Craig Fernandes tells us about Lock&Stock, a mobile application that rewards people for staying off their phones, and people can then use their rewards to sponsor the education of underprivileged children.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Lock&Stock.
Craig Fernandes: The idea of Lock&Stock was conceived back in early 2017 when I was a final year university student. During a (rather boring) lecture, I noticed almost half the class was distracted by their phones while the poor professor just stood and talked and talked. This struck me as really odd, and I went home with a mission to explore this strange phenomenon called ‘screen addiction.’ I came back to the UAE after my graduation that summer, and on September 24, 2017, Lock&Stock was officially launched in the UAE to specifically help students stay off their phones during class time. Over the years, we realized how much of a problem screen addiction is, and what was once an application aimed solely at schools and universities has now evolved into a broader mass-market application that helps anybody with a smartphone who desires to live a ‘digitally healthier’ life limit their screen-time and find balance in life. This new version of the Lock&Stock app was rolled out in March 2022.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Craig Fernandes: Absolutely. People underestimate the importance of good habits. A lot of different people will tell you what kind of habits are ideal for a successful life, but one has to realize what works best for them on an individual level. Someone might say waking up at 5 AM is the secret to a successful life, but this may not work for everyone. When you are an entrepreneur, it is your responsibility alone to make sure the business is running the way you want it to. Hence, the habits you form early on make an even bigger impact in the long run and help form the foundation of your company’s work culture. One of the most important habits that I recommend to young entrepreneurs who are just starting out is always staying organized. As a founder, you will have multiple things to do and worry about daily, and the key to staying on top of everything going on is to stay organized. I personally use a task manager (almost obsessively) to keep myself organized and try to instill this culture within the rest of the company.
How does Lock&Stock market its product/services online?
Craig Fernandes: Lock&Stock employs various methods to promote our application online, including our brand’s social media handles, email marketing, content writing on platforms such as Medium and Quora, and influencer marketing, among others. All our marketing efforts online aim to build a community of people who believe in the Lock&Stock mission to create a culture of digital wellness. We are always experimenting with new platforms and methods of online marketing. Over the years, we have been lucky to have been featured in some of the biggest media publications online, which has helped us spread the word about Lock&Stock’s cause.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Craig Fernandes: We believe in organization and automation and use tools and software that help us with some of the most important yet time-consuming things faster. Some of the tools that are used to manage our online marketing are as follows –
i) Facebook Ads Manager – allows us to run ads on Facebook and Instagram
ii) Canva – an easy-to-use online design platform
iii) Buffer – content scheduler for social media
iv) MailChimp – email marketing software that helps run automated email campaigns
v) Google Firebase – analytics platform that allows us to monitor activity on the application
vi) Asana – project management software/task manager
vii) App Radar – since we are a mobile application, this tool allows us to monitor and optimize our performance on the App Store and the Play Store.
Along with the above, our marketing is extremely data-driven, and we use tools and methods built in-house to monitor performance daily, which helps us make better decisions.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Craig Fernandes: My co-founder and I worked out of our apartment in Dubai when we first launched the company. Lock&Stock today proudly has over 40 team members based in various parts of the world, including the UAE, India, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, and even Brazil! If the pandemic taught us anything, it was that no matter where in the world you are based, if you are talented, driven, and believe in what we do here, Lock&Stock will have a place for you.
The credit for our hiring really goes to our Head of Talent, Kinal Jain, who has completely reshaped the way Lock&Stock conducts its hiring. All potential new team members go through a couple of rounds of interviews, challenges, and a final culture-fit to assess if they are a good fit for the company. No matter how skilled and talented someone is on paper, they are not considered for the role if they do not pass the culture fit. This way, we have been able to retain our rockstars, have maintained a very positive work environment, and have built a culture of excellence at Lock&Stock. Each and every team member here is considered to be part of the family, whether they have been with us for 5 years or 5 days.
How are you funding your growth?
Craig Fernandes: For our first 4 years, Lock&Stock was completely self-funded. We made a conscious decision to invest whatever revenue was generated back into the business to help accelerate our growth. We bootstrapped our way to $650,000 in revenue through blood, sweat, and tears. Mid-2021 was the first time we took outside capital when we closed a small fundraising round from an angel investor. We are currently on our way to finishing our second round of capital, which is expected to close by mid-2022.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Craig Fernandes: Lock&Stock is one of a kind. Having said that, there are other ‘habit building’ apps that could be considered to be similar to ours but what we have built is a product that not only helps a user on an individual level but also helps the community. Our product strategy boils down to two words – customer satisfaction. User feedback is the backbone of our decision-making when working on or implementing new features on the app. We are focused on the core experience, i.e., to make staying off your phone an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Craig Fernandes: While Lock&Stock has thousands of satisfied users, one of them really stands out. We once received an email from a teacher in the United States who told us that she had been using the app for quite some time and how it had helped her focus better. But the thing that stood out the most was that she had almost forced her children to use the application as well by instilling a ‘no phones during dinner’ policy while starting a lock session on the app, and they’ve been enjoying quality time during dinner every night. When I received this email, I immediately forwarded it to the entire team to let them know that all the late nights and cups of coffee that went into developing Lock&Stock had paid off with just this one story.
Your final thoughts?
Craig Fernandes: I’d like to tell every young entrepreneur out there that if you have a good idea and are driven enough to see it come to life, go for it. If our story can teach you anything, it’s that it doesn’t matter where you are from or what resources you have. If you are committed and dedicated, you will get there. Successful companies are not built overnight, it has taken us almost 5 years to get here, yet we have only achieved 1% of what we can achieve. Today, it is still our Day 1.