Changing the World Through Gaming With Irena Pereira

Irena Pereira

Irena Pereira is the Founder and CEO of Unleashed Games, a video game startup developing games that unite players through cooperative gameplay. Irena is also the Owner of Digital Experiments, a company that specializes in helping gaming teams elevate user participation, putting the player first. A pioneer in user experience, Irena is a seasoned veteran in game development with a focus on connecting people. She’s worked in various roles across industry verticals, including as a user interface designer, chief creative officer, executive creative director, and product designer. A thought leader in gaming, Irena has been featured on Gaingels and has been a panelist at the MIT Gaming Industry Club.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Irena Pereira discusses Unleashed Games and its mission
  • What inspired Irena to start her own company?
  • How to build a successful team
  • Creating a diverse and inclusive work culture
  • How can games change the world?
  • Taking risks and other entrepreneurial lessons
  • Irena shares the best career advice she’s been given

In this episode…

Inspirational speaker Simon Sinek asserts that companies often hire the most intelligent person in the room only to silence them. This creates a toxic environment where people fear speaking up, and diversity and inclusion are undervalued. How can leaders create a safe, diverse, and inclusive work culture?

Entrepreneur and business leader Irena Pereira believes traditional work cultures have instilled the idea that it’s unprofessional to show vulnerability. To counteract this belief, she suggests companies devise and implement inclusive practices. Training on unconscious bias, holding employees accountable for their actions, and creating a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment are positive steps to establish a comfortable work environment. Irena also advocates for genuinely listening to team members, seeking out dissent, and identifying people who disagree with leadership and are willing to explain their reasons.

In this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast with Lizzie Mintus, Irena Pereira, Founder and CEO of Unleashed Games, discusses leadership in entrepreneurship. Irena shares the inspiration for creating Unleashed Games and its mission, how to build a successful team and implement a diverse and inclusive culture, and the lessons she’s learned during her entrepreneurial journey.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by Here’s Waldo Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in the video game industry that prioritizes quality over quantity and values transparency, communication, and diversity. We partner with companies, creatives, and programmers to understand the why behind their needs and provide a white-glove experience that ensures a win-win outcome.

The industry evolves. The market changes. But at Here’s Waldo Recruiting, our commitment to happy candidates and clients does not. 

We understand that searching for the best and brightest talent can be overwhelming, so let our customer-first staff of professionals do the leg work for you by heading over to

Episode Transcript

Welcome to the Here's Waldo podcast, where we sit down with top visionaries and creatives in the video game industry. Together, we'll unravel their journeys and learn more about the path they're forging ahead. Now, let's get started with the show.

Lizzie Mintus: I'm Lizzie Mintus, founder and CEO of Here's Waldo Recruiting, a boutique video game recruitment firm. This is the Here's Waldo podcast and every episode we dive deep into conversations with creatives, founders, executives about what it takes to be successful. You can expect to hear valuable lessons from their journey and get a glimpse into the future of the industry.

This episode is brought to you by Here's Waldo Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm for the game industry. We value quality over quantity, transparency, communication, and diversity. We partner with companies, creatives, and programmers to understand the why behind their needs. We provide a white glove experience that ensures a win win outcome.

Before introducing today's guest, I want to give a very big shout out to Martina Welkoff of Golden Rod VC for introducing us. We were just talking before the show, huge supporter of women in the industry. So thank you.

Today we have Irina Pereira with us. Irina is the CEO of Unleash Games, a video game startup making games that bring people together through deep co op gameplay.

Inspired by her experience on games such as World of Warcraft and Monopoly Go. With over 25 years of experience making games as a UX designer and director, her focus on usability and accessibility brings a new perspective to game development leadership. Let's get started. Thanks for being on the show today.

Can you share a little bit more about Unleashed games and what it is today and your vision for what it will become in the future?

Irene Pereira: Unleashed Games started off as my imagining of what a great video game company would look like. That we would not only be building a video game that would be pro social and would help people be better people through amazing gameplay, but also creating a team that was more humane in how it functions and has a more democratic way of making decisions and also sourcing perspectives. All the things that Simon Sinek likes to talk about and Brene Brown, seeing those actually executed within the video game space and wondering, What would a team like that look like?

As for the future of Unleashed Games, there is so much that we see, because right now, we're building our first game. And that first game is a small step in a much grander vision. But what we want to do is we want to create the ultimate, dynamic video game experience where we are leveraging technology such as generative AI to drive what we think is the best multiplayer game that we can possibly imagine and in a way that embraces the amazing progression and character development that you got in World of Warcraft, as well as the combat that you experienced there going all the way up through dungeons and raids with 36 of your friends.

And pairing that up with some of the things that we've learned from great UGC titles like Minecraft and Heim. Bringing these things together makes us think of pretty much the game that we've always wanted to play, but never quite had the technology to be able to build. And by building this game, we're also developing a new intellectual property and a new world, a new fantasy that we think is going to, in and of itself, reach people in all new ways through really incredible stories of human ingenuity and overcoming obstacles and working together.

Lizzie Mintus: I like it. I like your vision. Your big picture vision. It's fun to hear and that you want to build a studio with better morals and essence. What inspired you to start the studio?

Irene Pereira: I've seen over 300 million dollars set on fire by teams in big publishers. I have been present on the decks of many titanics and seeing them going straight for the glaciers. Having a whole team screaming and saying Glacier and having the captains and the leadership completely missing that. There's a better way.

In fact, I experienced that better way when I spent two years working with the United States Air Force in their unit. At the time it was an experimental unit called Kessel Run. I joined the team that eventually grew to about 400 and I think that they're probably at around 4,000 now. Their job was literally to drop into the offices of airmen stationed around the world, and figure out what their work was day to day, map that out, and then build software to make it easier.

The very first project that Kessel Run ever executed on ended up saving the United States the Department of Defense 150 million a month. Just by taking a process that was being done over 16 hours on a whiteboard and turning it into a mobile app. The way I learned to develop software there was entirely transformational.

I saw how to build things faster and more focused on what user need was. Once I really got a sense of how to execute it, and in fact, I became a trainer and I started managing the personal development for a team of product designers, I realized I could take this development methodology back to games and completely transform how games are made.

So that's what I wanted to do is I wanted to start up, at least within an organization. I tried doing it on a dev team. I actually went to go work for Scopely on a couple of products and there was not a lot of open mindedness around some of these methodologies because it required listening.

It required empathy, understanding, and asking questions, and sometimes game developers have struggled with this kind of thing. Sometimes when you get feedback that is counter to what your assumptions are, it's hard to adjust, it's hard to pivot. You need a specific type of organization that is made to be able to take in feedback, then synthesize it and then develop against it in a continuous, what we call an OODA loop.

I would look it up right now, but I don't have it in front of me, but the OODA loop is my mnemonic. Is our mnemonic to be able to observe and act on our observations and continuously make decisions in response to them. That's how a military unit operates on the ground in war and how a software team can also operate if it's built that way. But if it's not built that way, it's really hard. So when I tried on existing teams and it wasn't necessarily working, what's great is that the things that I brought to the table then continued to inform the team long after I left.

Monopoly Go for instance, was a massive success because of their focus and their willingness to actually connect and listen to players and integrate player feedback into their process. The logical next step for me was to start my own company.

Lizzie Mintus: For sure. So some things were adopted a bit at Scopely, or not really because the organization was just set in their ways.

Irene Pereira: Scopely I think is a better organization for the things that at least I helped champion and other UX designers and directors. Head champion there. But this is what we do as UX designers, is we bring the player to the table. And we bring the player into the conversation in a way that inform, that should inform the design.

And it's really up to a dev team as to how much they listen to that player, whether that player is a physical person that they talk to, or if it's a persona, which is what we call an amalgam of what their potential player can look like. A lot of these methods are supported in lots of great sales process designs.

Like you have to know who your ideal client is in order to be able to speak to them. It's not rocket science. It's not new. It's just bringing it to dev teams where like dev teams operate in a world where the creative director has all power and all opinion and it's their job to authorize things.

So it's a little bit counterintuitive. It's just hard to merge those two methods and especially bringing people over from dev teams into our way of doing things. I apologize to my team all the time. I'm sorry, I'm ruining you for other teams because you're not going to have this level of input most other places.

Obviously I don't want them to go anywhere else because and I don't think they would. The goal right now is being able to continue paying them and being able to fund our development.

Lizzie Mintus: Can you give more insights into how you're going to set up your team, just for anyone listening and that wants to have a different method when they're starting a studio?

What are some things to keep in mind?

Irene Pereira: Some key things to keep in mind, when people are looking to get into the industry right now, there's a lot of dev teams out there looking for help that are small dev teams. They're small, scrappy startups. There's not a lot of work and in fact, the big companies have laid a lot of people off.

So now is the time to either start your own thing or find a small scrappy startup to work with and help them execute on a pre production product.

So the way that we have been operating that I believe has been most successful is, we live on this mantra. It's a lean principle from Eric Rice and the Lean Startup: what is the smallest thing that you could build in order to be able to learn the most?

So what do you need to prove? And the way that you frame the answer to that is that you can't just jump straight into the answer because you still have to ask the question of what are you trying to prove? And then that goes back and that becomes your business target. What are you trying to prove?

Okay, if you wanna prove this, what are the conditions that say that proof is correct? What do you need to believe in order for that to be true? And then that belief should drive what it is that you're going to build. And then hammer on it. Make it the best that it can possibly be. Then just continue building on that.

Because once you've accomplished a basic goal, what we did was we needed to be able to log into our own games for our first line of code, we needed to stand up a unity project and be able to log in. That's the first thing we needed to prove. And we did it. Okay, what's next? How many players can we get in there? Now we can get two players. But keeping the goals small and attainable helps accelerate you for each and every push beyond that.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah. But you still have your big North star and you're really clear on what it is. And then you make baby steps, like reverse engineer it. I like that. I do this.

Irene Pereira: Absolutely. But also keep that North star, right?

Like you're going to have your North star, but have that be as general as possible because you have to have flex room to be able to wiggle around to where it's going to go. Because, you always need to adjust your assumptions based on new data. Because that's how we learn.

Lizzie Mintus: Absolutely. So I read a little bit about you before the podcast and I would love for you to share your story about what it took to get hired at Blizzard and your experience there.

Irene Pereira: Oh my goodness. I think I applied to work at Blizzard like four or five times. Working at Blizzard was my dream job. I started off in college playing Warcraft. And then later Warcraft 2 came out. I was actually a big time RTS player, which is how I found Blizzard. And then I played Diablo, and I was head over heels for any game that Blizzard would ever put out.

I really wanted to work there and I felt like I would continually get rejected. And at the time, when you applied, it wasn't an email. You were literally sending in an envelope with a printed resume on it. And you would wait in the mail for your rejection letter.

Lizzie Mintus: It's like it would hurt more that way.

Irene Pereira: It's painful. It was at least like a two week turnaround. But there was a point where I had been working at a company called the Hollywood Stock Exchange. And we had an online stock market where you could buy and sell movie stars and movies as stocks. And we would anticipate how big their releases would be and whatever.

That was a super cool product if you can look up more about it. I was playing a lot of EverQuest and I knew that World of Warcraft was out. I had played in beta and I was like, Oh my gosh, I need to get on this team. Since I had brought engineering into my skill set at the Hollywood stock exchange, I was building the front end of the web pages, because this is a web game.

But I had engineering skills. It was really through engineering that I was able to cut through the noise and get an interview. I've also heard from many other people that with Blizzard, you just have to apply like four or five times in order to be able to get their attention.

So don't be disheartened at the first rejection, right? Then when I went in for the interview, it's so funny, they said to me, we've been looking for you for two years. And I said, I've been applying for four.

They were looking specifically for somebody who had the engineering chops to be able to code the interface for World of Warcraft, but also the design chops, because they needed somebody who was full stack, somebody who could do game design, who could do art, who could do the programming, engineering, and launching.

I guess they were having a hard time identifying. But was it my failure of not being able to fully communicate my skills or was it there not being able to see through the limits of a resume? The handshake never happened until that moment. And it did. And it was legendary because it was some of the best years, development years of my life. Some of the hardest because of the amount of crunch we went through.

That was old school world of Warcraft where we were working 80 hour weeks. They were feeding us two meals a day in the office. It was an intense time. I don't know if I could have done it with the family that I have now, but there were plenty of men on the team that had families and they were working those sorts of hours.

Lizzie Mintus: That's really hard. That's a hard balance. We talked about building an inclusive company that accepts your family and accepts your whole self. Can you talk about just the culture that you are working towards building? And I think a lot of people talk about building a diverse and inclusive team, but that's not always the case.

How do you go from saying you're doing it and wanting to do it to really doing it? And what does that look like?

Irene Pereira: Sometimes it's just little reminders. Being the CEO, I can be a jerk sometimes because I can ask the hard questions and I say it out loud.

Then I sometimes ask questions like, when is it going to stop being, I know a guy and be, I know a girl? Or, can we broaden the net? Can we widen the net that we're casting to be able to hire this next position? And having somebody unafraid and willing to ask those kind of kinds of questions is an important part of a business because everybody's going to be putting one foot in front of the other and doing what's easiest and I know a guy is an easy answer to a lot of questions.

Lizzie Mintus: There always is.

Irene Pereira: There always is. Another thing that I pride myself on is, whether or not the team is comfortable with it and it's an ongoing process because they're not used to it, right? But I do what I like to call, I like to farm for dissent in public spaces.

Hey, everybody, if you disagree with me, you can either reach out to me privately or call me out right here and now. Those are the hard conversations that you have to be willing to have, because you don't want false positivity, that's called Toxic Positivity. Psychological safety is my utmost concern.

In order to be able to create that sort of space, you need to be able to make space, for people to disagree with you and then make it safe for them to and to know that they won't get retribution, won't get fired.

And that's a process. It takes time for a team to get there.

Lizzie Mintus: It's so hard. You're people's boss. It's always so interesting to be somebody's boss and have them come to you and tell you the thing they've been scared to tell you. Just a different dynamic.

Irene Pereira: Yeah. And some people have to go through their own form of therapy, right? And it's like work therapy.

There are, again, hard questions I sometimes will ask in a meeting like, is that you responding or is that your PTSD responding? Because there is that, from games, right? Simon Sinek likes to say that we hire people for their brilliance. And we try to find the smartest person in the room, and then when you bring them on to teams, you immediately silence them.

That seems like an anti goal. Because nobody feels safe, they're like, oh, I don't know. They're already doing their thing, I don't want to disrupt, I don't want to rock the boat. That's not how a pirate ship operates. A pirate ship operates- that the leader serves at the pleasure of the crew, not the other way around.

That's what democracy is. The other way around is authoritarianism. This company is entirely an expression of trying to find an actual practical execution of what democracy looks like in a fair environment where everybody has an equal say, everybody has an equal chance.

Lizzie Mintus: Onboarding, I feel is the most important thing. How do you ingrain that in people when they start? You can tell people as much as you want, but you have to show people. It sounds like you talk in meetings, but what else can you, what else can our listeners take away from this and really do in their own companies?

I think it's an amazing goal, but people find it challenging to execute.

Irene Pereira: Well, it is because if your leadership isn't supportive of that, then it could mean the end for you, right? Because most environments aren't psychologically safe.

And in fact, most professional advice is, never demonstrate vulnerability, always show strength. Toxic positivity is better than transparency. There's four.

Those are unsustainable practices because humanity is not good about taking out their trash or sorting through their baggage. Emotional baggage is the same exact way or that having that underlying current of disagreement is also the same thing.

It builds up over time. It becomes a scab, or it becomes arthrosclerosis, right? We can get clogged up by an inability to be able to talk about things that are hard. And part of that inclusive environment, it's less hiring- yes, we definitely have to hire my more diverse talent. That's a given, but we can't hire that diverse talent if there's no way for them to effectively contribute. And we don't have inclusive practices in how we operate our teams. And that inclusive practice is literally just opening the floor. And listening ,farming for dissent, finding people who disagree with you and then telling them why. Why is it that we're building this thing and how will it make an impactful difference?

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, like Simon Sinek that once you find your why everyone else can be on board and see it. I also think it's hard as a leader. You have this big vision, but it's hard to effectively communicate it. And even when you think you've communicated it, maybe it's not always clear.

Irene Pereira: What's great is that, we have this game that we're building that is literally an expression of what it is that we're trying to do in our company.

And there's a concept called Conway's law, where, Conway's law states that the software will often take the form of the communication pathways on a development team. So the way that I see that expressed in games is that if a game team is a miserable, there's no way in hell that game is going to be fun, right?

And if your team can't communicate, nobody's going to be able to understand what's going on in your game. You're going to have siloed functionality, siloed features that don't properly interconnect. You need to be able to drive what we've done with our game. Our game has this tagline of, Forge Friendships, Save the World.

And forging friendships to save the world also is expressed in how we build our game, is that we need to forge friendships with each other. To be able to make this game and we have to be vulnerable, we have to be empathetic, we have to listen as much as we talk. If we can have it be interrelated and consistent in both the game itself and in how we build the game, we will build the right thing the whole way.

Lizzie Mintus: That makes sense. Tell me about how games can change the world. I know that's your headline.

Irene Pereira: Games are the number one medium and they're taking over our entertainment hours. Games reach the largest potential audiences because we can play games on our couches, we can play games with our friends online, and we can play games wherever we are on our phone.

And those behavior patterns that those games set through something that's called the Proteus Effect. Actually affects our behavior in real life. It's amazing and so we say that video games don't cause violence. I'm not sure if video games cause violence in a direct correlative way. But games, if we play a lot of games that have more combative engagement as part of their core game loop, we're probably going to be a little bit more combative in our real lives and more willing to be combative because we're operating at that vibration.

Games have the opportunity to set vibration for each human, right? Look at Minecraft. You can go into this zen space with the lo fi and just be building to your heart's content for hours. And it's meditative, and it feels like you have an artist's brush. You can do anything.

Same thing with Fortnite. You just keep going round after round, chasing that win. Games can really capture us. And so with our first game and really with every game that we want to make, we imagine, what if there was a game that taught us how to be better people and how to be better friends?

And then we turn that into the wind condition. Wouldn't that be cool?

Lizzie Mintus: It's a game. Like a game first. And then, is there like an inadvertent bigger mission, or you think it will be more focused as a bigger mission first with a touch of game?

Irene Pereira: It is all game. It is all game and it is all about cooperation where we have to work together to build a village.

And that village we build based on what you need and what I need and then we cooperate together to make sure that we have everything that we need. And if we don't have everything that we need, we find somebody else to be able to help us out. There were games like EverQuest and World of Warcraft. If you were a tank, you couldn't do enough damage to be able to accomplish everything you needed a healer with you, because you would get stomped on and you couldn't heal yourself. You'd also need a rogue or a mage to be able to be your boomstick as DPS, to be able to get you through some of the more hard and more difficult content.

Those were some of the best experiences ever in gaming. Running Gnomeregan for the first time with my little group, wiping, recovering, and getting from encounter to encounter. Those are some of the best hours of entertainment in my life. And I learned that everybody needs to do something a little bit different in order for all of us to be powerful.

That's where cooperation is the win condition. So we're not looking to make something entirely new that nobody's ever seen. What we're gonna make is actually the best version of what I just described. Where you're playing a new and improved version of World of Warcraft. But that World of Warcraft is what WoW used to be at its heart, that it's lost since then.

It's gonna go back to the days of early EverQuest. Those key moments where you would run around with your friends through a dungeon and have a proper dungeon run.

Lizzie Mintus: And you have the ability to do that as a small and agile team. That's what's so beautiful about a startup.

Irene Pereira: Absolutely. And we can build the smallest thing that we can imagine to get us as far as we can.

Lizzie Mintus: I'm excited. You're inspiring. Thank you.

A lot of success is just about taking a calculated risk. Do you have a particular instance where you or your team took a big risk and that ended up in success or failure?

Irene Pereira: Our biggest success so far was, actually we applied for A16Z's new gaming accelerator called Speedrun.

We applied earlier this year and then early in May, we found out that we had gotten one of the coveted spots and we were one of the first Speedrun companies. My team actually saw that as a risk. Do we want to go with this accelerator group ? Is it going to get us to where we want to get to? We weren't necessarily sure of what value it would bring.

But then we went through their six week long program and the program was phenomenal, not just for the content, but to see how aligned they were with how it is that we execute. It turns out that the entire games team at A16Z, they're all phenomenal human beings. They're all also really good at what they do. We ended up with the entire team as a resource.

So whenever we have an issue, we can reach out and ask them a question. They also gave us our first investment. Then we're able to put together a demo and get our team kick started and now we're actually building. And we were able to more than double that investment and we've raised 1.2 million dollars so far with Andreessen's backing as well as other smaller angels. I mean we're still fundraising to be able to keep this train rolling but we've been able to get this far and now we're streaming our playtests every week on Twitch.

So if you can find us on Twitch every Friday, 2 p.m. Eastern and 11 a.m. Pacific Time at Unleashing Games, you can catch our playtests that you can kind of recap with. But we've been sharing broadly, this is what we're building, even though it's ugly, check out how far we've come since last week.

 It's actually been one of the best things for our team.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, building that community engagement so early is huge. And I imagine by the time you're further down, when you fundraised and your team is bigger, just manifesting for you here, you have such a following already.

That's incredible.

Irene Pereira: Yeah. And but look at the success that, just jumping into speed run and saying yes, we're just going to make this decision and run through. We wouldn't be where we are today if it weren't for that investment.

Lizzie Mintus: Congratulations on Speedrun. I had Linda Shad of Voidpets on the podcast as well.

Irene Pereira: Oh, I love Linda.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, Speedrun's exciting.

Irene Pereira: She and Ben are the best.

Lizzie Mintus: She was the hoot. Check out her podcast. I just rewatched it last night and she was really making me laugh the whole time. She has such a funny personality. She's doing her thing.

Irene Pereira: She's hilarious.

Lizzie Mintus: She's really fun. Good. I'm glad you were a part of that.

And I'm excited for the next cohort too. And just for this idea of teaching people all these things in the short amount of time. And I'm excited to see all the new studios that come out of it too.

You touched on before, but there are so many layoffs from big studios, but this is also such an incredible time of incubation and new companies starting up.

Irene Pereira: That's the way the this industry goes. There's like an expansion and contraction cycle, but that's everything like this is the Buddhist concept of breath, right? But in that contraction creates an opportunity for new ideas to spin up and it's actually wonderful for the startup community and for founders, because there's a lot of opportunity.

I think we're in the kind of a holding pattern in terms of VC right now. But if there's anything that I know about VC, nothing holds them back for long and there will be a quick picking up of the pace. And the more that you have prepared now, in terms of your idea, get your friends together. And find the people who can build something and build it. Throw it in front of venture capital and see if you can get investment.

It's so worth the journey. That's a huge risk that I took, and I couldn't be more grateful for where I am right now.

Lizzie Mintus: What are some of the lessons that you've learned along the way in this entrepreneurial journey of yours? Take risks. Just do it.

Irene Pereira: Yeah, bias for action. The more time you take to make a decision, the more you undermine your ability to be successful.

Because you have to make a take quick, decisive action to be able to really do this job. Sometimes it's a big risk. And the more you calculate, the more you sit on your hands, and then you'll lose your launch window. Yeah. That's actually one of the things that I was just telling my team today is that we have a launch window lining up.

And we need to be able to hit it because there's various points where we will be able to launch. But in order to hit it, you need to make quick, decisive action.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, I think about that a lot too. Amazon has a principle of a one way door or a two way door. Is this a decision that you could make and then you can pivot to something later?

Or is this a decision that you make like moving across the country? But I guess you can move back. So just evaluating the seriousness of your decision, how much time you need to spend on it.

Irene Pereira: Absolutely. Absolutely. And sometimes thinking too much is just a matter of you just talking yourself out of it. If you can't take action, take that as a no, and move on to the next decision that needs your attention, rather than spending way too much time on one, because it'll end up slowing you down regardless, whether it's analysis or distraction.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, I agree. You have to make so many decisions all the time having your own business. For me, personally, I have a few people I can call that are really high on the GSD. Here's the thing, here's my opinion, let's move on. And that's really helpful, too, because I'm happy you have Andreessen.

There are so many questions and so many questions you don't have the answer to. And no one really has the answer to just making it up as we go.

Irene Pereira: Yeah, it's good to have great people in your corner. Always. Martina Welkoff is like that. I can always gut check things with her and she will give me a really wise chunk of feedback and actionable too.

So it's awesome to have people like that in your corner.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah. But you have to make the quick decision and put yourself out there to even meet those people too. It's important.

Irene Pereira: Exactly. Just go to that networking event.

Lizzie Mintus: You're really, you do a lot of networking events, right? I see your


Irene Pereira: Yeah. I try to be as active as I can. But with Games Venture, there's a whole seasonality to the events.

There's the DICE GDC phase, and then there's stuff during the summer and stuff during the fall. As a mom, you have to pick your battles.

Lizzie Mintus: Very much so. Yes, I've been on a travel train.

What do you think the best networking events are outside of GDC?

Irene Pereira: GDC is certainly great. Actually amazing was Gamescom. I went for the first time this year and going to Cologne, Germany was certainly a win in and of itself. But the amount of networking and conversations I was able to have are really transformative and powerful.

And it was a lot more open doors. You just would run into people and people were very very open to introductions. It was really great.

Lizzie Mintus: And you had an amazing trip to Germany. I had so much fun while I was reading everybody's posts and seeing the pictures. So maybe next year, mom life, pick your own hands.

Irene Pereira: Yeah. And Germany's worth it.

Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, I went to Germany with my two little kids this summer, but that was a different sort of adventure. Less work related.

I have one last question and I want to point people to your website, unleashedgames. io.

The last question is who have your biggest mentors up or open? And if you could distill the best advice you received in your career, what would it be?

Irene Pereira: Oh, my goodness. I have some pretty phenomenal mentors that have been supporting me through this journey. I try to keep a good counsel with smart people.

The very first person who truly believed in me and was able to enable me was Mark Long, the CEO of Shrapnel. And he regularly just sends me Slack messages of just cheering me on and as a cheerleader. It really been powerful and it's barely rare. We don't often cheer people on very directly, but he was able to invest and enable this entire journey to get us started. So he became an investor and a mentor.

 Then I've had other friends, Jillian Huffnagel. I've had Martina as a mentor helping guide me through a woman's perspective in the XR space. It's been so invaluable in the introductions she's been able to make, including to you.

This is going to sound like an Oscar speech with all the people that I want to name. Gabriel Pesa, who was a phenomenal help in terms of finance, like getting people to help you fill in gaps in your knowledge is so powerful.

And then they can tell you where you're wrong, find the people who will tell you where you're wrong so that you can use that to guide yourself and where to develop your skills. John Radoff, he's been an advisor and mentor of mine for two years as well and has been invaluable in just the connections and the networking that he's been able to introduce me into and getting me started on my journey.

I guarantee we all have individuals like this in our network that we don't quite know how to access, and sometimes it's just a matter of reaching out to them and asking them out for coffee. Starting that relationship because we all just want to help because that's the way that we can build up good karma, just being of service to each other and helping each other be better and cheering each other on.

 And that's what they do for me.

Lizzie Mintus: I'm happy you have all these people in your corner. That's key. And behind every successful person are so many people to help them all the time.

Irene Pereira: If I can just add one more thing. In terms of people who are mentors too, you should feel that way about a co founding team too. Bring on people onto your team who you think cover your gaps and can mentor you in those gap spaces.

That's what a co founding team is supposed to be. My core team of Dave, Chris, Tom, Brian, and Jason who came on later, having people like that in your corner who help you cover those gaps makes every difference in the world. And don't be stuck that you have to do everything on your own because that's not the way great teams are made. Great teams are made in collaboration.

Lizzie Mintus: You have to give away your Legos. There's a great Harvard Business Review article about when your team grows and how you give away your Legos and other people start doing all the things you used to do and it's okay to divide that.

 I took a really interesting one called Genius Zone. I think I'll send it to you. I did it at a conference but basically you identify what is your genius zone and what you're really good at and you identify your team's genius zone and it should be your yin to your yang..

You need to have somebody that compliments you. And I think a lot of your intuition is to find somebody just like you. You like people that are just like you, but really it's so important to have people that see in your blind spots that you can work with and understand where your blind spots are in general.

My personality is taskmaster extraordinaire. I get a lot done, but I was super low on the wonder. So for me, I really need someone who has a lot of wonder because I just don't have that. I'm just. I just have to keep right. So important to know where you stand.

Irene Pereira: You have to have a yin to your yang.

Lizzie Mintus: Yes, absolutely.

We've been talking to Irina Perera, the CEO and founder of Unleashed Games. Irina, where can people go to maybe give you money in your funding, follow along with your company, imagine your Twitch, follow along with your thought leadership on LinkedIn and all the awards you're getting. Where can people go to follow you and your company?

Irene Pereira: The best place to find me and get all the different ways to find me in other channels is on my Twitter or X.

Lizzie Mintus: Everyone is like Twitter or X. Whatever it is.

Irene Pereira: It's X Twitter. My Twitter handle is @ aniri which is irina backwards and you can also find me at Irina Perera on linkedin and learn all about Unleashed Games at unleashedgames. com and our various socials are linked from that website.

We're about to actually launch an entire co founder interview series. We've got lots of content incoming to really help people learn about who we are and what we do and why we do most importantly. So please be sure to sign up for our newsletter on that website because they are the first to know about everything that we release.

Lizzie Mintus: Thank you. I'll sign up too. Thanks for being on the show.

Irene Pereira: Oh, yay. Thank you so much, Lizzie. It was great to chat with you.

Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. To catch all the latest from Here's Waldo, you can follow us on LinkedIn. Be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes. We'll see you next time.

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