I’m launching a consumer technology business called Habits.
I previously launched two businesses: Mäd and Blue.
Mäd is a digital transformation consultancy. When I was 25, I began this venture. It was a roller coaster ride with highs and lows. Now, it is a stable, profitable business. I no longer consider it a startup.
Blue is a Business-to-Business Software-as-a-Service company. They offer project management software and have over 6,000 customers in 120 countries.
My idea is to take the learnings from the last ten years and apply them to a new business.
So what is going to be different about Habits? Well, for starters, it’s going to have a ridiculously minimalist interface with extremely fast data entry, and everything that you can do will be able to do via the keyboard without even using your mouse.
I also hope to take the 100ms rule to heart and make as many interactions with the platform to be near instantaneous.
There will also be data, lots and lots of data. Tracking habits in Habits gives you the ability to analyze trends and understand if they are going in the right direction. I’m interested in seeing the correlation and potential causation between habits, and providing a daily score. Doing this allows you to view your life over the years based on your habits.
Certain months or weeks can be categorized as habit-wise good or bad. You can mark major life events on this timeline and comprehend how they influence each other.
I also plan to run it on Python. This is not potentially different from other habit tracker apps. I have no idea what technology they use, but it is different for me because it’s not a technology that I have used. But I’m very interested in learning Python, which I’m doing now, because it’s beneficial for AI and machine learning.
I don’t intend to code it myself, but I’d like to contribute something occasionally. That’s why I’m cultivating habits. I’ve tried many applications on the web and my iPhone, but I didn’t like them.
Many suffered from a confusing interface and a preoccupation with streaks, which is not good for mental health. I won’t go into detail here as I’ve already written about it.
Streaks can be stressful, requiring us to do something every day. Instead, we should focus on averages over a more extended period. I’m also excited to experience building a consumer app, as I’ve only ever worked on B2B professional services and software. It will be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.
And also because I believe that I am my own customer, which is always great, because you should be trying to build things where you are doing that concept of dogfooding and building for yourself. I plan to create something I would use every day. I trust that in a world of 8 billion people, many others will want to do the same. I have no idea how we would actually then reach those, but I guess we’ll start with friends, family and acquaintances.
Starting Habits is an excellent way for me to learn Python. I would love to code this up by myself, but I’m a beginner in Python, and I don’t have enough time. Moreover, the data side of this project will be quite demanding.
I’m doing this because it scares me a bit. I encountered resistance, as Stephen Pressfield would say. I thought of this idea, but my brain threw up lots of reasons why I shouldn’t. I have two businesses, I’m studying for a Master’s in AI and criminal law, and I’m already busy. The market is also crowded with habit trackers. Plus, I know nothing about building consumer technology or marketing to consumers.
I have adopted a new philosophy of continuously pushing myself to confront and overcome the things that scare me, and I am excited to see where this will take me. I am embracing opportunities that may initially appear unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Studying the biographies of renowned individuals, it became evident that they utilized a particular strategy, Alexander the Great being a prime example of this. He was renowned for tackling difficult situations head-on and his approach was often psychological in nature, often simply stating “because I am Alexander” as a means of motivation.
And finally, the other reason I’m doing this is that after analyzing it, I don’t think I can fail. I can fail like usual. I try to create something, but it fails and I have to close it down. But overall, I wouldn’t even consider that a failure.
The worst case is that I lose a bit of money, I lose some time.
I am passionate about exploring the science behind habit formation, maintenance, and development. This opportunity will provide me with an in-depth understanding of the subject matter, which I believe will help me to cultivate and sustain my own habits.
I recognize the competitive nature of this field; however, my aim is not to achieve astronomical success. Instead, my goal is to create a sustainable business that provides a valuable service to customers and is financially viable.
I think one of the critical things for a habit tracker to have is that it has to understand that there are numerous different types of methodologies for tracking habits. And really, that depends on what insights you want to draw from the data you collect and how much data the user is willing to provide.
Different habits can be used with various methodology and really that depends on the user preference. If you want to meditate, tracking the length of each session is beneficial. You can count the cumulative minutes of meditation you have done each year and month. This allows you to compare your meditation progress over time.
Some users want to mark that they meditated that day, without tracking the exact minutes. That’s okay too. You will get fewer insights, but that doesn’t matter.
Regarding funding this company, I’m considering whether to fully fund this myself or to potentially take a series of angel investments. I haven’t done this before, so it feels like putting myself out there somewhat, but I generally think if you take angel investments, you don’t have to follow a venture capital route. And I don’t think that, again, this is appropriate for an app like this, very much like Blue as well, which I didn’t raise any venture capital. So most likely, I will self-fund, but potentially I may take some small angel investment and then do a profit share if it’s successful.
So, where do we go from here? What are the next steps?
Well, I have given quite a few lectures to business students at university, and they are often just stuck on a specific idea or you know, finding a specific idea but also on then what the precise next steps are to get going.
You have to do whatever you can do next.
Of course you can prioritise, and you can save your energy for the things that create the most impact, but at least you want to get momentum going and move forward. I don’t plan to spend more than four or five hours weekly on this.
So for me, the first step is going to get a logo done and then put up a small landing page that explains the concept and has the ability to capture email addresses so I can sort of build a launch list for pre-launch.
I’ll then sort of start to work on the UX and UI web interface and start to think through the application in much more detail. I will then also write a few key documents, one being sort of mission statement of types, just that can serve as a limiting factor of what the organization will do and won’t do.
And the second will be a sort of type of white paper that outlines all the critical methodologies for tracking habits and what kind of data is helpful in terms of insights for users and why that is, hopefully leveraging a lot of the psychological literature but then avoiding some of the common pitfalls that I’ve seen elsewhere.
I also want to review some new technologies and see wherever there’s any interesting use cases for something like distributed ledger or anything like that. Because I think I always like to use one new piece of technology where possible for every project that I’m on.
I will also write an FAQ. This is very helpful for me and anyone else working on this project. It will help us make better decisions and condense our ideas. It is an excellent practice for product managers, whether they are managing their own product or working with someone else.
Technology is key. I plan to have one full-time developer. Keeping it simple is essential. We’ll evaluate the technologies that fit our needs. Python will be the main programming language. We’ll need a web application, database, authentication systems, etc. A relational database is best for graphing and collecting data. AWS is too complex for this small venture. We’ll use Digital Ocean, Render, and other managed services.
I need to decide how to treat habits? Should I just ask for a name and a measuring unit? Or should I customize some habits like meditation, smoking, and push-ups logically?
For instance, we could code different varieties of push-ups and track them separately. Alternatively, we could combine them into a single “push-up” habit. This could lead to data categorization. For example, we could have a “study” habit with multiple habits measured within it, but each with its own data set.
And as usual, it’s this choice and tension between how powerful we want things to be and also how simple we want it to be as well. I usually tend to stick on the side of simplicity, mainly because I’m not going to have a considerable amount of resources available for this project.
In order to gain further understanding of habits, I will be reading the most popular books on the subject, researching the most popular habits worldwide, and utilizing scientific papers and blogs to inform the product.