Siempo: Use your phone, not the other way around
Here is a smartphone app that we can appreciate. The Siempo app is striving to transform the smartphone “into a healthier digital experience.” One of the app’s features that we love is batch notifications where users can decide what time of day or at which interval they want to receive notifications. How refreshing! We caught up with Andrew Dunn, co-founder and CEO of Siempo, who told us more about their app and an exciting new initiative.
Tell us about Siempo.
Siempo is a smartphone interface designed to support mental health and wellbeing. Android users can download the app from the Play Store and experience features like a calm home screen, notification batching, app scrambling, screen covers and more. We’ve taken a behavior design approach to help people reduce overuse, prevent unconscious use, and improve how they feel about their phone.
The digital attention crisis is growing. The sobering reality is that the Apples, Googles, and Samsungs of the world have the resources to launch a space race to figure out how to intentionally design technology to support flourishing individuals, institutions, and societies. But they won’t. They can’t go the distance because of the existing economic systems in which they thrive in.
Our theory of change: we’re pushing the limits of innovation in order to provide motivated consumers with better tools now, thereby inspiring device makers to build those tools into their products sooner, so that every connected person by default has access to technology that is on their side and in support of what is most life giving.
What is the goal of your company?
In the short term, our goal is preventing and remediating smartphone addiction. It’s getting in the way of too many aspects of our lives, and it is completely addressable with society’s current resources and imagination.
Our longer term goal is to get technology back on humanity’s side. This not only involves incorporating ethical frameworks to minimize harm, but also experimenting with radical business model innovation and telling a brighter story of tech’s future.
We see Siempo as a critical component of 21st century technological infrastructure. The future is looking bumpy given current trends in climate, civic discourse and mental health. If we as a civilization really want to make it work together–to survive and thrive on Spaceship Earth–it will be imperative to have access to high quality tools that train and support compassion and empathy, deep human connection and resiliency; tools that balance the power of technology with how it can enrich our lives.
What inspired you to create Siempo?
I didn’t create it, but I’m privileged to be standing on the shoulders of giants who envisioned Siempo long before I joined the team––and I gradually came to steward the effort. As a millennial, I came of age with the proliferation of smartphones and social media, and developed dependencies that stunted my emotional development and limited my potential in life. My journey started five years ago when I had a wakeup call while living in India and experienced disconnecting for the first time. Since then I’ve embarked on a healing process with my relationship with technology and chosen to dedicate my life force to working in service of this collective mission.
Product-wise, our team believes the root cause of smartphone addiction is that our devices have no protections against the persuasive techniques of the most engaging apps. Android lets us push the boundaries of imagination, so we’ve been able to create a complete solution that meets people where they’re at and doesn’t require so many micro-decisions throughout the day to use and get value from.
We actually started as a hardware project in attempt to build a mindful phone from the ground up. It was a bold effort and expensive learning experience, but in hindsight a critical stepping stone to the solution and community we have been able to develop to date. By envisioning what a totally new smartphone would look like, we thought through everything from the home screen to notification tray to the experience inside a distracting app. So when we learned that consumers would much prefer a software solution on their existing devices, we had a clear roadmap to execute on.
Tell us about Siempo’s new initiative.
A funny thing happened this summer: two of the biggest companies in history became competitors overnight (Apple’s ScreenTime and Google’s Wellbeing), sending shockwaves of uncertainty throughout the burgeoning digital wellness industry. Many apps have been shut down or stalled out in response. We took the opportunity to pause for self-care, get reflective about our research and roadmap, and feel for what wants to emerge.
The clarity we received was that in spending the last couple of years building a high integrity product and organization, we had attracted hordes of people interested in contributing to our efforts, whether in the form of writing code, creating content, or supporting financially. We also noticed a growing trend of designers, developers and researchers eager to work on ethical / mindful / humane tech projects, but having no place to plug into. Instead of raising dollar by dollar to hire a couple of people to slowly build out our interface, why not invite in this potential energy and an organize an order of magnitude more resources towards this critical mission?
That’s where open source Siempo comes in. We are in the process of releasing our codebase and building the capacity to challenge the big guys to a real space race. If we can become the lightning rod for this movement–the brand that consumers and professionals can rally around–then the sky's the limit.
How do you see Siempo contributing value to the mindful technology community?
Digital Wellness Warriors is a great example here. Realizing that we can be stronger together, several developers and influencers in the digital wellness space came together over the summer to start a trade association. We’re now 75 organizations strong, trading notes, making introductions, and organizing for common objectives. We recognized that most folks we know in the mindful tech space are awesome people, that entrepreneurship can be a lonely endeavor, and that at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.
These actions are building trust with users, opening up key business relationships, and allowing us to show up better for our work. In times of great turbulence and uncertainty, we believe such virtues are imperative for long-term prosperity.
What advice would you give others who are trying to build technology for a better world?
You can’t build technology that is more human than you are. My advice is to open yourself to a broad variety of experiences and people and ideas, because this will (1) push personal growth edges, (2) undo unskillful social conditioning, (3) provide new sources of inspiration to draw wisdom from, (4) exercise your muscle of discernment, (5) make work and life a lot more exciting.
Our mission-driven nature has certainly helped with resiliency through three pivots. But we also feel it's no longer enough to be mission-driven. As Albert Einstein famously offered: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." To be successful in the audacious pursuit of enlisting technology in service of human flourishing, we must draw upon the most imaginative ideas, from ancient wisdom to modern science and natural systems to grassroots activism, and then apply radical discernment to leverage what’s most effective.
Whatever you create is an expression of who you are, what you value, all your fears and biases, and especially whatever your true intention is for starting a company. There is no avoiding it. So make a real effort to work on yourself, challenge your own bullshit, listen deeply, operate from a place of giving over taking, and orient towards love within the struggle.
Finally, trust in the flow of your existence. Something called you to work on this. The journey will regularly test you. Align to why you are here, and then allow things to unfold.
How do you personally create a tech / life balance?
I’m no saint. Using Siempo helps, but there’s no software silver bullet–this is a complex problem informed by communication contracts, habits around physical placement of devices, and emotional state, to name a few. Let’s just say some weeks are better than others, and my desktop has been more of a culprit lately than my phone!
Morning routine helps. Greyscale helps. Keeping phone out of sight and off of body helps. Sending voice notes helps. Meditation really does help.
These days, picking up hobbies and building new relationships feel most helpful. If I go to yoga in the morning and meet a friend for sunset and dinner in the evening, that’s two more tech-free hours in the day that nourish me physically, mentally or spiritually. I’m always surprised how little I missed digitally during that time, and the applicable gems that emerged in the process.
What does Siempo mean?
I’m so excited to share this! The original meaning of Siempo was a play on “siempre” (always in Spanish) and “tiempo” (time) - an ethos of always being mindful of the time we spend on screens, and evoking words like “simple” and “tempo.”
Over the summer, another meaning came to me:
Tiempo = Time. Technology. The mechanical, masculine, logical.
Siempre = Always. Love. The Infinite, feminine, intuitive.
Siempo is about balancing and integrating these two energies, and we seek to embody that as individuals, in our product and organization.
What can we expect next from you and how can people follow along?
We’re starting to build our open source community (both on Reddit and Discord) and are exploring a crowd equity campaign in early 2019, which will allow anybody to become an owner in Siempo and be part of this effort. If you’re interested in getting involved with the open source effort, please fill out this quick form!
If you are an Android user, download our app and let us know what you think. Spread the word to your family and team. Consider giving your child an Android device with Siempo for their first smartphone. Let us know how we can improve and send us your ideas.
We don't have all the answers. You do. This is a complex societal problem that cannot and should not be solved by one company with narrow objectives. We need to harness the intelligence and experiences of the whole in order to create technology that truly serves. Message Andrew if you are in the Bay Area and want to chat (Andrew at siempo dot co) and follow along on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Medium.
We at Mindful Technology™ are excited to keep our eyes on Siempo and all the wonderful things they are doing in the #mindfultech community. Learn more about Siempo by visiting their website and watching the short video below.
All images from Siempo.
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