An open letter to the Focusmate community

[Oct. 18th crowdfunding update] A huge thank you to those who have invested, helping us surpass 150% of our goal and reach nearly $40K already! If you’re interested in investing in Focusmate, you can learn more on our crowdfunding page.


Launching our crowdfunding campaign has spurred some great questions and conversations.

I thought I’d take the liberty of sharing on 3 topics in particular, in case any are on your mind, or are important to you.

Hopefully learning more about what’s going on behind the scenes at Focusmate will be helpful whether or not you’re considering making an investment.

Feel free to choose your own adventure and skip to the parts that interest you.

  • What’s the plan for video? AKA Jitsi 😡💣😭!!!
  • Pricing: What is the premium model? What will the free plan be?
  • How is Focusmate addressing the workplace diversity and inclusion gap?

Speaking of inclusion…

Our goal with this crowdfunding campaign is to build inclusion into the DNA of the company. We can’t think of a better way to do that than making our users into part owners.

As I’ve mentioned before, doing a crowdfunding campaign is significantly harder than raising funds in other ways, but it’s the only one that allows everyone to participate.

Without further ado…

1.What’s the plan for video?

For some of you, the issues with Jitsi may have raised concerns about Focusmate’s ability to provide a good user experience, and build the technology required to scale the business.

jitsi focusmate crowdfunding republic open letter
If you’re feeling some bad feelings because of the Jitsi switch, we understand. We’re on the case!

The first thing I want to clear up is that we did not have a choice about moving away from appearin. This is due to changes made by appearin, not Focusmate.

Thing two: For a product as early in its development as Focusmate, some problems are to be expected. The fact that this is the only real problem we have ever experienced is a testament to my co-founder Mike’s careful planning and skill.

Consider that most of the products we use are built and supported by teams of tens, hundreds or even thousands of software engineers, with millions of dollars spent in the process.

Our expectations about “the way things should be” are shaped by these experiences.

Focusmate is just two people: me, Taylor, and my co-founder Mike Galanos.

Focusmate founders Taylor Jacobson and Mike Galanos
Me and Mike taking a brief reprieve from working on Focusmate to stand in the middle of the road.

Our total investment so far is about $100K.

Imagine using Facebook when it was just Mark Zuckerberg in his dorm, and you were the 200th Harvard student to sign up. It’s safe to assume that it was horrendously ugly, buggy, and slow.

open letter to focusmate community republic crowdfunding campaign
Most of us never see products in their early days, so it’s hard to appreciate how clunky they once were.

While we empathize with the pain many of you have gone through, we would ask that you re-calibrate your experience through this lens. If you look at the big picture, we think there’s strong evidence of a team capable of building the world-class company we aspire to.

In case you’re wondering what we’re doing about Jitsi right now, Mike is doing extensive research to uncover alternative video options. We’re making constant modifications to solve the existing issues. (If you haven’t tried lately, please try again and let us know if it works.) 

We’re doing as much as we possibly can, and ask you to please be patient. Please also keep in mind that as a company, we use a LOT of video (about 10,000 hours per month), but our budget for video is currently zero. That requires some creativity.

Longer term, raising funds and growing our revenues will allow us to to develop a robust testing framework, mitigate risks sooner, and invest in integrations with higher end services with fewer issues.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about pricing, and our intention to start generating revenue so that we are able to offer better video solutions 🙂

2. Pricing: What is the premium model? What will the free plan be?

Most of us are used to getting great products for free. These products make money by selling your data, or serving ads. At Focusmate, we will NEVER sell your data, and we won’t do ads because they run counter to our core purpose of helping you focus.

That leaves one option: some users have to pay.

But that’s actually good news.

Introducing paid Focusmate plans will be valuable to all users, even those who can’t afford the premium plans.

Why?

Because we need revenue in order to exist. More revenue means more people working on making Focusmate awesome for all users.

Will there be a limit on how many sessions free users can do?

To be candid, we aren’t sure yet. Session limits is one option, but there are many ways we could potentially distinguish a free plan from a premium plan.

focusmate crowdfunding campaign republic
We don’t know what our pricing plans will be, just that we will have a free option and a paid option.

One thing we can promise you that we will think about our pricing choices long and hard, and do our best to offer a solution that truly (TRULY!) best serves the world and fulfills our mission of unlocking human potential.

Which brings us to our next topic…

3. How is Focusmate addressing the workplace diversity and inclusion gap?

While we’d rather show our true colors through our actions, there is benefit to publicly declaring our plans and being held accountable.

At Focusmate, we intend to lead by example. For us, diversity and inclusion will never be just a policy. It will be part of our DNA as a company.

That means two things specifically.

Building a company that serves the other 99%

Apple famously designed its products to be easy to use by children and the elderly. They believed that this inclusive design process would result in a better product for everyone. This approach helped Apple establish a reputation for great design that persists decades later.

Likewise, Focusmate is being built to serve everyone—regardless of gender, class, race, age, or disabilities.

For instance, what kind of ideas could we get from a lonely person with a chronic illness who needs motivation to make his lunch and take his medications and practice the violin?

Or a single mom with a GED on a fixed income who needs a focused time to sit down and write her poetry?

We believe that the best way for us to build a successful company serving many millions of people, is to build products that serve many different types of people.

As I alluded to above, one of the reasons we plan to offer a freemium pricing model, where there’s always a free plan, is because we don’t want your life circumstances to affect your ability to use Focusmate.

While not everyone will agree with or understand every decision we make, our goal is to strike the right balance of meeting business objectives and serving all those who need us.

Building a workplace culture that is safe and inclusive

Working in a traditional office setting doesn’t work for me. I’m sensitive to noise and get easily distracted. I’m introverted, and get anxious when faced with too many social interactions. Commuting stresses me out. I need to nap sometimes.

These are my reasons for working remotely.

But there are so many reasons why offices don’t work for people: Kids, aging parents, mental illness, disabilities, chronic pain—circumstances like these, and many others, make it difficult for people to go to an office, or do their best work in an office environment.

Our vision for Focusmate is to lead the way on creating flexible and inclusive ways of working that lead to high performance, strong business results, and lives well-lived.

As part of that, we’re committed to staying remote as we grow our team. We know that there are millions of talented people who, like me and Mike, are best suited to giving our gifts when we have flexibility. This will allow us to continue experiencing and integrating a much more diverse set of life experiences into the conversations that happen in our company.

Not only do we want to hire these gifted people, we also want to create the roadmap for this new way of working, so that other companies can follow.

As an aside, we're honored that so many of you, from all around the world, have shared your interest in working with us, both as investors and as team members.

Keep the love coming!

We’ll be hiring a software engineer in the coming months—that could be you!

So that’s it. If you’ve made it this far, you are either a really dedicated person or you are waiting for a very delayed flight and are desperate to kill time.

In either case, thank you for reading.

In all seriousness, I look forward to a positive and productive discussion on the topics above.

Best,

Taylor Jacobson

Focusmate Founder and CEO

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