Founder Stories: Pavel Cheshev On Building TIMEFLIP
In today’s Founder Story, we feature Pavel Cheshev, the CEO and co-founder of TIMEFLIP!
Read on for lessons he has learned from launching and marketing his business.
1. Please introduce your business and share your role.
Hi! I am Pavel Cheshev – the CEO and co-founder of TIMEFLIP.
We produce a user-friendly time-tracking device to assist individuals in effectively managing their time and workload. Many people have tried to use a digital time-tracking app once in their lives, yet only a few continue to use them over time. The problem is that they feel unnatural and distractive and require significant effort from a user. As a result, they fail to form a good habit of time management for many.
We solve this with a smart connected device we call TIMEFLIP2. It is a physical tracker that offers a totally different user experience allowing great ease of use, immediate adoption, and accessibility for all. Our tangible device sits on your desk and records time with a simple flip.
With TIMEFLIP2 you can build your muscle memory to automate tracking and thus reduce distraction. The device comes in the shape of a dodecahedron with 12 sides that can be assigned to 12 different tasks or activities. It is powered by our proprietary mobile and web apps and integrates with third-party services like popular calendars.
Our target audience is virtually all people concerned about time usage, either because they bill it to their clients or they seek to be more productive, or both. In the first instance, these are knowledge industry professionals such as software developers, designers, marketers, consultants, educators, accountants, and lawyers. Very often these would be independent professionals or people working on remote or hybrid schedules that would need an easy, human-friendly solution to help them build a habit of accounting time, rather than having a controlling spyware.
With more and more jobs turning into fully remote or hybrid schedules and non-linear workdays we believe there is a strong growing demand for solutions like ours to democratize time tracking for most of the future professionals.
2. How did you prepare for, and go about your launch?
After a long thought, we declined the idea of a crowdfunding campaign, even though we were invited by Indiegogo. Not everybody is aware, but a successful crowdfunding campaign implies significant marketing investments and preparatory work to be done, as the platform seeks to avoid all possible risks of having a product unable to raise funds.
As we bootstrapped everything, such expenses, amounting to several dozens of thousands of dollars, were very sensible for us. Instead, we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign on our own landing page to collect pre-orders and thus test potential interest for the product. To do so, we announced a launch on Producthunt, that brought us the first significant amount of early adopters.
As soon as we developed the first prototype we flew to Las Vegas to make a demo at the CES Eureka space (for startups). Of course, we did our homework and contacted all the media coming to the show beforehand to invite them to our booth. That was very successful, we managed to hook a TechCrunch journalist and many others from startup media who wrote about TimeFlip and propelled our website traffic.
Needless to say, our early adopters enjoyed significant discounts for their TimeFlip pre-orders. Thus we basically managed to cover most of the development and production costs from the pre-order fees collected.
3. Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?
We do not use much advertising. The bulk of our sales still come from organic and referral traffic and we do work on our SEO. Dealspotr deal-sharing platform remains a great tool for our referrals. They and similar services are fantastic platforms and a “must-have” for any startup selling their own physical products online, in my opinion.
We also cooperate with online marketplaces and dropshipping platforms focused on smart innovative gadgets. Again, they work great on attracting target customers. We are very happy about our partnership with Robotshop on the North American market, they are fantastic!
Recently, we started a similar cooperation with NewTechStore in Europe and have more potential partners in our pipeline. To support our SEO, we engage in inbound marketing, such as creating a blog section on our website dedicated to productivity and remote work. We have observed a rise in our conversion rates since the implementation of our blog.
4. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?
We love what Toggl is doing in the productivity space, even if they are a purely digital solution. Great visuals and perfect delivery of the values for their customers. Do I really need to mention Apple? They are always top-notch, be it product design or marketing.
Ring is another great example of a hugely successful hardware startup brand. BostonDynamics videos are insane and scary but very impressive!
5. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?
SEMRush, Similarweb, Google Analytics, Facebook and Instagram, Youtube.
6. Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?
I am sure we do witness a major tectonic shift in the way we work. Especially after COVID-19, the world has never been the same. The work for so many of us is not a 5/7 schedule anymore. It is non-linear, flexible, and remote or hybrid. You have much more choice over when you work and from where you work, creating your own schedule. I love that.
It’s been demonstrated many times that a higher level of job control yields better productivity. I think this is the future we are going into and it creates a lot of opportunities but also challenges for solutions like TimeFlip. We don’t want to be just a neat time-tracking device and an analytical tool for time management. We want to educate and help people to make them work less while achieving more. This will be done by analyzing your work pattern and matching it with your physiological rhythms to structure your day.
7. Who or what inspires and motivates you?
I wouldn’t be surprised if Elon Musk is the #1 inspiration for all entrepreneurs. This man is a powerhouse, insane energy and a beautiful mind. I always had immense respect for Richard Branson (actually was happy to meet him once), and Kelly Johnson – if we speak about the past. Other than that, it is my family and my kids that inspire me and motivate me to push further whatever the circumstances.
8. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched?
Your customer is your #1 product evangelist and, therefore the best product marketer for you. I underestimated the importance of having a proper support function early on in the company. We invested all in development, but almost nothing in the user support. That backfired on us, especially in the early phase when the product still had many bugs and flaws. It is important to reply to your customers’ requests ASAP. Most of the early adopters would forgive some technical issues or agree to wait for product upgrades but they would not tolerate your support silence for 3 days.
9. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?
In my view, the startup culture is crucial. While it may not be fully crystallized, it emanates from the founders or core team and resonates with others through shared values. Our team embodies the mindset of a small, yet tenacious and liberal startup, which naturally appeals to corporate employees who may feel their work lacks impact.
Personally, I always had aversion to autocratic hierarchical systems where the most successful people are those who conform best to management, rather than the most talented ones. As such, I actively encourage and question my team members who are smarter than me or more skilled in their professional areas to express and defend their views, even in situations when we disagree.
Finally, our product is designed primarily for remote workers and independent contractors, just like our own team, who operate remotely from various countries and time zones. This necessitates placing greater trust in your team and offers employees a much higher level of job control.