Meditation apps like Headspace and Calm may be all the rage now among smartphone users looking for moments of mindfulness and tranquillity amid their busy work schedules. But Bjorn Lee, founder of meditation app MindFi, wants to introduce a form of meditation that can be done anywhere, anytime – and with your eyes wide open. Lee spoke to the Post to explain why he decided to create MindFi, and how it differs from other apps on the market today. What is MindFi? MindFi is a smart meditation mobile app aimed at helping busy people to find calm and be more productive, whenever they need. How did the idea for MindFi come about? It was not one bright spark but a slow burn over 7 years. I suffered from sharp chest pains in 2011 and a doctor diagnosed the cause as work stress and suggested meditation as a long-term cure. My pain subsided after I started meditating, but I found that the traditional, closed-eye meditation format was incompatible with my busy working life. In 2014, an ex-Google friend published his book ‘Search Inside Yourself’ and this bridge a gap as it introduced a lesser-known way of meditating with your eyes open. With this new format, I found myself meditating more because I could sneak in small meditations during meetings, commuting or even eating. In 2017, I became very excited about offering this open-eye meditation format with today’s smartphone-obsessed society, in the form of a mobile app. This may sound ironic but I believe absorbing today’s new digital normal is a natural path of evolution for the ancient practice of meditation. How does MindFi differ from other meditation apps out there? MindFi helps anyone to be mindful anytime, with open eyes. The open-eye format opens up meditation [to be done anywhere], powered by data and neuroscience. We don’t want meditation to require a quiet place or even a cushion but to be accessible anytime you need it. What drove you to become an entrepreneur? My answer has evolved over the years. At first, I sought the freedom of making decisions and following my own “selfish” passion. MindFi is my 3rd start-up and today I am driven more by responsibility and serving the needs of others. If I see a problem and I think I have a better solution than the incumbents, I cannot resist scratching that itch to change the world and make it better. What are some of the challenges you have faced creating MindFi? Nobody likes to talk about mental health. In Asia, many still think meditation has a religious bias. Getting people to change their behaviour amid a culture of smartphone obsession is hard. Our goal is to make behavioural change as painless as possible and move to a socially positive outcome. What are your thoughts on the Southeast Asia technology scene? I have worked in Silicon Valley, Beijing and Singapore over a 15-year career in tech start-ups. Southeast Asia has very youthful demographics, but investment money is dominated by a conservative culture. At hackathons and events, there is a growing undercurrent of bold ideas, but teams sometimes lack the confidence, expertise and funds to break out into commercial success. I expect this gap to narrow as trailblazing start-ups get funded and investors become more comfortable in backing them. What words of advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs? Wear failure like a badge of honour, not shame. Don’t be afraid to try the first time and definitely do not be afraid to try again and again.