After more than a year of remote work, Devin Ajimine and his friends could not find a productivity tool that would help them stay focused.
So they decided to build one themselves over a weekend.
“We threw it up on TikTok, then it went viral multiple times,” said the 25-year-old Seattle entrepreneur and Hawaii native.
The tool they showcased, called LifeAt Spaces, was seen and shared millions of times on various social media platforms. Viewers were instantly drawn to the concept: Consolidating and organizing a set of productivity tools onto a single platform, letting users create their own digital office from a browser or desktop app.
Ajimine said the goal is to eliminate cluttered desktops. That thesis struck a chord: the app has been downloaded more than a million times.
LifeAt graduated from top startup accelerator Y Combinator last summer, helping convert a weekend project into a full-fledged company.
The startup has drawn attention from some notable investors, including a venture arm of Facebook parent Meta. Myspace co-founder Aber Whitcomb is also a backer, in addition to YC, Pioneer Square Labs, the venture arm of Line parent Z Holdings, Pack Ventures, Goodwater, SV Tech, and Pioneer Fund.
As an early-stage consumer startup led by young entrepreneurs, LifeAt is a rarity in a Seattle tech ecosystem dominated by enterprise software or longtime Amazon and Microsoft leaders.
“When we first hit the million users, that was pretty transformative,” Ajimine said. “It’s like, ‘Okay, people are really interested in what we’re doing.’ Now, can we build a platform that can be scalable to become a billion-dollar business?”
Before founding LifeAt, Ajimine worked as a product manager at T-Mobile. He teamed up with his former University of Portland computer science classmate Pouya Rad, 27, who worked as an engineer at Vimeo, and Marisa Chentakul, 25, who previously was a product designer at TikTok. Founding engineer Ashika Mulagada, 23, is a former software engineer at Capital One.
All four members were recently featured on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.
LifeAt users choose from a selection of “spaces” to set as their virtual backdrop, ranging from a coffee shop to a simulated Zoom call with Zac Efron. Users can add a soundtrack, post a to-do list, share a calendar, and set a Pomodoro timer — all in one space. They can also invite friends into their digital office, setting up video calls to hang out in.
The startup partners with digital creators to design the virtual spaces. One of its most high-profile collaborators is Lofi Girl, a popular YouTube channel that creates beats for relaxing and studying.
Julie Sandler, managing director at PSL, said the product has seen “exponential adoption” from users all over the world who use it daily to stay disciplined with their work. She added that several members of her team are “somewhat obsessed” with the app.
“I have LifeAt up on my second monitor all the time,” she said.
The shift to remote work brought a rush of new startups aiming to bring amenities and functions of the office or campus to homes. So-called virtual co-working spaces thrived, serving as a digital WeWork of sorts for students and workers who craved a setting of social interaction and accountability from having others present.
Examples include Focusmate, which randomly pairs strangers on the platform for study sessions, and Seattle startup Spot, which builds virtual offices for companies.
Ajimine said LifeAt differentiates from competitors because people can take advantage of the platform without relying on other users. He considers YouTube to be a main competitor.
While the pitch for LifeAt’s digital spaces may sound familiar, Ajimine insists that it’s not a metaverse tool. “It’s almost like the bridge to that 3D environment,” he said about the similarities. “But you still get to use it on things that you’re used to — like your computer.”
Last month, the company reported more than 35 million minutes of user engagement. It also attracted nearly 83,000 members to its chat room on Discord.
Ajimine said one of the biggest challenges so far has been converting LifeAt’s users into paid subscribers. While the app is free to start, the company has a “premium” version, which costs $9 for a monthly subscription or $72 for a year.
Some of the paid features include unlimited notes and video calls. The startup declined to say how many of its users are paid subscribers.
LifeAt is focused on consumers for now, but the goal is to evolve and target businesses as well, Ajimine said.