The idea behind Hold originated at Copenhagen Business School. Together with his class mates – Florian Winder and Vinoth Vinaya – CEO & Co-Founder Maths Mathisen discovered the recurring issue of checking his phone while studying. The solution to their problem was Hold, an app to incentivise students to put the phone down.

Hold quickly gained traction amongst students and brands in Norway. More than 50% of the student population are today Hold users, and they were just awarded mobile marketing product of the year, with brands such as Coca-Cola, Just Eat and 7-Eleven supporting their mission.

Their UK journey have just started, but they’ve already on-boarded more than 250,000 students and brands such as Disney, Coca-Cola and VUE. However, students are not their final stop, the team have received 70,000 requests from families to get access to the app, proving that digital addiction has become a big problem in society and the negative effects are only starting to show through mental health issues. Hold is set to be a guide through the masses of distraction and will create solutions by making use of the best of the digital era to combat the worst.

This year, Maths will be speaking at Ogilvy's annual festival of behavioural science, Nudgestock, where he will explain the behavioural science behind Hold while giving his review on humanity as a whole. Ahead of his talk, we caught up with Maths to find out what to expect.

What will you be speaking about at Nudgestock 2019?

At Nudgetstock I will provide an overview of the current state of humanity and explore whether smartphones are the new cigarettes? Further on, I will tie this to our first-hand experience of solving our own phone addiction – as student – and tell you a story of how we managed to create a win-win between marketers and consumers and today changed the behaviour of 50% of the Norwegian students. 

Tell us a bit about how Hold can help with digital detox

Today, 79% of people in the UK wants to find a better balance with their smartphone usage, but it’s harder than ever. Tech-companies are designing habit-forming-products to highjack your attention – because they are monetising on your eye-balls. With HOLD we are using positive reinforcement to change your behaviour. By rewarding your time offline with real life rewards like a free coffee, social recognition and competition from your friends and with a game based design -  we’re countering the nudges and are aiming for long-term behaviour change. We want to help people focus on the things that matter.

What are some common nudges at Hold that we might have seen?

In HOLD we’re using similar mechanics as games and social media use, but in our instance, we’re using it create a balanced usage. We’re using Streaks to make sure you’re actually creating a habit. We’re providing you social proof, competition and recognition from your friends through our stats and high-score. Furthermore we’re providing you the opportunity the ability to self-report your sessions and feedback that information to you to see the breakdown and progress. Additionally, we’re using variable rewards like gifs and real life rewards after a session ends, this trigger the user to connect the session to a moment to remember. 

What’s coming next in the digital detox realm?

2017-2018 was all about creating awareness about the issue, which forced both Apple and Google to launch screen time initiative, but they have few incentives to make the best screen time solution - as their revenue is tightly connected to the usage of other apps. However, I hope Apple will make the screen-time API accessible and work with 3rd parties developers to create the best solution for mankind. 

Further on, all research shows this will be a growing problem and topic in the years to come. I also believe that we will soon see the real results of the constant usage of smartphones and other devices. Because we still haven’t seen the affect on the generation that has been babysit by the iPad. 

I also believe the government will be more involved as more and more countries are seeing this as a health issue and have started to provide guidelines. The question is who has the responsibility to fix this? The user? The tech-companies? Or the government?


Nudgestock 2019, Ogilvy's annual festival of behavioural science, takes place in Folkestone on Friday 7th June. More info here.