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Taylor Jacobson

How Focusmate is boosting productivity with virtual coworking


Focusmate is the virtual coworking community where people get things done, together.

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What's your personal background? What motivated you to start your own company? 

I first started working remotely in 2010, and I struggled immensely with procrastination. It was isolating and there was no structure or accountability. That struggle inspired me to study behavior change and productivity, later becoming an executive coach. During that time I had the inspiration to try this “crazy experiment”—my own ideal fantasy of how I wanted to be supported and held accountable by another person. That was basically the first Focusmate session! 

That experiment was remarkably effective, and it was apparent that this method would benefit others as well. From there the vision quickly emerged. Given its deep alignment with my values, purpose, and expertise, I knew intuitively that I’d regret it if I didn’t go for it.

What no code tools did you use to build Focusmate and what purpose did each play in the final product?

In the first MVP I used Zapier primarily, in combination with Google Sheets (as the database), and a Wordpress site using the Optimize Press theme as the UI. There are much better tools available now! 

What were the initial costs to get Focusmate off the ground? 

The main initial cost was the domain, which cost about $1,400. That seemed like a lot at the time but I had high conviction and went for it. Aside from that it was all my own labor for the first few months. When my cofounder came on board we also set aside a small budget to make it financially reasonable for him to dig in. 

What was the process of building your product from idea to launching?

We never had a “launch” actually. We started with a Facebook group where people would schedule Skype sessions manually with each other. We progressed to a janky cobbled together Wordpress site. Then we built a very ugly web application. And so on! 

How do you attract customers?

About 98% of our marketing is word of mouth—people whose lives are changed, wanting to share that experience with people they care about! 

What are the biggest challenges you've overcome building Focusmate?

The big initial challenge was that most people thought this idea made no sense. I would share the idea, and I could tell right away that they didn’t get it. But occasionally, it would just “click” and someone would get super excited, and see the vision clearly. 

The other big challenge may be trite, but it’s true: we want to do 1,000 things and have to choose basically one at a time! We have to be patient and prioritize and ask our community to be patient too. 

What's your advice for non-technical people who want to start a company? 

Figure out what your gifts are and focus on bringing those to the table. Writing code is essential to creating software, but building a company requires so much more than that. 

What are your future plans for Focusmate?

We believe that the path to addressing humanity’s greatest challenges is to source the best in each of us. As long as there is work to do to fulfill that potential, we will keep going.

In the near term, we plan to offer more ways to customize your experience and find the absolute best coworking partners for you, individually.

How do you think the rise of no code tools will impact entrepreneurship? 

Hopefully they will enable entrepreneurial people to have more positive impact in the world, faster and more affordably!

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

For anyone out there who feels like some structure, accountability, or human company could help them do better working at home, please check out Focusmate. We’d love to have you!

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