Hopes are High for 'Workplace Facebook'

PHOTO: The Facebook logo is displayed outside of Facebooks new headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Jan. 12, 2012.
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With more than a million downloads of its first app and a big investment from Skype's co-founder, 6Wunderkinder is already a significant player in the Berlin start-up scene. It now wants to establish itself as a major European company with the soon-to-be-released Wunderkit, a "Facebook for the workplace."

Thirteen years ago, a young boy with a knack for technology holed himself up in his parents' attic in a small town near Berlin to tinker with his mother's new computer. That was back in the days of QBasic and Delphi Pascal, programming languages whose zenith coincided with the rise of Microsoft DOS.

"I was the only one who used the computer, and I think I destroyed it every week," says Christian Reber, co-founder and CEO of 6Wunderkinder. "Each time, a guy from the IT department had to come by and repair it, but after a while I understood how everything worked and I could do it myself."

It wouldn't take long for a teenage Reber to outshine most of his high school computing class. He improved his geek cred by studying math and computer science at Berlin's Technical University. Fast forward to today and Reber finds himself at the helm of 6Wunderkinder, a fast-rising start-up based in the German capital where antiquated programming languages have been replaced by iPads, iPhones and cloud computing.

No Place Like Home Tucked away in a quiet corner of Berlin's central Mitte district, 6Wunderkinder earns its bread and butter developing smartphone and web-based productivity software. With the November 2010 release of "Wunderlist," a souped-up to-do list for smartphones and desktops, the company was quickly established as one of the better-known up-and-coming Berlin start-up firms. Reber claims the company broke the one-million user mark nearly twice as fast as geo-location app Foursquare and three times as fast a Twitter. Its next product, Wunderkit, is coming soon.

The name of the company is a nod to its six co-founders, including Reber, who are friends and all have roots in the region. Reber hails from Brandenburg an der Havel, a small town about an hour west of Berlin.

But 6Wunderkinder is no Brandenburg garage start-up. It is as international as the city around it. The 28 "wunderkids," as employees here are dubbed, hail from 12 different countries on four continents -- a diversity that Reber attributes to the city's soaring popularity worldwide. The office language is English, which is not unusual for the Berlin start-up scene.

"I think the big difference between all the other tech cities is that Berlin is really a city where people want to live," he says.

Reber attributes 6Wunderkinder's early success to the fact that, as he claims, it was the first in the world to create a full product with technology from the developing platform Appcelerator Titanium, which streamlines the process of making products compatible with various operating systems -- whether it be Windows, Android or Apple's iOS.

By allowing up to 90 percent of the code from the desktop app to be ported over to other device platforms, 6Wunderkinder was able to launch five new products within four months.

"If you're that fast, getting to a million users isn't that hard," Reber says. "But, honestly, we were surprised too." The app's international popularity has helped attract attention to the company from far outside Germany.

A Major Investment

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