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Dubai startup Lock&Stock is promoting digital wellness by helping people tackle smartphone addiction

Founded by 21-year-old entrepreneur Craig Fernandes in 2017, the startup uses positive reinforcement like physical rewards to keep people away from their phones.

Dubai startup Lock&Stock is promoting digital wellness by helping people tackle smartphone addiction

Monday December 12, 2022,

5 min Read

How many times have we caught ourselves scrolling through our phones, and before we realise it, the whole day has passed? It was something 21-year-old Craig Fernandes, an Indian expat born and brought up in Dubai, would often ponder upon. 

Craig found that apart from screen-time manager apps like Off the Grid, AntiSocial, 1Question, and Forest, which refrain us from not checking our smartphone every five minutes, there was a need to reinforce positive behaviour with rewards. 

Craig felt it was important that people get physical rewards for staying off their phones, not just in-app coins. This got him to start Lock&Stock Technologies, along with his father, Ian Fernandes, in 2017.

The Dubai-based startup banks on positive reinforcement for promoting digital wellness as a habit. Its mission is to make people put their phones down and spend time doing what matters. 

Craig says, the idea for Lock&Stock came on one usual day while he was at the University of Iowa pursuing his BSc in Economics.

“Once I was using my phone during a boring class when my father saw me online on WhatsApp. Like any parent, he reprimanded me saying--“Why are you using the phone when you are in class? You are wasting your time and my money!” While we were text arguing, I happened to look around me, and I saw a class of close to 50 students who were all busy on their devices. It hit me that screen addiction is a real problem,” he recalls.

How does it work?

For every lock session (when the users stay away from the phones), they are rewarded with “keys” or in-app points that can be converted to win gadgets like laptops, headphones, and more. 

Additionally, the keys can also be utilised to fund an underprivileged child’s education in India. It is a free app with no in-app purchases or registration fees.

Lock&Stock

Overview of the Lock&Stock App

Today, the app has an active user base of over 10,000 in 82 countries across the globe. 

According to Lock&Stock’s internal database, users have saved almost 2081 years’ worth of time in total and 49 minutes of average time saved per lock session. 

How it started?

After that day in class, Craig went through numerous case studies and research papers on screen addiction and its repercussions. This prompted him to build an app that would make it simpler for students to stay off their phones easily. 

The first version of Lock&Stock app became popular among the student community in Dubai, which comprised of about 30,000 active users. 

Users collected ‘keys’, the in-app currency, for staying off the phones. These could be used to get discount coupons and offers from around 1,000 different partner brands like Costa Coffee, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and more in Dubai. 

Adding a social cause 

Craig wanted the app to do more than just hand out discounts and vouchers to its users. Hence, the team introduced a social cause within the app to convert the ‘keys’ to fund education for an underprivileged child in India. 

The startup partnered with an NGO called KPI Manavar in India. At the end of each quarter, Lock&Stock writes a donation to the NGO based on the number of classes sponsored by users during that time.

Once the app started getting popular in Dubai, Craig realised vouchers that worked only for Dubai brands wouldn’t help. It got him to start giving gadgets as rewards. 

Until September 2021, the app had clocked about 80,000 registrations across countries such as India, Pakistan, Australia, and the US. 

“We didn’t have any partner brand for the users to avail discounts in those cities as the app was built for students in Dubai,” says Craig. 

After multiple feedback sessions, Craig and his team decided to change the existing reward system. However, the social cause from the previous iteration of the app continues to exist. 

Business model

Partnership with universities was the main source of revenue for the previous version of the app. Users could convert the in-app keys to access fee waivers and scholarships.

Later, the team decided to separate this feature into a different entity called SecureMyScholarship.com within the same holding company. The current version of the Lock&Stock app banks on the revenue from the other entity for operations. 

Lock&Stock Technologies raised a bridge funding round of $500,000 in 2022 and clocked a revenue of $1.1 million in the same year. The exact charges and details are undisclosed. 

Challenges 

While Lock&Stock became popular among students in Dubai, Craig still feels that it was a challenge in securing funding and support in the early days.  

“In 2017-2018, there weren’t VC’s who would write checks to early-stage startups in the region. Access to capital in UAE was more for the later stage startups or those who had raised Series A funding,” says Craig. 

He adds that the team of 40-50 expats had built the company out of a rented apartment. 

“We did not just want to grow in triple digits every year, but also be cash flow positive. This was a challenge that we had to overcome. Other established startup ecosystems do not have these problems,” Craig adds.

Market and future 

According to Grand View Research, the global market size for productivity management systems was valued at $47.33 billion in 2021 and is expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.8 percent from 2022 to 2030. 

Lock&Stock is now focusing on improving the current version of the app to make itself fit the market better.

Going forward, the app would bank on brand marketing within the app for revenue. The team is also looking to close either a Series A or pre-Series A round by next calendar year.

(The story was updated to add the name of the co-founder)


Edited by Megha Reddy