Startup Spotlight: WizdyJuly 24, 2015
This week we talk to Shiva Mendonca, the person in charge of marketing, PR and User Aquisition at Wizdy. This startup is passionate about creating games that can improve kid’s health. Gaming for good is their philosophy. Read about their journey so far!
Shiva: Wizdy is a startup that leverages games to teach and empower people – especially kids – to take life into their own hands and live healthier, happier lives!
GH: What is your name and role?
Shiva: My name is Shiva Mendonca and I’m in charge of Wizdy’s marketing, PR and User Acquisition.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Wizdy get started?
Shiva: Sean and Nikita became inspired to create games for health through a combination of passion, personal experience and exciting research. Sean is an avid gamer whose parents, like many others, didn’t see any educational value in gaming. He’s on a mission to prove that games can be an effective way to improve lives. Nikita believes in the power of aggregate change; that the biggest determinant of our well-being isn’t our health care, but rather our day-to-day decisions. She’s always been interested in influencing those decisions.
When they came across National Institute of Health research studies proving that games can not only teach kids about health but can actually keep them healthier, it became their ‘Eureka!’ moment. They noticed that no one else was doing this for mobile, and decided that Wizdy would be the first!
Shiva: While Sean and Nikita are the two founders of the company, we’ve all come together from various places around the greater Boston area. Word of mouth, personal connections and a uniting factor of wanting to make the world a happier, healthier and more accepting place eventually brought us all together.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
Shiva: We want the people who work at Wizdy to be happy, and enjoy coming to work because they believe in our ability to make a positive impact in the world through games . We want our users to be inspired, to believe in themselves, take their lives into their own hands and embody the traits of self-efficacy we know they’re capable of.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Shiva: One of our biggest ‘we have to make this work’ moments was realizing that our original Business-to-Consumer model wasn’t pulling through. Once we realized we couldn’t make the biggest impact possible while being financially sustainable, we pivoted our business model to Business-to-Business. Now, our users can benefit from our games free of cost while our healthcare partners work with us to reduce the economic burden of chronic conditions, like asthma.
GH: What did you learn from your first users?
Shiva: We learnt that there’s definitely a space for us in the market, seeing as educational, healthcare based games usually lean towards lecturing a player rather than letting them have fun. We focused on fun as a primary aspect, our users recognized that immediately. Through appstore ratings and feedback, we know we’re on the right track.
One of our users, The Food Allergy Mom, has this to say about Wizdy Pets: “I absolutely recommend this game for children who have asthma! It is a positive way to reinforce the ABCs of asthma treatment in a fun, non-threatening way. As a parent, I wish I’d had access to something like this when my son was diagnosed because it can be just as informative and educational for parents new to asthma as it can be for children.”
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
Shiva: The Greater Boston Area is amazing and chock full of resources that have helped us grow as a company. Our most notable ones are:
MassDiGI/Becker College – Based out of Becker College in Worcester, they are a “center for entrepreneurship, academic cooperation and economic development across the Massachusetts digital and video games ecosystem.” The managing director of MassDiGI, Monty Sharma, is a mentor to Wizdy and is also responsible for introducing myself, Dylan Agis and Glinda Chen to our current roles at Wizdy.
Boston University & Harvard i-Lab – Both have allowed us to incubate under their care and we’re extremely grateful for it! The office space they let us use has been such a blessing. To clarify, the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab) is a resource for any student at Harvard interested in entrepreneurship and innovation.
Harvard Medical School & Boston’s Children Hospital – They back up and approve the information we spread to our audience. It adds an extremely important element of trustworthiness to our products. BCH even spreads the word about Wizdy!
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Shiva: It currently feels like we’re lacking enough investors that dare to take risks, especially in industries outside of biotech or pharmaceuticals. This is one of the main reason we lose entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley every year.
Sachin Agarwal, who worked at the Cambridge startup oneforty, eventually moved to the West Coast and said this about the infrastructure for startups over there: “The early days of a startup are just much easier out here. The big law firms will do legal work on deferred-fee agreements. You can go to pretty much any conference you want for free, if you’re willing to volunteer.” This article outlines the situation quite well. That being said, Boston’s aiming to be Silicon Valley’s equal on the East Coast, and so I have no doubts they’re remedying this in some way.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
Shiva: Best piece of advice: If you don’t have a goal, don’t do it. – Monty Sharma
Shiva: Over the last year, the best thing that happened to Wizdy was the change in business model I mentioned earlier! Switching from Business-to-Consumer to Business-to-Business has resulted in a larger user base and boosted engagement! This proves that we’re on the right path!
GH: What does the future hold for Wizdy?
Shiva: Fun, good health and exponential growth 😉