2015: Press a button for focus







May 4, 2022

This is the fifth article in a series about Saent cofounder Tim's personal productivity journey and the history of Saent. The previous article was 2014: Timeboxing + distraction blocking + gamification.

I wanted to crowdfund the S.A.N.T.T. software, but doing so for apps was rare at the time. A friend suggested a physical button to control the software—hit it to end distractions and start a focus session.

I liked his idea, and it made a crowdfunding campaign possible. I also found research that physical cues—in our environment—are more effective at supporting behavior change than digital ones. (In The Organized Mind.)

There was just one issue with this whole button plan: I can barely change a light bulb and didn't know anyone in product design or manufacturing.

I started throwing out my idea at social gatherings anyway and met Russell Haines, a New Zealand native living in Beijing. He was the former Chief Product Designer at Lenovo—the Chinese company that bought IBM's hardware division—and now had his own studio for branding and product design. He was perfect for making the button happen.

We teamed up, and Russell's first contribution was suggesting a name change: why not "Saent" (pronounced "saint") instead of that awkward acronym, S.A.N.T.T.? ✅ We changed the name and set off.

My agreement with Russell said that if we raised investment in the first one or two years, he would get shares in Saent. We ended up doing so in the first one or two months, and we've been business partners ever since.

We attracted angel funding (USD100K) with some early button mock-ups and then raised another USD65k from ~1,500 backers with a crowdfunding campaign.

By the end of the year, we had customers and stories in Newsweek, Quartz, Mashable, FastCompany, and many other major media. We started manufacturing our buttons in Shenzhen (China), were developing the Saent software in Ho Chi Minh City, and had several people involved across the globe for P.R. and growth marketing. 🚀

Read next 👉️ 2016: The productivity company