Taking Over the Timetracking Space with Innovation: Interview with Pavel Chesev, Co-Founder of TimeFlip

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Many of us switch between using time tracking apps in the corporate and entrepreneurial world, and I’m sure you can relate to none of them ever quite seeming to stick when you want to be consistent in using them… especially when you have a large team. 

And that’s where Pavel Chesev, Co-Founder of TimeFlip, comes in.

He saw the need for a tangible device that would make timetracking uniform and straightforward to manage, and in doing so found a way to leverage organic marketing, crowdfunding and targeted media to take that tool demand and expand it into a 6 to 7-figure software company.

This interview goes to show that occasionally, the most innovative startup ideas come from the need to fill a simple but important gap, and with a small stroke of genius, some clever research, and a strong marketing plan, you can make your business idea thrive.

Allow me to introduce Pavel Chesev…

So, who are you and what’s your business?

Hi! My name is Pavel Cheshev and I am the CEO and co-founder of TimeFlip startup. We are developing a user-friendly device that assists individuals in effectively managing their time and workload. While many people have experimented with digital time-tracking apps, only a small percentage continue to use them over time. This is mostly because they don’t feel natural, distractive and fail in forming the right habit.

We solve this with a smart connected device called TIMEFLIP2. With a physical tracker, we offer a totally different user experience that results in a much-improved ease of use and quick adoption. Our smart time tracking dice sits on your desk and records time with a simple flip. It therefore helps you train your muscle memory and removes any visual distraction from the tracking process.

What is your backstory and what inspired you to come up with / pursue this idea?

I was involved in a small hardware startup fab lab, where we ideated things like small smart home controls and appliances and wearable electronics. During our brainstorming we would often ideate about various areas of life where we could apply hardware. We were and are big fans of the enchanted objects concept formulated by David Rose from the MIT. This is about making digital apps more natural and user-friendly through a physical interface which is more natural for all of us. One such area that was not really covered was time management. I myself and my other colleagues from the fab lab, as well as our partners and subcontractors, were using various time tracking apps to account time either for internal needs or to bill it to a client. We realized there was no generally accepted popular solution for that. So our thinking was that a physical device can democratize time tracking, making it easy and accessible for all.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product or service- what was that like?

We prototyped the chip pretty fast, as we have experienced and talented hardware engineers in the team. We wanted our device to be energy efficient and last long on a battery so there was no question about using low energy Bluetooth 4.0+ protocol for connection, instead of wifi, for example. Our first version was actually powered with a CR2032 tablet battery, and lasted about half a year on it. The casing/shell was more tricky. We self-funded (bootstrapped) all the development so we had only a very small margin for trial and error.

Development and production of a press mold for a plastic casing needed an investment of a few dozen USD, but we were not yet completely sure about the demand. So our idea was to offer two options for the initial product version: 1) a cardboard case that a user could fold him/herself from a cutout that we provided and insert our chip into 2) purchase just a naked chip and 3D print plastic casing for it using 3D models we provided. That not only allowed us to save on development costs and launch the product quickly, but also to test customer demand for different product shapes as we offered 3 versions with either 6, 8 or 12 sides. So it was pretty much a lean approach for a hardware startup. In fact, we very soon learned that the 12-sided device appeared to be the most popular. We’d been selling the cardboard “craft” version of TIMEFLIP for about half a year before accumulating enough funds to produce a press mold and offer a plastic casing version.

Describe launching the company… Where did you start?

We started by collecting and recording interest of early adopters on our landing page. We thought of a crowdfunding campaign and talked with Indiegogo about it, however one needs to know that modern day crowdfunding requires significant marketing investments first.

Typically, we talked about something between 20-30% of the total funds raised for a successful campaign. That would mean initial investment of at least 30K USD for us, plus the mailing list with a few thousand early adopters. As we were short of money, we decided to spend it on development and run a campaign on our own website, raising awareness in other media channels. After the landing page was ready, the first thing to do was to announce a launch on Producthunt.

I did that by scouting for a proper Hunter on Twitter to help us. The Producthunt launch was the first major kick for us. The second was our participation in the CES Las Vegas Eureka park (the startup space). We did our homework and went through the list of the media representatives at the show, inviting them to our booth. That was a success as we managed to attract TechCrunch and few minor startup media channels that all published content about TimeFlip eventually. This was a huge promotion and helped us propel the initial sales and further acknowledgment by other startup and tech resources.

What has worked to attract & retain customers so far?

TimeFlip being mentioned in startup/tech media online and out TV appearances worked perfectly to grow organic traffic on our website. We never did much paid advertising and now pretty much entirely rely on referral and organic traffic through CEO optimization. To support that, we engage in inbound marketing activities, such as creating a blog section on our website dedicated to all things related to productivity, time management and remote work. This helps to enhance credibility and attract a more targeted audience. Dealspotr deal sharing platform proved a great tool for our referrals. Them and similar services are fantastic platforms and a “must have” for any startup selling their own tangible products online, in my opinion.

We also cooperate with online marketplaces and dropshipping platforms focused on smart innovative gadgets. Our partnership with Robotshop on the North American market works great for attracting target customers. Recently, we started a similar cooperation with NewTechStore in Europe and have more potential partners in our pipeline.

What books, podcasts, or people have been the most influential on your journey?

  • The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank
  • The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
  • The Brain by David Eagleman
  • Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson

How are things going today and what does the future look like?

We are enjoying steady organic growth. Not an explosive one, but on the other side we are not venture-backed and still maintain ownership of the company so this is fine.

We are 70% ready with a large update of our software and have a roadmap for future development of the product which includes a number of integrations requested by our users, and also are building an educating and supporting tool for each individual user rather than a controlling tool for the management. Our goal is to help you structure your work pattern in the most optimal way so you accomplish the same amount of work while actually working less and having more time left for a balanced life.

Any advice for others who are just starting out?

It is simple: start it! Or “Screw It, Let’s Do It” as Richard Branson has put it once. It’s definitely better to try and fail than not giving it a try at all. For sure, there will be moments when you feel like you cannot handle it anymore, but trust me, this will pass.

In the same time an entrepreneur shall combine courage and resilience with analytical skills and ability to plan. The first thing you need to understand and verify if you have a demand for your product. The Mom test book is fantastic account on the topic that I suggest to read.

What’s the best way for people to connect and follow you? Website, Social Profiles, Etc…

Website: https://timeflip.io

Email: info@timeflip.io

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/timeflip2

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/timeflip

And check out our YouTube channel to learn more about the device: https://www.youtube.com/@timeflip

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