Chronos launches at TechCrunch Disrupt

Sept. 28, 2012, 12:00 a.m.
Chronos launches at TechCrunch Disrupt
The Chronos app tracks your time-usage by running in the background of your smartphone. The app’s purpose it to help people manage their time. (Courtesy of Charlie Kubal)

Chronos, the time-tracking application created by Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) alumni Charlie Kubal MBA ’12 and Dylan Keil ’08 MBA ’12, officially launched at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference in mid-September. The application aims to monitor and create a record of how its users spend their time to inform their decisions about altering or improving certain lifestyle habits. The application takes advantage of the built-in capabilities of the iPhone — such as the accelerometer and compass — and pairs them with the user’s location information to passively track the user.

The impetus behind the application is that people often are not fully aware of how they use their time, and that the simple analytics that the application offers can allow them to make better decisions about how they use their time and improve their time management. The application allows users to set targets for goals such as sleep, socializing, exercise or work.

The Chronos founders argue that the application allows users to “live more intentionally” but saves them the trouble of inputting information to the application each time they engage in an activity. Dylan Keil, in his launch presentation, said that very few means exist to get insight into how people spend their days, likening the problem to trying to “[manage] your weight without the scale.” As the metaphorical scale, the application is constantly running in the background compiling its best estimates of the user’s activities.

The founders, whose combined resumes include Google, Pandora and stints in management consulting, were propelled by a GSB class about creating startups.

“I came to the business school with the intention of actually starting a business, and so did Dylan,” Kubal said. “We both had ideas about ways to bridge real life with virtual life, and that’s how the idea for Chronos came about.”

The pair formalized the idea in November of last year and began coding in earnest in January. They then started full time on the venture after graduating and applied for TechCrunch’s “Startup Battlefield;” over 1,000 startups applied for the competition and only 30 were accepted.

“We were actually the only bootstrapped startup [a startup operating without outside investment] who made it to the final round,” Kubal said.

Their aim had been to launch in October, but their acceptance forced them to field an entirely finished product at the conference, which meant a lot of 14-to-16-hour days for the two entrepreneurs.

Discussing how the application could be of benefit to Stanford students in particular, Kubal conceded that a closed system such as a university where different social functions are often done at the same location — a student will probably both work and socialize in their rooms — could pose problems for the application and would perhaps require more manual inputs on the application.

“More tinkering is necessary for these sort of communities,” Kubal said. “But once you start to input more information, a hierarchy of probability emerges where the application can take a reasonable guess as to where you are and what you’re doing.”

On the topic of privacy, an obvious concern for an application designed to catalog every moment of your life, Kubal said much of the information the device complies is saved on the device itself, but, to expedite processing, information is also sent to Chronos’ servers.

“Because of the ultimate sensitivity of the data, you have the ability to choose exactly who sees this information,” Kubal said. “This isn’t meant for broad swathes of your friends.”

However, users are able to use the application to share certain benchmarks and information with select friends via Facebook Connect.

The pair hopes to expand their concept and create more ways to encourage users’ goals. They plan to monetize the concept with targeted lead-ins, recommendations tailored for their users for which they charge a premium from the vendors. An Android version is slated for release in the near future, and Kubal and Keil are now beginning to court investors and plan for the next iteration of the product.

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