Why I Built WakaTime

Every week, residents of the Hacker House gather around a backyard fire-pit while chatting about startups. It was a mind meld of professional programmers, designers, and entrepreneurs. On May 3rd 2013 at one of these backyard fire-pit events I came up with the idea for WakaTime.

Two residents, Kirubakaran and Robert, were experienced consultants and accustomed to tracking their hours. I was a salary-man new to contract programming. Sometimes, I would forget to start my timer or log time to the wrong project. The possibility for human error left a feeling of uncertainty lingering, not to mention it was a pain in the butt to start & stop a timer all the time.

“Why can't this be automatic?” I asked my fellow hackers as we sat around the fire that night. A plugin for my text-editor would know exactly how long I was programming and a web interface would make it easy to graph and visualize the logged time. I could still manually track my time, but I would always have a source of truth in case I forgot to start or stop the timer.

I always liked how the Swahili language sounds, and Google Translate said the Swahili word “wakati” means “time”. Thanks to my friend Jumana, for confirming the Swahili translation, I decided to call my new project WakaTime. That same night I registered the domain wakati.me and started building the automatic time tracker WakaTime. It took about a month to build the initial Vim plugin, then another month for the website and Sublime Text plugin. I was the first WakaTime user, and Robert was the second user.

With two stable plugins and a Flask website, I launched WakaTime as a Show HN post on July 15, 2013 getting about 700 initial signups. Over the next year I enjoyed building, growing, and marketing WakaTime to developers until my housemates Robert and Kirubakaran convinced me to spend a weekend adding the paid plans. So, it wasn't until a year after launching that you could pay for WakaTime, but to my delight over 100 people upgraded to a paid plan right away. Of those, 20 were people who signed up from the initial launch back in July 2013.

In conclusion, do what you love with dedication!

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