Linda Shad is the Co-founder of Voidpet, a thoughtful multiplayer game where mental health meets Pokemon. Linda conceived the idea during the pandemic when she began using art as therapy — drawing monsters based on emotion. The concept quickly went viral, leading to a fanbase of over 100,000 members on Discord. Linda earned her BA in computer science from Boston College, where she worked as a lab and teaching assistant.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Linda Shad discusses Voidpet and the idea behind the concept
- Building an audience and community through social media
- Linda talks about Speedrun and her partnership with them
- Overcoming imposter syndrome
- Video companies making an impact on mental health
- Are entrepreneurs born or made?
- Linda offers advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
In this episode…
If you’ve been conceptualizing an idea for a video game that you’re excited to share, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs have ideas for products or companies, but the most challenging part is often taking the first step and initiating the idea.
Gaming influencer Linda Shad asserts that building an app is easier than most people think. However, she recommends taking a class if you need assistance getting started. When attempting to create a startup, she advises applying to startup accelerators such as Y Combinator or Speedrun, which help entrepreneurs acquire funding and launch their companies. Inexperienced entrepreneurs can also gain knowledge by interning or working for a startup company. Linda shares how her time working for a startup allowed her to learn and gain valuable experience. In addition, while developing a video game is exhilarating, having an audience is critical for success. Linda Linda recommends introducing your concept on social media platforms like TikTok and Discord to build a community and create buzz.
Join Lizzie Mintus in this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast as she interviews Linda Shad, Co-founder of Voidpet, about the process of creating a video game. Linda discusses building an audience and community through social media, overcoming imposter syndrome, and video games impacting mental health.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Here’s Waldo Recruiting
- Lizzie Mintus on LinkedIn
- Linda Shad on LinkedIn | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter
- Sean Vesce on LinkedIn
- Ben Awad on LinkedIn
- Y Combinator
- The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- Lumi Interactive
- Jenny Xu on LinkedIn
- Talofa Games
- Richard Aberman on LinkedIn
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 hereswaldorecruiting.com.
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, and executives about what it takes to be successful. You can hear valuable lessons from their journey and get a glimpse into the future of the industry.
This episode is brought to you by Here is Waldo Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm for the video 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 big shout out to Sean Fesk for introducing us. Sean is the CEO of Very Very Spaceship and LiveAware Labs, which just launched lately.
Today we have Linda Shad with us. Linda is the founder of Voidpet, which is a mental health meets Pokemon game. The concept was started during the pandemic, where she drew monsters based on her emotions. And that quickly went viral, leading to a fan base of over 100, 000 members on Discord. After that, they built the iOS and Android app, and participated in the first ever batch of the Speedrun Gaming Accelerator. Let's get started! Thanks for joining me here today.
Can you start by just sharing a little bit more about what Voidpet is for anybody that might not know.
Linda Shad: Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for having me here, Lizzie. That's a very flattering intro. Very excited to be here.
For a little bit more context on Voidpet. Voidpet aims to be a next gen Pokemon, and unlike most gaming studios, I'd say that we actually focus more on our IP and our concept before on our expertise as a studio that's just able to make a lot of games.
Neither me or my co founder really had a background in gaming. We both studied computer science. We both really like to code and we both were very set on building something. But Voidpet was actually the very first thing that we built that had a sizable audience around our product. The whole YC phrase makes something people want, right?
I was very surprised to know that the first time I made something that people wanted, it was actually a virtual pet game. So in VoidPet, all the monsters are based on emotions. And I was posting these Tik Toks where I was like, here is anxiety as a dragon with five different evolutions like Charizard.
And people on TikTok like really love that. Like people started commenting their own emotions:
Can you draw this next? Can you draw this next? Oh, this one's so me. And we had fans like who built the discord around just the concept. So it's not like we were game devs who were running a studio that built a game. We were just drawing and just talking about our emotions during the pandemic. And that led to this audience of people being like, You need to make a game! When is the game coming out? Please make the game.
So we both knew how to code me and my co founder, Ben. He was full timing YouTuber and coder and he was like, you know what?
If we have this many people in our discord. We could probably just try to make the startup from here and see if these people are actually serious about wanting to play the game.
That's how Voidpet was started. We started with a very early beta on Voidpet. com, which is actually a multiplayer, Neopets inspired website.
But from there, we realized, we had such a strong mental health theme embedded into the core IP, and so many people who signed up were here because they were seeking a way to integrate gaming with wellness. So we actually decided to do our more polished launch as a wellness mobile app so that people could not only enjoy the experience of collecting their boy pets, similar to playing Pokemon Go, but also like very subtly incorporate wellness into the addicting habit of collecting monsters.
I would say we almost pivoted from like a neopets style approach to a more Pokemon Go meets mental health app. And that's the current product that we have out right now.
Lizzie Mintus: I love it. Tell me more about just starting it in general. You went from the pandemic, weird, dark days, like washing your groceries, strange times.
Did you have a job then? What are you up to? You start drawing on your own, then post it on Tik Tok. How did it happen exactly? And how did you meet your co founder? Was here on the whole time? Was he drawing with you?
Linda Shad: All great questions that are provoking, very long stories. I would say that in terms of art, art was something that I was doing as a lifelong hobby. As a little kid, just going into a corner of a classroom and drawing and or doing math and or playing Pokemon were the things that I did to just escape and have fun.
I was always like a very awkward and shy kid. I was bad with making friends. I was bad at talking about my emotions. But drawing and writing and numbers are just the things that I always took comfort in. So those were my core deep hobbies. As I progressed through high school and college, I had more of a practical mindset where I thought I wanted to study business and everyone was learning to code back in those days.
I might be good at computer science. I'm gonna try to be an engineer. Maybe I want to be a software engineer at Google. Maybe that's my dream job. I was just like going down that path and trying to impress my Asian parents and be hardworking and get a good job.
I'd say one thing that really changed my trajectory was when I took the iOS development class in college. I went to Boston College, my professor, Professor Gallagher, he's very wonderful, a very good mentor of mine. He was teaching this class that basically helps students build an app from zero to one. Unlike all the other programming classes, which like maybe teach you some pretty hardcore Python or data science or whatever.
You don't actually get to feel like you own an entire product by the end of the semester. But in this iOS app development class, you could build a whole app. And for me as a freshman, I was like, that is so cool. I didn't even know that one person teams could build entire apps that made on the app store.
As a kid, that was just crazy to me. I thought you had to be a well funded company of like multiple engineers to even do that. So when I built my first app, it was a social chatting app, like your basic college student startup. I actually just really like building things that I can make whatever I want.
So I almost pivoted my mental model of, I don't just want to be an engineer. I want to be an engineer that can tell stories and bring my own ideas to life, maybe even incorporate my love of writing, my love of art into what I'm doing. So I stopped out of school to do another startup with my friend and it was at that point in my life where I was like, I will do whatever it takes to just do a startup because I know that this is so much fun and it combines all the skills that I love to do.
I've done enough computer science cause I can hold my own like I'll figure it out. I just aggressively tried to start a company like I kept applying to YC. I kept building these like random goofy apps. I kept trying to put out like these surveys: tell me about your problems as a customer and let me see if I can figure them out.
And I was doing all sorts of stuff like that for two or three years in college and out of college. But I was never able to actually make something that got more than my friends using it out of pity or people trying it out, but the app wasn't good enough to meet the actual needs that they have.
At that point, I think it was like my 6YC application and I had built something. This was like the best thing that I had built to date. It was this virtual shopping video chatting website. It was called Trydaydream. com and I built it with my friend Andrew. And Andrew is a great engineer. It was like you could buy products from Lululemon that we would just buy from Lululemon's retail stores for you while also video chatting while also playing a video game while like also there being an arcade.
It was like this whole, crazy, messy thing and it was cute and we were pitching to YC and they were like, this is actually like a pretty impressive little side project, but like you don't have anyone using it. Maybe if you like went viral on TikTok or partnered with a bunch of influencers, then you could actually get some of your like goofy ideas out into the world. Because you guys are onto something, but you're also like really missing something. You have to figure that part out.
So funnily enough, it was actually Y Combinator who got me started on wanting to be a TikTok creator. I was like, okay, I'll just grind TikToks every day until I go viral and I'll keep messaging content creators until somebody wants to be friends with me.
That is how I met my co founder. He was growing on TikTok at that very same time. He now has over a million followers across his platform. So he's like an engineering guru on YouTube, but also known on TikTok for making programming jokes. And he's known across like very different types of audiences, which is a lot of fun.
But we connected over TikTok, he was one of the first creators where we had something in common just by both building things and liking computer science. So that was an easier connection than just like DMing random influencers and being like, hi, can you teach me how to be an influencer? Hi, you want to use my product? That's how I met my co founder, Ben.
That's also a bit of my background. At that time too, I also, I don't know if you've heard of the startup Beacons AI. They're another YC company. They're backed by A16Z. They were making Linkedin bios for creators and they were blowing up at the time as well.
And they were also hiring. So they found me on TikTok and we started talking to each other in the comment section. And they're like, Oh, we really need a product designer. And since you post all these videos of your art, where you're doing art in Figma, clearly you can use the software that we need for our product design.
You want to come work with us. So I was super excited. I was like, okay, I'm running out of money. Like my college savings from being a teaching assistant were running dry. So I very gladly took the job. It was a really fantastic learning experience. I also learned a ton just about like how startups work and about being a content creator just by serving all these content creators at my job.
It was also during that, I realized that my side project of Voidpet had a lot more potential. And due to all the things that I was learning at my full time job at Beacons, I thought maybe I have sort of the roadmap to get Voidpet off the ground now that I've seen the playbook from all these other big creators. Maybe I should try that.
So I left Beacons after six months and it was because I think I just had a burning desire to get back to building my own thing, even though I really enjoyed working there. And I didn't have that much traction on boy pet at the time. It was just a few videos had done well.
Lizzie Mintus: Okay. Tell me more. What does a few videos doing well mean?
Linda Shad: I think I had gotten to about 50 K followers. I had maybe a thousand people in our discord at this time. I had a few hits that have gotten like a million views. I've gotten a couple million view videos. I kind of understand what it takes.
A thousand people in discord, I didn't realize that was above average. That's really exciting. And I think if I can get a thousand people with my 50, 000 followers. That's a good enough conversion rate that if I keep it up, I can really build a community from there.
I did not expect that number to actually get higher. I thought that, the 50 K to 1000 turned into 200 K to 100, 000. So I went from having 2 percent of my followers in my discord, which I thought was above average and really good to 50 percent of my followers on my discord, which was so strange, but nice!
It was just from looking at all these like creator analytics during my time at Beacons that I was starting to develop my mental model of how people were able to leverage their audiences to build communities and to actually start a business on that community.
That's why I was like thinking a lot about discord. I was thinking a lot about conversion. I was thinking, if I can just get a few more viral videos, I can have enough traction to work on this thing. And Ben was like, yeah, just post a hundred videos this week and just keep doing that until you go viral.
Lizzie Mintus: A hundred videos that you personally created.
Linda Shad: Yeah. He was just like, just keep making it. It's so easy. TikTok videos are seven seconds. Just make a hundred.
And at that time to you, I was priced out of my parents house in New York. My parents live in Midtown Manhattan. And I just need to live in the middle of nowhere so I can bootstrap myself to something.
So I moved to a small town in Tennessee called Cookville. It was very peaceful, very quiet, an hour and a half away from Nashville. I'm gonna buckle down and post 100 videos until I go Mr. Beast mode. I don't know.
So funnily enough, Ben was just totally right. I posted 100 videos that week, I got 10 million views. And then we got 100k discord. That actually was just like legit what I was supposed to do. Like, who would have thought?
Lizzie Mintus: And how did you figure out what to do in these hundred videos? How did you make that plan?
Linda Shad: So I think a lot of times when you're doing content as a side hobby, it really is like your subconscious processing power that you need to devote to understand like virality.
And it's almost impossible to do that when you're working a full time job somewhere else and you're like full subconscious computer is not on the job. But as soon as you have nothing else to do and you're making a hundred videos, all that ram is suddenly going towards making good video.
So I can't exactly explain, like, Ah, yes, it was using this trending sound and, making sure I position my face at this angle and use this hook.
Those tips all help, and I think it's always smart to use psychology, be on the side of the algorithm, but I think you just develop a subconscious intuition for what catches people's eye, what's the kind of thing that causes just enough controversy that people want to comment, and this is actually during the height of the NFT and crypto bubble too.
So actually another thing that blew up my videos was this whole debate in the comments being like, this is a scam. This is super jank. And then other people being like, no, I've been following this girl for a long time. She's been making really high quality videos. She's serious about building her game.
So all of that debate helped make the videos more viral. I was like, okay, I'm going to lean into that instead of over explaining and putting my face on everything. I'm going to make my videos look really jank. Just be like a screen recording of my website and have my arm shaking a lot.
And that actually was the video that got like the 10 million views.
It was about 40 million like in total from all the multiple videos, but there's a 110 million viewer, which is my top guy. And then a bunch of supplementary ones who are building up and riding off of him.
But yeah, that was a quote unquote terrible video, but it was almost engineered in such a way to lean into the controversy at the time, and to be able to get people talking in the comments. So yeah, I'd say if I were able to put my brain full time on content like that, it's very fun to see that progress and be able to be vibing with those trends.
But I feel like it's almost impossible to do when I'm building full time. So that's why I haven't posted as much lately.
Lizzie Mintus: Are you going to hire someone to do content creation? Or do you feel like that needs to come from both of your brains?
Linda Shad: That's a great question. I think it could go either way. Right now it is probably easier to hire more engineering talent and hire more artists so that we have more time to make content.
I think that's just like a more straightforward pipeline and people in tech and people in gaming know how that works. But that being said, if we could hire like a really amazing content creator, I would definitely love to do that. I think it's just like a bit of a harder meta to understand.
So that's why I haven't put as yes, this is like what I need to accomplish next quarter. That will happen if it happens.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah. It's not your short term goal. And then many of our listeners are probably familiar with speedruns gaining a lot of traction lately.
They're doing their next cohort, but can you explain what Speedrun is and how you became affiliated with them?
Linda Shad: Yeah, of course. I love Speedruns so much. I don't want to sound corny like I'm spitting propaganda, but I definitely feel like they changed my life. And we're just like a group of incredible people.
The reason that we got connected, and I think a lot of other speedrunners got connected this way too, was that we're already trying to raise money. We already had an adjacent scout. We're already pitching a 16 Z and they passed. But even though they passed, I think we still had a really good conversation and we got along very well.
It was just so exciting. I felt like they asked really good questions. They were really insightful. These people passed on me, but I still like them. I'll just keep in touch, anyway.
Lizzie Mintus: I'm gonna make 100 new pitches.
Linda Shad: I also feel like just by virtue of a 16 Z having a really strong presence at GDC, and also being really active on the internet, they were just everywhere that we were and like, I was trying to grow in social media, like they were doing great on social media. So I was always seeing them.
When I heard that Speedrun came out, I was physically at GDC, and there was an event and I heard about it in person. So I was super excited to apply and I was overthinking the application so hard too. It's like a five minute application where you write five sentences about yourself.
I was so stressed about it. I was like, maybe I should mention AI somewhere, even though we're not doing AI. I don't know. I was really excited because I thought that it was just the perfect program. On paper, it just sounded like everything that I had dreamed of, as someone who applied to YC eight times, and I've had five YC interviews, but my very most recent one, they said that it was amazing that you have so much determination, you keep coming back and you really can build but gaming and consumer just really isn't up our alley.
Like maybe if you change your idea, then we'd be able to fund you. This is just not the kind of thing that we can work with. I was bummed about that. And then Speedrun just came up and I was like, wow, their whole thesis is that, they're YC for gaming and it's a very similar deal, if not better.
But also just like gaming specific. This is exactly what I was missing. I'll be so sad if I don't get it. So I think it was like this five minute application. I was ruminating about it for weeks and tweaking every sentence. So we did get an interview. I was also like so happy about it.
I was so nervous. I was like, I need to show up at the zoom like an hour early, just in case I miss it. That was the type of person I was. Then we got a call on 9pm on Friday night from Andrew Lee. And he said, I'm so sorry that we can't offer you 10 million dollars, but here's 500k for Speedrun.
Oh, wow! That was just a really happy moment. And the program itself is fantastic, too. I think so many of the people that I now talk to on a daily or weekly basis about gaming and about very relevant things in my life are just people that I became friends with through that program.
And also just in terms of running our company. I wouldn't say there's specific tidbits of using this tick stack and pivoting to other tech... it's very subconscious knowledge. But just feeling like you're part of a community and having good exposure to other founders has definitely improved VoidPet.
And I feel like our next release is going to be a lot more thoughtful and a lot higher quality thanks to the type of thinking that we've been exposed to at Speedrun. So stay tuned for our battle that's coming out soon, where you can not only self care, but also harm others to express your emotions.
Lizzie Mintus: I'm so excited. Any more teasers of what's to come?
Linda Shad: Yes, actually, I can talk about this more frequently. Another like fun chapter of Voidpet is working on our characters and our IP. I realize as someone who loves art and loves storytelling, and I also love music- I won't expose myself too hard because I feel like you know those things where it's like, you don't want to tell everyone you're running a marathon because it can self sabotage your goals.
You just need to write it down in your journal and keep it to yourself. There's that whole school of thought. But I will say, I really want to lean into being not only a content creator with my face but also a content creator with the characters and faces of Voidpet.
And I want to write original music. I want to create skits that get people excited about the game. And I want to do basically what like the Mario movie and like the Barbie movie and Arcane have been doing for their games. When you have this flywheel of good content, that's also backed by a fun game that people can play, you just make your universe accessible and entertaining to so many more people. And I think that we almost have a baby version of that flywheel going on with our TikToks. It'd be really nice to nurture that and see how far it can go. So I am writing a song and I'm trying to do a theme song title sequence to test the waters on a different type of content production.
And that is scheduled for after our battle. It was another fun thing we were posting on TikTok about heroes versus villains. And my most recent TikTok that had some success after I was very purposely grinding for that one week back in the day, was this TikTok about our characters and how at first, the heroes represented trauma because I was like very depressed and very anxious during COVID. And I had this one character have depression, this one kid have anxiety, and this one kid have anger issues. Like those are the three heroes. I started playing with the idea of villain characters being self respecting, but maybe quote unquote villainous in the eyes of the public.
So now we have the greedy capitalist characters who like self care, but trying to take over the world, but they're also taking care of themselves. And that was just like a way more popular concept with our fans and with TikTok. And I think there's just a lot of nuance on how you supposed to think of your identity and your self esteem in a world that's so heavily interconnected, where there's so many reasons to feel bad about yourself or too overexposed to the opinions of the public so much so that it encroaches upon your self esteem.
Just themes between media, like content consumption, capitalism, but also self care and the idea of dopamine and how dopamine as a chemical has been used in capitalism, but it's also such an important thing for you to self regulate in your mental health.
All of those themes that are goofy are things that I want to expand on with Voidpet and make it where we're more than just a mobile game. We're a whole universe with characters and story, and if you want any sort of this, you can play our app, you can play our website, or you can watch our show. That's the sort of big picture vision that I have.
For now we just really want the app to be more fun because I think that there's just a lot of cool things that we really liked about our beta that we just haven't built into the polished product yet. So we are currently working on that.
Lizzie Mintus: I like that you can incorporate feedback from all of your socials real time and test things out and see what goes viral and then do that thing.
Linda Shad: That's definitely super helpful. It's something that I've gotten almost desensitized to, but every time I think about it, I'm so grateful.
Even yesterday, I was struggling a little bit wondering if I want to do these character interactions for battle. I realized I can just go ask our players. So I just started jumping into the chat on discord asking what games have they liked and what were their favorite experiences?
What do you think is an example of this done well? Who's your favorite character? What would you want to do to them? Got a cool spec for that last night coming up in the book.
Lizzie Mintus: Real time. I think as an entrepreneur, that's your dream. Having a chat where you can ask, hey, I need this thing.
What do you do? What do you like? And then they get back on it and just solve your problem.
Linda Shad: Right. I'm very curious to hear about your community as well. You're also building some very cool stuff, but I don't know if you want to talk about yourself on the podcast, so up to you.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, I'm a recruiting company. We are sponsors of Women in Games, Women in Games International and recruiting is just like people throwing stuff against the wall. My friends send me messages that recruiters send them. It's bleak out there. They don't understand the situation. They're not thinking about the candidate and their best interest.
So I love community building. I love bringing people together. I love creating fun experiences. Connecting people makes me so happy. When you can connect good people and they can work together, kind of like what speed run did for you, but in terms of finding a job, that is so beautiful and amazing.
So big Picture would love to create communities where people feel safe, people feel cared about, people have information that they need to be able to find a job because it's really confusing and people don't really understand it.
We do games right now and games is amazing because people have a lot of passion. People love it. Whereas in tech, I did tech recruiting before, everyone right away is just, what's the TC? What's the total comp? I'm like, do you care about this job at all? So it's a lot of fun. You get to work with some characters.
Linda Shad: That's amazing. I love that. I'm so glad that what you're doing exists too. I definitely just felt so welcomed and excited to speak to you today and especially for women and gaming.
It's always very refreshing to see more women. It's always very refreshing to see women coming together and helping each other. So thank you for doing what you do.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, thanks for being here. It's so important. No, it's great to have those communities that you can ask questions to. I'm in a few different CEO groups and I did, I've done multiple accelerators and they're so helpful.
And I know that I can ask these people questions if I need it. If I'm having some crisis, I have 20 different people that I can call and they can talk me through it. And that's the most important thing.
Okay. I want to talk about imposter syndrome because I feel like it's so real and you are so successful, but everybody has imposter syndrome, like every single person.
So tell me. Maybe you don't? Maybe I'm just assuming.
Linda Shad: I can go on deep, dark holes about mental health. That's my brand. I have imposter syndrome up the wazoo, and I also don't.
I actually got therapy after this. When I told you, can we reschedule? I have an appointment.
It's because I have an appointment with my therapist and I specifically wanted it to be in person instead of online, because I had some deep stuff to get off my chest. I was like, Oh wait, I forgot that I specifically asked my therapist to accommodate me in person instead of online, which is why I have been moody.
Imposter syndrome is like such a thing. I don't like going on rants about gender, but I feel it happens anyway because that's how I perceive things sometimes.
I literally have different characters and mental models for myself, because I definitely feel like there is a version of me that does not feel like she can get the job done, feels terrible about herself, and fixating on every mean comment that someone said. Every time I didn't feel ready to work, every time I wasn't consistent, every time I said something dumb... maybe like my entire success is just like random luck. People might say, you're just like a washed up TikTok-er. Any little comment that I read on the internet, I can misconstrue it to say something negative about me that undermines my entire life. I actually have to create these like virtual characters who are super confident and chad to be like, no, like you got this. Oh, I've already seen the future.
It's some fictional character and I'm very conscious about the fact that I've chosen this to be a male character, but that's just how it is.
He's would say, yeah, I'm a time traveler. I've seen 2060 and you're already a billionaire. So what are you sad for. And he'll come back and say I'll be like, I guess if I'm a billionaire in 2060, why am I sad right now? Like all these goofy, fake reasons to reverse gaslight myself and to not having a positive syndrome.
And it's a daily challenge. Every day I will have thoughts. Okay, not gonna lie, I was about to burst into tears at the beginning of this call when my mic wasn't working. I was thinking, am incompetent, I am stupid. I am a failure. I am a woman who does not deserve to be in tech, because I can't understand something as basic as getting my microphone to work. Little things like that will come up, right?
And then you just gotta smack him right back with another punch. It's like a Pokemon battle. If Charizard uses flamethrower at you, you gotta hump him right back, right? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, like this is a podcast for successful, gorgeous women, entrepreneurs. None of that today.
You just have to imagine maybe Elon Musk's microphone wasn't working either, to make myself feel better, even if it's ridiculous. It doesn't make sense. It's so important because if you think about it, a lot of the imposter syndrome thoughts is also ridiculous and doesn't make sense.
It's just like a psychology exercise. Can you out game the negative thoughts? So I cry a lot. I'd say I cry almost like every other day for some silly reason about my work. Does that make me like a worse founder or less successful? No, it doesn't. I just cry because, I just do so much.
And I also think that another fun thing about making a mental health product or doing any product in general. Any product where you're helping people and understanding a pain point, you got to relate to the pain. Feeling bad is a human emotion that everybody feels. If you understand feeling bad and the art of pulling yourself up when you feel bad, that's the best way to understand the art of helping other people when they feel bad and pulling other people up when they feel bad. So imposter syndrome is so real.
If you have any more questions, I would love to talk about this with you more. You almost have to see the beauty in it for how common it is. We all just care so much and want to be successful, good people. So much so that our human psychology backfires and starts eating away at us like it happens to everyone. That's so interesting.
Lizzie Mintus: It does and so many ups and downs of running a business. I went to a conference a few weeks ago and this guy is 32 and has started a multi billion dollar company.
Being an entrepreneur, some days you're like, yes, my product's so great. Everything is working. And then the hour later, you're like, I think I'm going to have to shut down my company. Everything is a big failure. And it's just such a crazy up and down, all the time.
Linda Shad: Yeah. Another shout out for my co founder.
I sometimes joke about this, but Ben just truly has impeccable mental health and he takes care of himself very well. Like it is not just an accident. He's like very deliberate about it. I think one thing I've really learned from Ben, and I just would not be here without him, is that he has taught me to derive confidence from consistency where it sounds so corny, but it's so important.
You actually should just be proud that you showed up at the gym. You should be proud that you sat in front of your desk and tapped one key on the keyboard because there's a version of you that didn't do that. There's a timeline where you were so bogged down with everything else where you didn't have the privilege to have this alone time or be in a safe, quiet, clean room with a good setup to even take one step forward at all. To even be in a position where you can do that is such an honor and something to be proud of.
And it sounds hippie, but you read all these Atomic Habits, self care books, the daily stuff adds up so much.
Lizzie Mintus: Every single, I love to read books about success and why people are successful. It's very interesting. That's all I read. Atomic Habits is real.
I just read some book called The One Thing. Do the one thing every day for whatever hours, for whatever days in a row. And you'll be really good at the one thing that you're doing.
It's all about just doing it when you don't want to do it. And when you feel bad and when you have no patience, like sitting down and getting it done. And then you're right, like practicing gratitude.
I am lucky to be able to work and be able to go to the gym. My body works. That's amazing. I feel like once you have that shift of gratitude, then it also makes you want to work more.
Linda Shad: Right.
Lizzie Mintus: You just have to trick yourself into it, right? ?
Linda Shad: Yeah. Literally defusing your nervous system is so important. I'm also reading about trauma. Trauma, whether it's just that you had low self-esteem as a kid due to your environment or it could be something really dangerous and like actually really life-threatening as well. Any one of those things can impact your whole body and how you think.
So anytime you catch yourself tensing up and giving me fearful messages to keep me safe, when I'm in a safe situation. I don't need to be that way. That is so helpful to just clear your fog.
Lizzie Mintus: Can you tell me some success stories from your product? Are there people that are like, you've changed my mental health? You've changed my life? I'm sure.
Linda Shad: Yeah, I think a lot of people who like Voidpet are very verbose. So we do have a surprising number of people who have said that we've changed their life.
It's funny. This is like a goofy flex, but I'm almost desensitized to it in the sense that as soon as it happens once you just realize that is the nature of the business. That's a sign that you're on the right track. So you have to keep going.
Our thesis with Voidpet and something I felt personally as a person who struggled mental health, who didn't really find much success on other products on the app store was that, we really wanted to make it like a game first with wellness built in instead of a wellness product with a game built on top.
It's because I play games, but I can't stick with any meditation apps. I'm bad at reading self help books. I was not going to therapy when I needed it most. But what was I doing? I was playing games.
And if games could be designed in a way where we use all that, fun psychology of getting people to buy gems and increase our day 30 retention into also being like, hashtag, let's also be more thoughtful. The very simple change of even having a monster that's called Anxious.
You can't help but think about like the physical feeling of anxiety and like the label of anxiousness whenever you think about the game. And same with the world building. We just want to build a world where you're exploring your subconscious and you as a hero are fighting the dragons of your own depression.
After it resonates with the first person, you realize how magical it is that it's not just one person where people are just like, this is like the first self care product I've been able to stick with because I'm a gamer and I just really didn't have the appetite for any of the other things I found on the app store.
I think that's just a sign that you were making something that serves a particular market well, and you understand them. Not even that it is definitely better than all the other products out there. It's just we just really know our players and we know our customers. So definitely very magical.
Lizzie Mintus: Are there any other games or companies that you feel are really making an impact in the mental health space?
Linda Shad: Ooh, that's a great question. I can name a few of the people that I definitely like and respect off the top of my head.
For example, there's Lumi Interactive. They were really sweet. They're very good benters. They did the concept of you name an emotion when you water your plant. And that was a core loop that was working really well for them. I just want something like that in my game too.
I'll draw it really differently. We'll make the mechanic work differently. And they have like generative art for their plants. So it's very much about the cozy, Studio Ghibli esque vibe of creating your cozy space. It's just a very beautiful and different approach to mental health that I think is very meaningful that we've definitely been inspired by. And that was like our watering tree- naming your emotions, set a goal. That's something that we've incorporated into our game as well.
Another great company, this is my friend from speed run. Her name is Jenny. Her company is called Telofa Games and she's built this game called Run Legends.
I think her thesis is about mental health and physical health being very closely intertwined. And she's also doing a similar thing where, to play this game, you need to run or be on a treadmill, but we're going to add all these monsters and audio effects. You don't have to look at your phone, but you can hear the announcer telling you about the monsters that stand in your way. And if you like sprint faster, you can destroy them. That's another one I think is really amazing.
There's also another great company that I admire on the app store, even though I don't know them personally, they're called Finch. They also have a great user base and a very good approach to mental health.
It's just like different from ours, which is they are very much a cute, wholesome mental health library of activities. But as you do more activities, you can grow your baby bird and you raise your pet. So that was another cute concept. I actually didn't know about Finch until well into Voidpet. So it was like similar ideas that just happened in parallel in different ways.
For them, I think that what they're doing is really awesome. It's definitely connecting a lot of people. They have a very strong presence on TikTok, but they're almost approaching the opposite way. They're doing like mental health at first. By the way, here's a game. And for us, it's here's a game, by the way, we're sneaking down some mental health.
Lizzie Mintus: It's like when you play games with your kids. They're watching TV, but really they're learning, to watch TV.
Linda Shad: Yeah, I think that the different approaches will resonate with different customers. So it is just so important in the space as a whole to have different companies who are tackling the problem in a different way.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, but I love this is even more of a conversation these days and something people are thinking about and naming. Very different than like our parents.
Why are you so entrepreneurial? Is this like a nature thing or a nurture thing?
Linda Shad: That's another funny question. I have this whole like ramble thesis on this too. I think for me, it's a combination of like nature and like trauma.
I think from a young age I just never felt super comfortable in school. I felt like I didn't fit in. Even when I was in fourth grade, I wanted to start my own business so then I can pay my own bills and live wherever I want.
I created this sticker club thing called the Cubic Club, where I draw an ice cube. And it was literally just a cube with a smiley face on it. But in third grade, I felt a giga Chad for being able to draw a cube. And I was like, I can draw in 3d. I started cutting them out on pieces of paper and selling them for 10 cents. And people in my class are buying them. I made 5. That's enough for a cookie.
On one hand, there was like This liberating feeling of entrepreneurship is like a vehicle for freedom and it gives you the ability to escape but also forge your own path. It's almost like this funny pattern of why like anxious people or people with like tumultuous childhoods like really feel passionate about being entrepreneurs.
Like in trauma research, the feeling of being traumatized is all about being trapped in a negative situation and having your nervous system shut down because you can't do anything even though you want to have a fight or flight response. And being an entrepreneur, you just get to be like permanently fighting and like flying and doing everything, right?
You feel like all your efforts are going somewhere and you really do control your own destiny. So I think I actually have realized that if I'm not running my own business, I feel this irrational claustrophobia of, what if my boss doesn't like me and my entire job is on the line.
I'm the type to get anxious and think people don't like me even if they do. So we're just forever out of paranoia that I'm not doing my job. I don't think I'd be able to sit still. You could call this a good quality of having the determination and fearlessness to forge my own path.
But I think there truly is a component to it. I just can't sit still and I'm very paranoid. So this is just the path that is most comfortable for me.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, it does. I feel like it reduces your anxiety because you're in control and you are making your own decisions and somebody is not making them for you. It's really hard.
Linda Shad: Also another really great quote I had from my woman mentor when I was in college. Her name is Sophie Miller. She works at Google and I called her when I was graduating and I was like, I really could be a PM at a tech company, but I also could do my own startup. I have this burning desire to do my own startup, but what if I'm just like, not cut out for it? And what if I'm like, going to get burned?
And she said, well, let me just tell you something really important. My friends and I talked about this and while some of my friends had a burning desire to be founders, I just didn't have the burning desire. I knew I wanted to be at Google. I knew I wanted to work at a big company with a lot of resources with a very experienced team. I wanted that so bad. Because I identified that, that's the path that I want. So if you're burning to be an entrepreneur, then you should be an entrepreneur.
Don't get it twisted. It's not that everybody wants to be an entrepreneur, but only some people succeed. No. Only some people actually want to be an entrepreneur that bad. So if you're one of those people who even wants to be one, at least try. And that was like, super helpful advice.
I think that was one of the big kickers that gave me the confidence to work on
Lizzie Mintus: startups. Me too. Someone had the same conversation with me and they're like, do you think you could get a job as a recruiter if your company doesn't work out? And I said, yes. And they're like, well, that's your answer.
We will try.
Linda Shad: Right. That's a great one too.
Lizzie Mintus: I had a lot of anxiety around it. Should I even do this? It's scary. You don't know what's going to happen, but it's so much fun. Ups and downs.
What advice would you give somebody that wants to start their own company and maybe has that burning desire besides do it?
Linda Shad: That's a great question. Besides do it.
I think my advice would be mental health is number one and the entire process is actually going to be a battle of you against your human limitations. You are actually not fighting anybody else other than yourself. If you keep your eyes on the prize and keep that goal and focus, a lot of things will fall into place around you as opposed to people who stress too much about, we just need to build faster. And things don't work out with you and your co founder because you had different ideas about like when to ship, for example.
Not to say that you should stick with a co founder if you have philosophical big differences. But I think that you want to make sure that the battle is about how do you and your co founder like work best together? Is this the right co founder for you? Is this the right industry for you? Are you working on your product at a pace that's sustainable? Do you feel like you yourself have found a market fit?
The whole adage of: startups don't die by murder, they die by suicide. Yeah, even in the real world, startups aside, as humans, you're so much more likely to just suffer from depression and have the quality of your life suffer from your own mental health. Some random person coming out to harm you, attack you, and steal things from you, right? Sure that happens, but that's not the main cause of human suffering these days.
Always keeping that in mind has also helped curb jealousy, helped curb fear, help keep me productive, help be a good person to work with. Mental health number one. That's what I like to say.
Lizzie Mintus: And you also really love what you do. I feel like your company and everything you're doing is who you are and you're expressing that from your heart. And I think when you pour your heart into it Simon Sinek says you have to have your why. And if you don't have your why your company is nothing, because you don't believe in it.
Linda Shad: That's very wholesome. I would say that funnily enough though, it's almost like you have to do companies that don't work to even get there. Like a lot of people wait until they have an idea that their passionate about. And for me, I was going for this dumb idea that I'm only 50 percent passionate about because I still need to learn how to code. I still need to learn how to hire people. I still need to learn how to talk to VCs. And if this half decent idea is going to get me there, then I will just run with it until I have a better idea.
Not to contradict your advice. I think that's like fantastic advice. So thank you for saying that. But it's OK if that's not how you feel.
Lizzie Mintus: You don't know everything ahead of time and you're not going to be prepared. But I still think that you have to like what you do. I wouldn't want to program ever. That's my nightmare. I like to talk to people and I like to connect people and I'm living my truth.
I fit into what I do. But I wasn't in fourth grade thinking I'm going to do recruiting.
I have one last question before I ask it. I want to point people to your website, V O I D P E T dot com.
The last question is who have been your biggest mentors throughout your career journey and what has been their best advice?
Linda Shad: So many people come to mind. Very wholesome.
There's many different types of mentors. They're those who are closer to where you're at, who are just on the field with you, and then there's those people that you like look up to because you perceive this huge difference. You're much younger and they're much more senior and you hold their words so close to your heart.
I think my first big mentor was the co founder of WePay, Rich Aberman. He was the first like mentor where I couldn't believe this person's actually talking to me. I feel so inspired as an intern. I'm going to go change the world now. The specific advice that he imparted on me that I took to heart was, don't be afraid to just like be a character and play a role and put on an act. That is going to be something that not only helps you resonate with customers, learn how to connect with investors, but also something that like takes you very far in terms of manifesting who you want to be.
He was a very funny boss at the company. He was the one that was always telling jokes. Everybody who worked there said he's just so chill. I can talk to him about anything. And he would do goofy stuff in the office, like ride his scooter around. I just thought that was so cool. I didn't know that CEO road scooters.
But now I think, I really learned to behave that way, not only to have fun for myself, but also to perpetuate this message of wanting to be someone who embodies being authentic and having a good time.
I honestly think I am a little bit more stiff if you get to know me in real life. But when I'm like on the internet or when I'm in public, I do make it a bigger point to have animated body language, to smile more to like maybe wear something goofy or dance if there's music in the background.
I used to think some people are just so charismatic. They're just authentically like that. I'm a little stiff. No. They know how to act and you can be like that too. So I think as soon as I learned that charisma is also a behavior that you can learn that you can like really lean into, I started to have more fun being online and have more fun being in public and talking and just doing things in my company.
That was like a long winded answer, but that's the one that really came to mind.
Lizzie Mintus: I love that. That's great advice. We've been talking to Linda Shad rhymes with Chad, who is the founder of Voidpet. Linda, where can people go to contact you or hear more about you?
Linda Shad: Oh dear. My Twitter handle is LigmaChad because it rhymes with my name, Linda Shad.
Lizzie Mintus: Amazing.
Linda Shad: And my TikTok handle is also at Linda Shad. My Instagram is Linda.S.C. I'm quite active on Instagram and TikTok and x. com these days.
Lizzie Mintus: Elon Musk. I love it. Thank you so much.
Linda Shad: Yeah, thank you so much too. It was lovely talking to 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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