an online music player that curates music and the top charts?” YouTube didn’t have playlists, so Christian used his software engineering background, coupled with the YouTube API, to build it himself. Immediately, his YouTube playlists product went super viral. 200,000 users in just a month. But Christian didn’t see a path forward to building a whole company off this small experiment, and instead quickly sold the project to an investor.
With the newfound cash, Christian started an agency and began working with top brands and companies, building websites and products. Across all the various projects he worked on, with companies big and small, his product intuition grew stronger and stronger. After 3 years of agency life, Christian wanted to return to his roots – Software.
SaaS was the new buzzword in town.
Evaluating the whitespace market, Christian formed another question: Why isn’t there a next-gen product management tool that fits the way teams work today?
He felt this problem acutely in his agency life, and could see this becoming a core painpoint as teams continued to become more reliant on technology.
Around this time, he got some sage advice: “Build an appetizer”
Building an entire project management suite would be hard. A small teaser would give users a taste of whats to come and build his credibility. Over the next 6 weeks, Christian and two engineers coded nonstop. They emerged with Wunderlist.
Wunderlist – Task management Startup
Early traction helped Wunderlist quickly attract investors, and eventually Christian found himself reporting to a board. At one board meeting in particularly, Christian planned to discuss something he’d been mulling over for quite some time. Realtime synchronization.
Realtime synchronization allowed a user to see their lists and tasks in realtime, while someone else was also using and updating the tool. Christian believed this was the future of all team-based productivity apps.
He entered his next board meeting, eager to share.
As Christian began explaining, one board member stood up from his chair, laid down on the ground, and theatrically pretended to fall asleep. Mortified, Christian walked over and asked him if he was okay.
“No I’m not, because of you!”
“What you’re selling here is absolute nonsense. It’s like promoting breathing air to humans, it makes no sense”
Christian was devastated.
The board room’s excitement and energy evaporated. But Christian couldn’t shake his gut-sense. His intuition told him that this feature would change productivity apps forever. Never one to rely heavily on data, he tried appeasing the dramatic board member, but to no avail. Ultimately, he decided he didn’t need their approval. He was going to build it anyways.
Wunderlist’s next release, featuring realtime synchronization, was their biggest ever. It became a smash hit and attracted the eyes of Microsoft. Microsoft eventually bought the Wunderlist for between $100M-200M.
The main reason?
The realtime synchronization tech.
Gut feeling, intutition are some of the greatest characteristics a leader can have – be it for an organization as an employee or as an entrepreneur. While some people have in-born capabilities , other fine-tune their capabilities through experience, rigorous learning and by gaining insights wherever possible!!