July 30, 2015
We all have our vices: it’s a fact of life. Maybe you like to shovel Oreos in your mouth when nobody is looking, or maybe you just love binge watching Netflix series. Did you know the dictionary defines a vice as s an immoral or evil habit or practice though? That is, these vices are things that hold us back from greatness.
Imagine: what if there was a way to allow yourself cookies only when you’d completed a week straight of working out? What if you only let yourself touch the TV remote after you finished working on your novel?
It’s easier said than done, my friends, and the common solution that we see a lot of people employ is to just hide things around the house. However, I find this problematic because you know where you’re hiding everything which makes it easy to cheat on your goals.
However, there’s something inherently powerful in the hiding method, lurking just beneath the surface. I’m talking about the loose concept of time locking, something that Ryan Tseng introduced me to when I talked with him about his comapny, kSafe.
You see, his cofounder David Krippendorf used to hide snacks all over his apartment like most of us do. However, Tseng noticed the results were positive: Krippendorf curbed his snacking habits. That’s when Tseng knew he could take this loose concept of time locking and put some solid hardware power behind it for a legitimate solution.
So, he built out a time locking container, the kSafe, that connects to your smartphone and only opens when you achieve your goals. As it currently stands Tseng and his team have been through a few different versions of the kSafe, but the initial idea surrounded food.
As Tseng tells me, 95 percent of the US population tends to take too many cookies, smoke too many cigarettes, or watch too much TV. That is, this is a universal issue that most all of us have encountered at one point in our lives. From that one point kSafe blew up and evolved into one of the most dynamic companies I’ve come across in San Diego.
It’s incredibly simple to use: you put something into the kSafe, set a goal on your smartphone, and lock it. The safe connects directly to your smartphone, both iOS and Android, and tracks all of your progress across goals via activity, location, or time.
For example, you could throw your wallet and car keys in at night, lock the kSafe, and set it to unlock after you’ve run a mile. That way you literally can’t get to work the next day without getting your exercise in first. Further, maybe you want it to unlock after you’ve traveled to your gym and stayed there for over an hour. Regardless of what you use the kSafe for, and you can use it for just about anything, it will not open until you’ve hit your goals.
And if you’re wondering how it knows about your fitness goals, kSafe actually syncs with fitness wearables or built in motion processors in smartphones – it knows. There’s also a password-lock mode for pesky roommates who want to eat your food or kids who play too many video games.
Although the kSafe concept is relatively simple, Tseng and his team had a long road from inital idea to where they stand now. First and foremost, they had to remember that mistakes aren’t easily fixable with hardware like they are with software.
Not to mention they had to account for tolerance analysis among different components. That is, when they got parts that weren’t uniform they had to worry about whether or not the pieces would actually fit and work together: the kSafe team was designing and working with imperfect parts.
“We knew to watch out for these issues and we still ran into them. We didn’t account for the tolerance of parts in the locking pins and lost a few hundred units because of it. You can have a good advisor, which helps,” says Tseng. “For a startup it’s harder because you don’t have the resources. The last thing you want is to ship a bunch of units to a major retail store only to find out there’s some small, avoidable mistake.”
Tseng and his team were fortunate to get the advice of a strong mentor, which was incredibly helpful when dealing with problems like this. Like many other startups here in San Diego, they found that the EvoNexus incubator was a major catalyst in achieving their success.
As they keep moving forward there are two main issues they’ll be focusing on. First and foremost, they want to begin building bigger kSafe units so people can store large items like iPads in the safe.
However, the bigger issue they have, which will always be present, is to keep people motivated to hit their goals. To make sure they stay ahead of that curve, Tseng and the kSafe team is adopting a measure of positive reinforcement: if they can avoid negativity users will likely meet their future milestones without breaking a sweat.
They don’t play around either: there’s literally no way to crack the kSafe. Trust me, I sat face to face with Tseng and grilled him about manual overrides or emergency release levers – there are none.
If you want to get inside your kSafe there are only two ways. The first requires that you destroy the unit, effectively losing your investment. The second dictates that you hit your goals, at the end of which you will be rewarded for your hard work and determination. I don’t know about you, but I’d take the latter option ten times out of ten.
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