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How TimeChi Got Their Technology Arrow Certified, Built a Community, and Raised Over $200K

Company Name

TimeChi

Headquarters

New South Wales, Australia

Industry

Productivity

Hardware Expertise

Powered by the Arrow Certification Program

In a world full of distractions, focusing on work seems like it’s becoming harder and harder. The makers of TimeChi wanted to change that by creating a productivity companion -- a FitBit for focus. And with help from the Arrow Certification Program, they were able to get the guidance they needed to mass manufacture their product.

Building a Device that Cuts Out Distractions

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. 

We should have joined the Arrow Certification Program earlier. All the time we spent searching high and low for the answer to something -- we could have instead been consulting with Arrow from the beginning.
Sean Greenhalgh
CEO, TimeChi
Using Arrow Expertise For Mass Manufacturing

Greenhalgh and his team were sourcing components from Arrow long before they started crowdfunding. In fact, they decided to crowdfund on Indiegogo specifically so they could be part of the Arrow Certification Program

 

“We were already considering crowdfunding, and when we found out that Arrow was doing a partnership with Indiegogo, we thought, ‘Hey, let’s jump on this,’” recalls Greenhalgh. “We were mostly software engineers, and not a lot of us knew about hardware. We needed advice.”

 

They submitted a form to Arrow on Indiegogo’s website, and had a discovery call with an Entrepreneur Success Coordinator at Arrow. They were then assigned a contact at Arrow who would guide them along the way. “When we joined the Arrow Certification Program, we were passed to someone in a more appropriate time zone — I’m based in Hong Kong at the moment. When we first got in touch, they reviewed our Bill of Materials (BOM), and our diagrams, and talked through the project with us,” says Greenhalgh.

 

“We should have joined the Arrow Certification Program earlier,” says Greenhalgh. “All the time we spent searching high and low for the answer to something — we could have instead been consulting with Arrow from the beginning.”

Sourcing Components with Arrow

“Before we got in touch with Arrow, we chose what should have been a minor component for our product: a power regulator. It turns a 5 volt usb into 3.3 volts. Because at the time we weren’t working with Arrow and we were choosing our own components, we chose one that was end of life. Which means that when we went for our second beta production run, we had to search high and low to be able to get the part. It was an absolute pain in the neck, and that was just to get 50 or 60 units together. Let alone our mass manufacturing run, when we had over 2,000 units to fulfill,” laments Greenhalgh. 

 

“I wish we’d been in touch with the Arrow Certification Program when we first started out, because Arrow would have pointed out that it was end-of-life. They would have told us we might face problems later on, which we did,” says Greenhalgh. “We learned the hard way two scary new terms for individual components: ‘not recommended for new designs’ and ‘end of life.’”

 

“It’s good to find expertise in manufacturing,” he adds. “If you think you can make one, you can make ten. But the moment you go into making 100 units of something, it suddenly changes in scale in what you need to do and look out for. And then when you go to 1000 and then 10,000, it changes again. There are so many different steps you go through.”

 

“This is all stuff I learned along the way and it’s really daunting. It’s quite surprising how complicated things become when you add more numbers.”

 

The campaign soon received Arrow Certified Technology, which indicates to Indiegogo backers that TimeChi’s design was deemed feasible for manufacturing. “The Arrow Certification tells people that someone else has reviewed this project and certified that this project has the legs for mass manufacture. They’ve sorted out the design. They’ve sorted out the materials,” says Greenhalgh. 

Building a Community That Will Last Beyond the Campaign

When it came time for the TimeChi team to raise funds, they were excited to use crowdfunding. “Crowdfunding is the de facto and best way to get to market,” says Greenhalgh. “If you’re making a physical product, you have a lot of overhead costs. Getting the tooling ready, all of your trips to your mass manufacturer. It’s money that you need to have up front and spending it is one of the biggest risks you can take.”

 

“You want to see demand before you spend money to get something manufactured. The worst situation to be in is spending $20,000 to manufacture a product that no one ends up buying,” says Greenhalgh.

 

But with crowdfunding, you can simultaneously gauge interest in your product and raise funds to create it. “What Indiegogo lets you do is test the market to find out demand. You can also do some marketing and get money that you can use to fulfill your orders,” says Greenhalgh. “And then if you’re going to continue going to market, like we are, you’ve already de-risked your product.”

 

TimeChi’s success was helped by the team’s investment in community. “The single biggest success story was the community we created – the TimeChi VIPs group. We managed to find a lot of like-minded individuals. I love the group to bits,” says Greenhalgh. The group has over 2,000 members, and the TimeChi campaign has over 2,000 backers — something that Greenhalgh finds amazing. 

Getting Feedback from Enthusiastic Backers

“When you’re working on your own startup, you can’t see the forest through the trees. Having a community helps you focus on how other people will use the product. It becomes a place where you can ask a question. Your backers actually get heard, but on the other side of things, coming up with ideas is difficult. You can get other people to tell you what to make. It’s good for them and it’s good for you.”

 

“People were giving us feedback on what features they wanted in the product. Our biggest request was, ‘We want to see a matte black edition!’” says Greenhalgh. “So we made that our stretch goal, and we were able to meet it, which means that the limited edition matte black edition is something we’ll be able to make for our Indiegogo backers.

 

TimeChi’s community is what Greenhalgh believes will lead to the company’s long-term success. “It’s a beautiful thing to see people converse and share ideas, not just about your product but how it can be used. And, in the case of our product, they’re talking about how they use their time,” says Greenhalgh. 

 

Adds Greenhalgh, “Don’t get me wrong — getting the funding is great. But it’s only the start of a long journey. Community is really the heart of it. After your campaign ends, it’s what you build everything else on.” 

 

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