Earlier this year, Spacemob hosted an event where a panel discussed the use of mindfulness to reduce stress.
It was packed. People were standing in the back and by the time the crowd stopped showing up, the late arrivers couldn’t get into the room.
On the panel was Bjorn Lee, a Singaporean entrepreneur who was building an app to integrate five or ten minutes of mindfulness into our day-to-day lives. This was in March. Fast forward six or seven months and Lee is set to take the product live.
Officially launching today on Product Hunt, the app is called MindFi and it wants to slip little moments of mindfulness into a person’s daily routine.
What makes MindFi different from the competition (HeadSpace having the best brand awareness globally), is the app — by design — does not require the user to make a lifestyle adjustment.
HeadSpace is a nice app, but it requires a fairly significant routine adjustment to really notice the benefits. Its like becoming a vegetarian, it requires a work before eventually becoming a lifestyle.
“We don’t want you to tune-out to meditate, we want to tune-in to your routine. The duration is shorter, it is as long as a song or a phone call,” said Lee in a conversation with e27.
A typical MindFi meditation routine takes 3-5 minutes and many of them don’t involve sitting cross-legged with eyes closed in a comfortable space. Some of the practices involve mindful eating, paying attention on social media and reflecting on the day while going on a walk.
“People say, ‘I want to scroll my Facebook right now’. So our way of fitting in is to say, ‘well, go scroll your social media, or send a text message, but let’s teach you how to do it mindfully. Let’s take an article for example. Instead of blazing through ten newsfeed article per minute, let’s look at one for 30 seconds,” Lee explains.
If things go well, ideally this integration will help retain users who may pick up a mindfulness app with great intentions, only to drop it after about a month because it doesn’t fit-in to daily habits.
Why be mindful
‘Mindfulness’ as corporate value is experiencing a rejuvenation. Google has become the face of a theory that is becoming more popular among senior leadership. The idea is, with the proliferation of smartphones and a fast-paced business environment (plus our other life stresses), society has gotten so high-strung it is actually less productive.
A successful mindfulness campaign ideally allows people to slow down, take a step back, and the attack a problem more efficiently.
Actually, a major part of the MindFi pitch is not to help people get away from their lives, but actually to help them work better.
For entrepreneurs, taking five or ten minutes to step out of a problem can make all the difference between solving it, or not.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Bjorn you have been meditating for seven years, what has changed?’ I think I have that one or two seconds of being able to hold back my impulses. Better impulse control is my main benefit,” said Lee.
The circuitous road from a Google Ventures portfolio startup to MindFi
In one of those winding paths life often takes, Lee’s journey to start MindFi began over a half-decade ago with his edutech company named Stickery.
While running that company, stress-induced chest pains became a serious red flag that it was time to make some adjustments in life. As a result, Lee actually took a deep-dive into formal meditation in India. But he couldn’t sustain the rigour after the programme was over.
Eventually, he discovered simple tricks to boost mindfulness without going full-monk, like taking a deep breath before bed.
A bit later, Lee was part of the team at Zopim that was acquired by Zendesk. He explained that, once again, he found himself in the middle of another high pressure environment. Once the IPO was finalised, Lee was given a two-month countdown clock to launch a Zendesk’s new product ahead of the IPO.
“I worked with six teams across the world…I almost had no sleep because this covered 18 or 19 hours. I woke up so frequently, that my mind tricked me into waking up at all times of the day,” he said.
This high-stress experience lead to a sabbatical and the desire to “build a truly meaningful startup”.
Now we have MindFi, an app built on a mix of personal experience, meditation expertise and, if things go well, a growing interest into integrating meditation into the day-to-day.
A lot of times, an argument, a deadline or a huge project can create an unnecessarily overwhelming feeling of stress. The problem gets out of control in the imagination, creating a situation where the employee is paralysed by anxiety.
Next time that happens, check out the MindFi app, take a 5-minute walk while listening to “Toby” and relax a little bit.
The problem will still be there, but it will feel a whole lot less intimidating.