TimeChi’s origin story is similar to the beginnings of most good products: It was made to solve a specific problem. “I had been working at a coworking space, and I was spending way too much of my time there being interrupted — either by people tapping me on the shoulder, or because I was interrupting myself by going on Twitter, reddit, Facebook — things like that. And when I got the bill for my time in the coworking space, I realized how expensive it was for me to have spent much of that on Facebook,” says Sean Greenhalgh, CEO and founder of TimeChi. “Those were the most expensive Facebook sessions I’d ever had.”
So Greenhalgh decided to make a device that would help him focus during those long hours at the coworking space. He cobbled together a device that used proven timeboxing methods to cut back on distractions and cultivate deep focus. “I used a productivity method called the Pomodoro method, where you spend 25 minutes working and 5 minutes on a short break. It breaks your day into short chunks and then you get a little reward at the end of it,” Greenhalgh explains. “I had been working at a hardware startup at the time, so I made a hardware timer for my desk. It helped me a lot to keep focus — I supercharged the Pomodoro method. The device not only helped me keep time but also muted my phone and blocked me from going to websites.”
But pretty soon, his timer started attracting unexpected attention. Other people at the coworking space noticed it, and asked if he was planning to make more. It turns out Greenhalgh wasn’t the only person struggling to maintain focus. His startup decided to pivot to creating Greenhalgh’s design, and TimeChi was born.