If this blog is to open a window into our company, getting to know Wunder ought to start with Why. The business end of the 5Ws. The mother of narrative. Feld-approved path to understanding. Hunter’s favorite question. Cause célèbre of annoyingly good TED Talk on brand. Dreaded rhetorical weapon of inquisitive kids everywhere. The big question. Why this, and not that?
Breaking from the approved startup narrative, Wunder actually had a team before we had a concept, even a market. We were friends with uniquely complementary skills, similar values on how to build a company, and ready for a new adventure. That’s it. So perhaps more than some founding teams, we thought about and debated Why in generalities. We circled around and waded through opportunities and their dynamics: capital efficiency, market conditions, intensity of competition, personal development, strength of purpose, funding activity, etc. We settled, however, on only three filters...
1. Go after one of humanity’s great problems
At the root, there are too many big problems in the world (and life is too short!) to spend your time working on anything else. In case you’re thinking us high-horsed, we’ve collectively spent many years in ad tech. This big problem prism turns out to be a tough and tricky idea to ignore or refute however, once you’ve started thinking it through.
Importantly, we also submit that being a purpose-driven company delivers real advantages. As we weighed concepts, we kept circling back to the extraordinary drive and passion necessary to put and keep a startup on a successful trajectory — not only in the founders but in dozens, hundreds, hopefully thousands of team members. We suggest that authentically delivering the chance to have a real impact on a big problem provides an unfair advantage in hiring, marketing, and morale. When punching above your weight class to build a top-notch early team on below market pay, I want to be a purpose-driven company. When more and more marketing churns on social endorsement and compelling narrative, I want to be a purpose-driven company. When things are rough and the team needs to pull together, I want to be a purpose-driven company.
We see purpose and profit reinforcing, not countervailing, each other.
2. Enter a huge, sleepy market undergoing seismic change
As fans of startup history, it’s hard not to notice that the results of a startup’s early positioning matter far less than the market the company is continuously getting smarter about. We sought out economically-core industries with an incumbent business model in the early stages of real deal existential attack. Bonus points for being…
- Under-penetrated by software
- Profit rich
- Conservative (risk-wise)
In short, we set out to find the friendliest environment for a software startup to grow, not to identify the most clever concept.
3. Be the right team for a real need
We targeted problem areas with a low volume of startups given size and opportunity. We’ve each seen hot spaces saturated with talent and private capital, while real needs in large markets go under-met and unexplored. We are also, like Thiel, not fans of competition. We sought a dramatically underserved problem in an unsexy market. Bonus points for problems that utilize our strengths, networks, and backgrounds.
These are the Whys of Wunder. They served as our guideposts to solar finance. How and why each principle is true of Wunder, I’ll leave for another post. Until then, consider your Why.
-- Bryan Birsic, CEO, Wunder