Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Microsoft Buys German To-Do List Startup 6Wunderkinder (wsj.com)
293 points by abetaha on June 1, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 132 comments

Congrats to the Wunderlist team.

And oh crap, one of my favorite startup quotes was "Nobody got rich making a Todo list App." That is in danger of being falsified :-)

It is interesting to consider Microsoft's putative strategy here which is that the mobile "OS" is still searching for the right mix of capabilities to completely replace laptops.

> And oh crap, one of my favorite startup quotes was "Nobody got rich making a Todo list App." That is in danger of being falsified :-)

Ehh, Yahoo bought Astrid a while ago and closed it. The price wasn't announced, but I imagine they did well. My heart still pangs for the long-dead Astrid app, and I'm just that much less likely to use any Yahoo service because of that murder.

You may be interested in "Tasks", an open source replacement for Astrid. I don't believe it does everything Astrid did, but it has worked wonderfully for my needs.

https://github.com/tasks/tasks https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.tasks

Hey, neat! Sadly I'm on iOS these days so I've just gone to using todoist.

Thanks for the plug!

There is also http://mirakel.azapps.de/ , a fork of Astrid

I was upset when they killed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MyBlogLog ;-)

I was wondering what happened to them. WTF, Yahoo...

Yeah, I tried Wunderlist after Astrid shut down, and I much preferred Astrid. A damn shame it got shut down.

On the other hand I've been happy with Wunderlist after Astrid was shut down. It's pretty neat in maintaining daily lists/reminders and sharing lists with family/friends.

Tell that to DHH.

how is DHH related?

They're implying Basecamp is in the camp of To-Do List apps. Which is a little bit of a stretch, but that is a very core feature, so I get it.

I'm really interested to see what their plan is after also acquiring Sunrise recently. It seems like they're not actually changing these services much, and I'm fascinated to see how they actually integrate them with their businesses.

While not always the case, microsoft seems to be going down a rare acquisition path: actually integrating the acquired company into their offerings.

A case in point is Acompli. It was an android app that I absolutely love and after Microsoft acquired them, I was scared that they will discontinue the app but they simply rebranded the Acompli app as the Microsoft Outlook for Android app and only did minor tweaks to the application.

I wouldn't be surprise if they integrate all their recent acquisitions into a full PDA-suite of applications for your mobile.

This. The mobile equivalent of Office is not Office Mobile, but a combination of killer email, to-do and calendar apps. I really like Microsoft's direction under Nadella.

In outlook desktop, the navigation options are: Mail, Calendar, People, Tasks, Notes, Folders, Shortcuts.

They just bought a Mail, Calendar, and Tasks app. They have OneNote, and Folders and Shortcuts don't translate into apps. Looks like they still need a People app to manage contacts better.

Tell that to Asana.


1) Make Todo list App.

2) ???

3) Sell to Micro$oft!

One thing I don't see mentioned here that might be of interest to some people.

James Duncan Davidson had left SF to work in Berlin for Wunderlist a year or so ago, so is part of the team that was acquired.

For those not familiar with the name, he was quite famous for us working in Java land back in the day. He worked at SUN and created the first versions of Tomcat and Ant.

He was also an O'Reilly author, with books such as Learning Cocoa with Objective-C, Cocoa in a Nutshell (and also wrote the Agile Web Development with Rails book for the the Pragmatic Programmers editions).

He's also quite famous as a photographer (his other job), covering many O'Reilly conferences, Apple events, TED and such. Some very iconic tech related pictures from such events are his.

[EDIT] Another thing I don't see mentioned. This is not just a TODO list app. It's more of like MS buying their own "Slack".

I believe Chad Fowler of the Passionate Programmer is the CTO at Wunderlist as well.

If you're a user of DuckDuckGo, here's a quick way to get to the full-text of the WSJ article:

!gn "Microsoft Buys German To-Do List Startup 6Wunderkinder"

(!gn is the Google News !bang)

For everyone not using DDG, click trough here: https://news.google.com/news/search?q=%22Microsoft%20Buys%20...

If you Google the title of the article you can find the news source and click on the link without hitting paywalls.

The person who submitted the article still had some of the referrer links, mod=yahoo_hs&ref=yfp was at the end of the article's URL submission.

How do big companies make the initial approach? Do you get a phone call out of the blue from someone at Microsoft saying "We are interesting in acquiring you - how does x million sound?" (I know I've grossly over simplified!).

Recently went through this.

They first reach out for some kind of "we're looking to do something in this space and wanted to discuss working with you". Our first conversation was along the lines of "We're not sure whether we're going to build this, partner with someone or buy something. Keen to find out more about what you guys are doing and see if we can work together".

Next meeting it went to "We're clearly not going to build this ourselves, and it doesn't make sense to partner but let's talk about what it would look like if we acquired you. How do you think your tech/team would work inside our company".

Took maybe 6 meetings in total to get to a price though we probably could have forced that sooner.

What kind of details do they ask before giving an offer? Anything that might be considered proprietary or were they eager from the go?

We ran them through the front end of our product and how it works from top to tail, discussing why we made certain product decisions.

Almost everything they could have seen as a user of our app but a few things that were admin functions.

A bunch of it they could have used to build their own app but we figured that was pretty unlikely.

They asked for a few things we did disclose like: - team size / locations / education - revenue (we didn't need to disclose but we did)

They also asked for a few things we didn't disclose like: - cap table - how much we had raised - what our last valuation was.

We kept it on a need to know basis - the above is irrelevant to them pricing the company.

Were there any NDA put in place or did you just hope for the best?

I can't reply to your last comment for some reason but there was a mutual NDA in place.

I think they needed it more than us to be honest, they were effectively opening up their corporate roadmap to us for what is now a publicly traded company. We were talking to competitors of theirs who we could have shared this insight with which would have done more harm than them taking any of our IP.

Pretty much how it worked with Mojang. Notch joke-tweeted that he was ready to sell, and the Mojang CEO got a call from Microsoft within minutes.


Someone from big C(M&A division?) typically calls you and says "We would like to explore if it is possible to we can work together". As part of it, they may ask you to do a small project for them, asap (This is to test your speed of execution. I believe it happened in case of Google Docs). If they like it, they will ask for company financials/Growth numbers etc

Source: Reading many articles

From talking with the corp dev guys at my company it sounds like they (the corp dev guys) get pitched via email and make calls to companies they're interested in.

The apps that Microsoft has been buying recently are just incredibly top notch. Sunrise, Accompli, and now Wunderlist?!? Crazy good best-in-class products.

I have to disagree on best in class. Wunderlist was a pig on desktop, and they killed the desktop app entirely for Windows7. I far prefer todoist.

I also think Tempo is head and shoulders above Sunrise after spending significant time with both. I can't find the value in a calendar app that lacks the ability to dial a conference call number in 2015.

Unfortunately you'll only be able to use Tempo until June 30th. They've been acquired by Salesforce and are discontinuing Tempo (at least in its current form…)

They bought a tool called Equivio too, i work in the ediscovery/legal world and it was very rapidly becoming the industry standard. My understanding is Microsoft is going to integrate alot of the functionality into office/outlook, theres a lot of uncertainty as to what will replace it.

Maybe time to pick up some stock hah they seem to be making succesful purchases that make sense vs "diworsification"

Yea, Minecraft for sure was a top Notch ;)

Most startup apps are failures. Buying the ones that have already made it through that initial filter makes sense.

Microsoft backing Cyanogenmod, bringing Cortana to Android, and now acquiring productivity apps...

Looks like they are making a strong play to compete with Siri/Google Now which will be critical to the future of these big tech corps. Once AI gets better, everyone will want a 'smart assistant' helping them organize their day.

That will likely heavily influence which OS customers choose in the future as the data sensors need to sync across platforms to be really effective (desktop->mobile->watch->car etc).

I wonder if Microsoft allows third party Cortana-like personal assistants in Windows 10? Android is quite open in every aspect, something what Windows was always well known for.

As a Windows user with an iPhone I am very happy that they are bringing Cortana to iOS. I like unifying my environment, but I don't want to buy a new device to do that.

Given the shitty experience I've been having with OneCloud on OS X, or with Office on Android, I kind of doubt that the experience will be any good.

Do you actually use OneCloud on OSX and the mini office on Android?

I find OneCloud to be very smooth: I only have a 128GB SSD drive on my old MacBook Air and the selective sync lets me keep most of my videos, pictures, backups, etc. offline.

I don't use Office on the Android too much, but it seems OK enough.

BTW, I went with Office 365 as a price/cost decision. For $99/year my wife and I both get 1 TB of cloud storage, and if we want them the latest office suite. We both just use the web versions of the Office 365 apps on out MacBook Airs though.

EDIT: a bonus: the web based Office 365 apps are very useful on my Linux laptop - I stopped using Libre Office.

Yes, I went through a one mongth trial of Office 365 because the price seemed good and I really wanted to like it.

On OS X the OneDrive client had problems synchronizing my 80 GB archive - refused to synchronize files containing characters not accepted on Windows (like ":"), crashed several times and it was also saturating my network bandwidth. To make matters worse, OneDrive doesn't have basic functionality, like a log of what happened (files added, removed), let alone a 30 days version history. So I have to trust that their shitty client is doing the right thing.

The way I see it - yes, the Family pack is cost effective, but I'll never store 1 TB of my data on OneDrive without having logs, versioning and a client that does not suck for both OS X and Linux. I also think people get to be irrational about pricing - the price of 1 TB on Dropbox or Google Drive is as much as 2 Starbucks coffees.

On Android, Office wasn't available for my Nexus 6 (Android L) until 2 or 3 weeks ago when it was finally released. Gave it a try and it's too bare-bones, plus it had problems displaying documents from work. I expected it to work well as a viewer, but it doesn't.

I agree that it is annoying to occasionally have to remove special characters from file names. BTW, I also back up locally so a OneDrive error would be a real nuisance, but no real damage. I mainly like cloud storage for devices with small SSD drives, like my old MacBook Air.

I used to be a very happy Dropbox paying customer but I did not like their hiring of C. Rice to their board of directors.

edit: thanks for the good reply to my comment.

When they integrate it into OneNote, they can rename it OneDerlist. <ba-da-ching>

Wundernote for Microsoft Phone 10 for Business

Windows Mobile 10*

(Which is completely different than the old Windows Mobile brand, obviously)

Windows 10 Mobile

Windows 10 mobile

In case this news makes you feel like it's time to move on, here's a link describing how to delete your Wunderlist account: https://support.wunderlist.com/customer/portal/articles/1641...

Microsoft also bought Sunrise calendar recently, who a few weeks ago announced compatibility features with Wunderlist.

An interesting play from Microsoft. I wonder if it's one individual within the company who is pushing in this space. I also wonder if they will shutter both companies and integrate, or do what Facebook did with Instagram etc.

Microsoft rebranded Acompli, because they already had a strong brand in Outlook, but has left Sunrise alone, presumably because they don't have a strong calendar brand of their own (unless they just plan on making Sunrise into Outlook Calendar). I suspect that Wunderlist will either stay Wunderlist or become Outlook Tasks or somesuch.

For the record, 6Wunderkinder (Wunderlist) is one of the the poster boys of (over hyped?) Berlin as startup hub http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-best-tech-startups-in-germ....

Overhyped as compared to what, Silicon Valley?

Every startup hub is overhyped compared to Silicon Valley, but a $100-$200 million exit for a todo list app maker certainly makes it slightly less over-hyped.

$100-$200 million!?

I'm dumbfounded with this.

How many users did the app have?

Granted it's a more than a TODO list. But it looks like an exorbitant amount of money for it.

They have 10 million users, so it's fair price to pay I guess https://www.wunderlist.com/world-productivity-report/

That would put their sell price at $10-$20 per user. Is that going rate for something like that? I'm pretty out of the loop on SaaS business pricing. Seems high, to me, since the vast majority of their users are using the free version. Certainly their paid users are worth a lot more than that (at $5/month, they're worth a couple hundred bucks). And, I guess growth also needs to be factored in; if they're on track to have, say, 20 million users next year, then the price starts looking more and more reasonable.

So, yeah, I guess it's not that outrageous, even if it is "just" a todo list app (it's a pretty nice one, though; I use it and mostly really like it).

> They have 10 million users

10 Million active users? Or like me, installed it, abandoned it; like most todo apps.

Same here, I'm back to using a text file. I can access it from all my devices with DroidEdit. For todos, any UI is a distraction, but that's just me.

I imagine a good chunk of that value is being placed on the team they acquired. They're a proven mobile dev shop with a well recognized name in an "up and coming" Berlin startup scene, who already have a major success under their belts. I'm also sure a sizeable percentage of the amount isn't cash but options with 2-4 year vesting periods. edit: also often the team salaries over the course of that period are included in the amount.

$100 million is not a "buying it for the team" kind of price. This is a pretty small shop and you can hire a lot of top-notch developers for $100 million.

They've gotta be expecting some kind of value out of this. The theory that Microsoft is trying to buy their way into being relevant in the mobile market seems pretty sound, especially based on other announcements, investments and acquisitions they've made recently.

But, yeah, you're probably right about options being a big part of the price, but Microsoft options are still pretty valuable. Almost as good as real money.

I remember after their initial success with the free app they took investment, and were valued at about $50m (2010?). Then they tried to ship an enterprise product but it never got any traction. They refocused on the Wunderlist again.

There should really have to be a (paywall) warning added to the titles of posts like this.

Here's how you can get your data out of Wunderlist, in case you're thinking on migrating:


Wanderlust did recently release an API, looks like you can now access lists in a more formal way: http://developer.wunderlist.com/documentation/endpoints/list

Can we please stop posting paywalled content?


A happy medium might be to post a link to the Google search for the title. Clicking on the WSJ link from the result will bypass the paywall. Also I'm not necessarily trying to knock the poster or suggest spamming on the part of WSJ, but he or she has an awful lot of WSJ paywalled posts here [1].

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=abetaha

Looks an awful lot like spam to me.

I said a similar thing a few days ago, but was ridiculed for it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9625769

But now who's having the last laugh, EH?

I guess you are not using "Wait! Google Sent Me" chrome extension? (assuming you are using chrome)

Wunderlist is integral to our companies business processes and it was a fight to get everyone moved onto it, I can only hope Microsoft has a hands off approach to the app and continues to let them create a best in class application.

This is sadly the cost of using non open source technology. Once it sells to a larger company, the fate is uncertain and your data is locked in.

Everytime I run into the WSJ paywall I want to throw things. Yes it is easy to get around but no we shouldn't have to. Because advertising.

Anyway does anyone know approximately how many users this app had? Seems like a pretty rich valuation for a to-do list app.

If you're often running in to the WSJ paywall that means their content is often good, and they fund that content through subscriptions. Their competitors, who you're not running in to very often are not funded through subscriptions.

Maybe subscriptions lead to higher quality content?

> If you're often running in to the WSJ paywall that means their content is often good,

Doesn't follow. It does mean its often get linked in places that I read, but that doesn't mean its good.

> Their competitors, who you're not running in to very often

That was never stated and is an unreasonable assumption.

Just because one isn't running into competitors paywalls (because other sources often don't have such a thing) doesn't mean one is not running into the competitors far more often than the WSJ.

I'm assuming there is a filtering function occurring at HN which means that high quality sources are being linked to more often than low quality sources. I think that's a reasonable assumption, and is why WSJ is getting linked to a lot here.

It's also pretty reasonable to believe that they make more money from subscriptions than they would from advertising, and that they're more likely to be able to afford to produce high quality articles with more money than with less.

>Anyway does anyone know approximately how many users this app had?


Do you run Adblock?

They were bought for <2M while they received 24M in funding? Am I missing something?

There must be a typo in the article. Maybe it should be $100-$200 million?

EDIT: I just emailed the author and it was a mistake. I'm still seeing the old numbers on the site though.

Yup, this seems to align with earlier speculation - http://venturebeat.com/2015/05/21/microsoft-is-almost-certai...

By far my favorite To-Do List app. Microsoft purchased my favorite Calendar app a few months ago. What will be next?

They also bought Acompli and then released Outlook for iOS. They're on a roll.


"The idea is to get users hooked on great apps and services made by Microsoft, with the hope those people will eventually make the jump to Windows computers, phones, and tablets."

Good luck with that.

Dang, I really love Wunderlist. Hope MSFT only makes it better! I wish I could drop a list in it more easily. I use it as a shopping list.

When I started using Sunrise I saw all these things you could connect to it one of which was Todoist. I really love what Todoist has done for to-do lists. I am less of a fan of Wunderlist because it doesn't have quite the features of Todoist that I'm looking for and fear that they're going to be doing better integration with Wunderlist.

While I could understand buying Sunrise calendar for the userbase, this acquisition is surprising in that matter.

You got it wrong. This is for the userbase. Sunrise was for the team and functionality.

Honest question : I thought there are many ToDO list startups Why is this still an unsolved problem?

Because a 'todo list' isn't a problem, its a piece (but only a piece) of a solution to a variety of problems, which don't all have the same solution (even for any given user that has multiple of the problems that todo lists are a component of a solution for.)

Agreed. And it's why, even though it's another play in a crowded space, a friend and I built yet-another-to-do-app. I've tried loads of them, but go back to pen and paper every time.

However, for one subset of the to-do world (regular habits), I think an app can consistently help. I've been using our beta for a couple of months and have stuck with it. (Link in profile if you're interested.)

I think us pen-and-paper types might finally be swayed when AR/VR is stronger and we can interact with our to-do items quickly in a more organic way - moving them around, easily prioritising, associating sketches, etc.

I love Wunderlist especially because it works on my work Linux desktop, home Macbook, iPhone and what not.

I wonder what does this entail for users like me? Is MS going to leave the app as it is or is it going to be integrated into something else?

I use Wunderlist on daily basis, hope they will maintain its simplicity.

Likewise. I tried a lot of different todo list and organiser apps out over the years and finally Wunderlist was the one that really stuck.

I love it and recommend it frequently. Losing it would be a bummer.

On the flip-side: maybe they'll make a tile for my Microsoft Band now! :)

I actually really liked their user interface. I wonder if the app will continue to exist or if it's time to migrate...

I hope that MS treats these acquisitions seriously.

Sunrise is lagging a bit on the Mac dekstop - it still cannot connect to Exchange - and the mobile first craze is starting to look like desktop becoming a never reached second.

Desktop and mobile integration is where I believe success lies, and hope that Wunderlist (and Sunrise) continue to be universally usable.

Can anybody enlighten me on the technical difficulties of writing a todo list manager?

Adoption rates. Not everything is a technical problem.

More adoption => more sales => more money => more resources. So, frankly, I don't see the problem there.

Microsoft is quickly acquiring an impressive suite of apps.

I'm so happy for the guys at 6Wunderkinder! I have seen them struggle with Wunderkit, which was eventually dropped as a product. Time for payback!

I really liked this app. One of my fav. RIP Wunderlist.

"Cortana, tell me my wunderlist"

It would be nice if this results in the Pro features becoming free.

How would it be run as a sustainable business then? Sorry, but I really fail to understand how we can expect quality for free. Free means that it's either run as a hobby (you shouldn't make it part of your workflow as it might disappear one day) or run on ads (lower quality by implication).

Why not support your favourite apps by paying a little so the good folk can continue working on it!

Or option 3, be a goliath sized company (eg Microsoft) and run the app as a loss leader to consolidate/establish a position as a market leader in mobile.

That's actually the worst option for the consumer long-term.

The same way OneNote is free: as a loss-leader that hooks you into the Office ecosystem.

Okay. I'm migrating my Wunderlist lists to plain text now.

Congrats wunderkinder. You guys are awesome. gg ms.

How much revenue did they generate last year?

US based headquarters cannot transfer money from foreign sister companies back to US without paying tax, so they buy foreign companies.

Wunderlist seems like one of many todo list apps: https://www.wunderlist.com/

I feel like, if your goal is to get bought by Apple, Google or Microsoft (or a pharma company, for that matter), it would be wise to incorporate in a country where they can use their offshore cash to buy you. Maybe Americans can start getting in on it.

"Tax haven support as a service"

Germany is not a tax haven.

Taxing the repatriation of funds that have already been taxed (Eg: Apple sells a Mac in germany, it pays taxes on the profits in germany) is punitive and very rare for a country to do.

Most countries actually want money coming into the country from outside- and call it "foreign investment". This money tends to stimulate the economy and benefit everybody.

The USA is neandrathal in its taxation schemes. Leaving money outside the USA is not "evading" taxes, because no taxes were due (the local taxes were already paid). It's simply not enabling the federal governments' attempts to double dip.

Yes and no.

Yes, Germany is not a tax haven. However, US multinationals have been avoiding paying taxes in the EU. For example, those profits made in Germany are offset by purely fictitious charges from an entity in Luxembourg or Ireland, so no actual tax is due in Germany. The host countries of those entities negotiate special deals where they also pay essentially no taxes.

So there is no actual "double dipping", most of those profits haven't been taxed, they've been tax-avoided.






They call that "I-Banking" or "Investment Banking" where I come from.

Offtopic: Speaking about Microsoft, I just noticed a "Windows 10" advertisement in my Windows 7 taskbar next to the clock. Windows update silently installs and launches new applications (two executable) and one of them comes with enabled Telemetry. 23MB big ad-program is located in C:\Windows\System32\GWX\. Check your Windows 7/8 taskbar.

Source: http://venturebeat.com/2015/05/31/microsoft-starts-prompting...


@downvoters: even if it's offtopic, see at least the source

Also offtopic, but everybody really should be brushing twice a day, for a full 2 minutes each time. And flossing.

First floss, then brush. Spend 30 seconds in each quadrant and be sure to get the molars in the back. Don't brush immediately after drinking acidic things like soda.

Flossing is actually less important than most people think. It's far more important to thoroughly brush your teeth, to the extent that most of the time that people spend flossing would be better off used for brushing.

Flossing doesn't protect against caries, but can provide some benefits for gum health.

as a child, I was told that my teeth were fairly well protected against cavities on the open surfaces by cursory brushing, by virtue of my sealants- but that flossing was equally if not more important since those inter-tooth pockets were the only places where food could hang out, firmly pressed against the enamel.

There actually hadn't been much research done on it until relatively recently (and probably still not enough), so your dentist was just following the common knowledge of the time.

Here's a link: http://www.cochrane.org/CD008829/ORAL_flossing-to-reduce-gum...

I wouldn't really call it an "ad" in the revenue generating sense.

They are notifying you that you can get Windows 10 for free. This program lets you do that in a couple clicks and is very convenient.

"Offtopic" was a wee bit of an understatement there

If you're reading this post, and you work with Microsoft ... contact me.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact