Steven Sundheim – Founder of Grupthink

Sundheim earned a B.A. in Geography from the University of Montana in 1999, specializing in cartography and town planning. He earned the department Faculty Award, given to one senior each year.

After graduating, Sundheim was accepted into a graduate program in British Columbia. While his wife Heather was completing her undergraduate degree, he took a job as a web designer for a local company and discovered a passion for the work. Putting graduate school plans aside, he worked as a web designer and UI specialist for three internet companies based in Missoula, Chicago, and Minneapolis over the next two years.

In 2000, Sundheim co-founded a web hosting company called Modwest. From their Missoula, Montana offices and data center, Modwest employs 12 people and serves thousands of websites for customers in 43 countries.

In 2002 Sundheim launched a thriving online gaming community website called HitmanForum which draws thousands of visitors a day. He has since sold it.

In 2006 Sundheim and co-founder John Masterson started Grupthink, a new breed of discussion forum software. In 2007, Sundheim presented at MIT and was subsequently approached by innovation leaders from a leading packaged foods company to build a customized version of Grupthink. That pilot client uses Grupthink to host online focus groups and they have helped guide ongoing development of Grupthink Pro. Today Grupthink Pro is in use by numerous clients to create productive dialog between organizations, their employees, and their customers. In 2009 Grupthink Pro became available as a subscription service via

Sundheim lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife and two children.

What are you up to?

These days, everything I do is focused on launching Grupthink Pro (coming July-Aug 2009). Because we’re so small, I get to wear lots of hats, including user experience, project management, marketing, and business development. Yesterday, I was adding javascript functionality to one of the Grupthink forms, and today I’m planning our pre-launch marketing activities. It doesn’t get boring.

What are you into?

Aside from my professional work, which I’m really into, I love sports, video games, tinkering with music composition, and dragging my family into all of the above. As you may have noticed, only one of those things is a net benefit to my physical health. If I didn’t play soccer, I’d have the cardio of a newborn baby.

How do you get stuff done?

Here’s what I have open on my desktop right now: OpenOffice, Photoshop, Digsby (IM and social networking client), Putty (telnet/ssh), Thunderbird (email), Sunbird (calendar), and Google Chrome. I recently started using Highrise from 37signals to manage my list of contacts. I use Dreamweaver extensively, primarily as a code editor and FTP client.

Our office has an AFS file server that we can access securely from anywhere. That’s really made it easy to get work done while at home or on the move.

Who would find GrupthinkPro valuable?

Grupthink offers many of the benefits you would find in discussion forums, polls, and suggestion boxes, all in a single, lightweight web app. Anyone and any organization that wants to have more productive, free-form online discussions will find Grupthink valuable. Here are a few examples.

Our large corporate customer, whom I mentioned earlier, uses Grupthink to host private, online focus groups. These focus groups save thousands on every project and can target a much larger, more diverse panel than a physical focus group.

The Missoulian, the newspaper for the Missoula area, recently created their own online property at Speak Up Missoula This Grupthink-powered site keeps readers engaged and connected, while simultaneously building compelling, user-submitted content that will attract more visitors and page views.

At Modwest, we now have both a private internal group for our employees and a public customer community, both powered by Grupthink at It has really helped us prioritize development, but it also has been great to have more casual, fun interaction with customers, outside of support tickets and official correspondence. We’ve already saved money by listening to our employees and including them in business decisions.

What will it cost?

Plans will start at around $25/month and go up from there depending on optional features and add-ons.

It’s unusual for a web startup to be based in a place like Missoula, Montana. What’s it like there?

People tend to associate Montana with fly fishing and skiing – not high-tech industry. However, there’s more going on here than you might expect!

There would certainly be some big benefits to being located in a place like Silicon Valley. Being able to spontaneously have coffee with a potential partner, client, or peer would be very helpful from a business development perspective.

On the other hand, this college town in the Rocky Mountains offers a lot. Beyond the obvious outdoor amenities, we have had no trouble attracting talent. Just last year, I was able to coerce an ex-Apple Product Manager to join our team. (He had been doing consulting work for out-of-state startups and was looking for an interested local company to work with.) There’s an intangible quality to the culture and lifestyle here in Missoula that I love, and I think it’s a great place to raise a family. On top of that, it would be really, really hard for me to give up my 10-minute bicycle commute to work.





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