Text by Mandi Keighran / Photos by Erik Olsson
What’s the big idea?
Flic. A button that acts as a bridge between your smartphone and the physical world. The wireless shortcut button can trigger any function on your smartphone – from ordering pizza to sending a distress signal – with a simple click.
Who’s behind it?
Stockholm-based start-up Shortcut Labs, which was co-founded by Pranav Kosuri, Joacim Westlund and Amir Sharifat. Westlund and Sharifat are both graduates of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, where they studied design and production engineering respectively. Kosuri has a masters in molecular biology and a background in running successful start-ups, notably a company that put artwork by emerging artists on pizza boxes. Alongside the three co-founders, there are seven developers, a community manager and a communications manager.
Where did the idea come from?
Westlund had the idea when he was trying to stop using snus (a type of Swedish tobacco). He created an app with a big green button as the main screen, which he could press to keep track of how much he was using. He soon grew tired of having to find his phone, unlock the screen and open the app each time he wanted to carry out the seemingly simple task.
What happened next?
Westlund brought the idea of a physical, programmable button to Kosuri and Sharifat in 2013 and the trio founded Shortcut Labs in the basement of a Stockholm innovation office. In 2014, they spent four months developing the product at hardware incubator Highway 1 in San Francisco. They launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in November 2013 with a goal of US$80,000 (NOK458,000), which was reached in just 30 hours. When the campaign closed in January 2015, they had sold 35,000 buttons and raised over USD$640,000 (NOK4.9m). “It was mind-blowing,” says Pranav Kosuri. “We sat in the office screaming all day!”
How does it work?
Simply buy the US$30 (NOK230) button and download the Flic app. Each button can connect to three different functions, activated by a single click, a double click or holding the button down. The most popular functions – things like making calls, controlling lights, taking photos, finding your phone, calling a taxi, navigating to your next appointment, opening a Spotify playlist, and sending a distress signal – are programmed into the app so they can be set up simply. Shortcut Labs has also developed an open API so third-party developers can integrate Flic into their apps.
What else can you do with it?
Anything you can think of: ordering pizza (referred to as the “hangover” function), sending a message from the bathroom to your flatmate if the toilet paper’s out, faking a phone call to get out of a bad Tinder date, or sending a distress signal with a message and your exact location if you’re in trouble. “It’s everything from fun, gimmicky features to a very serious product that can help people,” says Kosuri.
Who’s using it?
Anyone from lumberjacks, who can use it to count trees, to grandmothers, who want different buttons to call different family members. “That’s what’s so great about Flic,” says Kosuri. “It has such diversity.”
What else are these guys doing?
“We have other products in the pipeline that build on the same vision of effective interaction with smart devices,” says Kosuri. “At this point, however, our first priority is getting Flic out and building lots of cool new partnerships.”