Why is Wunderlist Free?

Every so often I run a trial of a new task/project manager and see how well it flows into my daily needs. One of the most recently popular task managers is Wunderlist, a product of the Berlin-based development studio 6Wunderkinder. As a task manager, is it useable and pretty, but hardly efficient. It’s somewhere between Ta-Da List and Reminders.app, and really can’t touch something as extensive as Things or Omnifocus. But it is cross-platform, does exhibit cloud syncing, has custom backgrounds (who cares?), and is priced at $0.00. I’m sure the reason they have over 1 million users can be attributed to these very features. But how, and why, is Wunderlist free?

For supporting a growing team of 13 and hiring like crazy, Wunderkinder is likely sucking down VC or angel investments. But I wonder how this is paying off. How many times do companies that know how to successful run a business need to clarify? Wunderkinder, for being a perceptively clever and lean company, must have something to sell, right? There are currently no ads associated with any Wunderkinder app or the site, and I doubt they’re selling any kind of user information, so there must be a projected revenue stream somewhere down the road.

Recently, I received an email requesting an early beta sign-up for a new product they’ve been working on called Wunderkit. Perhaps since I only trial ran their task manager, I never got around to following development updates, so Wunderkit came as a surprise. After having read their announcement blog post, I was still miffed as to what exactly Wunderkit was, and how it fit into the Wunderlist ecosystem. Presumably, it’s some variation of project management, or even a re-imagining of it. From the few screenshots and conceptual previews, the product addresses various shortcomings found in Wunderlist (namely, recurring tasks), and expands upon the aesthetics and design found in the skimpier task management software.

So if Wunderkit is the studio’s answer to the current negative revenue stream, will it suffice? Can it render them monetarily successful? Wunderlist has been out for around a year. It arrived right when productivity software was hitting its peak — there are so many apps out there claiming to offer easy project and task management it’s utterly nutty. Is there room for one more, let alone one that isn’t free? After all, we can assume that’s one of the reasons Wunderlist has been so successful. But they’ll be up against monolithic titans of a completely different marketplace — Basecamp, Salesforce, Flow, etc.

Depending on the price point for Wunderkit (if there even is a price point), it’s going to require a lot of features and a significant number of upgraders/switchers to justify further software development, as well as to address the number of different platforms on which Wunderkit will presumably reside. Who knows, maybe they’ll redefine a market and register millions of paying users. Maybe I’m still vexed it’s taken Cultured Code years to implement their fucking cloud sync. Either way, I still don’t know how or why Wunderlist is free — but perhaps we’ll find out soon enough.