Over the past few years, we’ve been stretched thinner than usual. Between extended lockdowns, homeschooling and the ongoing challenges of a global pandemic, many of us (particularly women) have been navigating burnout. 


In fact, researchers have even coined a new term for this experience: the Great Exhaustion. 


While reaching for meditation apps might work for some, it’s not a cure-all for everybody. That was the case for Lauren Clinnich (CEO at Lumi Interactive). A savvy marketer and problem solver, Lauren realised there was a gap in the market for evidence-based self-care activities – and so, Lumi was born. 


We chatted with Lauren to find out why she decided to launch Lumi Interactive, what challenges she’s faced as a female tech founder and her advice for other entrepreneurs wanting to do the same.


To kick things off, can you give us a quick introduction to yourself and your business, Lumi Interactive?

“I’m Lauren, the CEO at Lumi Interactive. We’re a female-founded mobile game studio focused on games that make the world a kinder place. With a focus on social connection and wellbeing, our latest title Kinder World is available on iOS and Android for free.


My own background is in marketing, with Bachelor’s degrees in both Business and Arts. Before joining the game industry many years ago, I marketed everything from fancy fruit juice (fast-moving B2C food industry) to encryption hardware (slow-moving B2B tech industry), then worked in communications for tech startups. 


I entered the games industry as a marketing consultant for games like Crossy Road, co-founded a boutique games marketing agency, and then moved into direct game development.”

Why did you focus on building well-being games targeted at Gen Z and Millennial women? 

“My co-founder Christina and I always believed in the potential of games to create positive change. Mental wellbeing is incredibly important to us (Christina even completed postgrad psychology studies), and we’ve seen women and consumers comparatively neglected by the games market for a long time. 


In 2020 we were incredibly burned out by the pandemic, but I found more traditional recommended apps like Headspace and Calm weren’t working for me – so we tried to dig into the ‘why’ in case it was part of a larger pattern. 


We interviewed and surveyed hundreds of Gen Z and millennial women and nonbinary folks on this exact issue. Why were the dropout rates so high for these experiences? Our research indicates that these experiences feel more like homework, are often quite solitary and linear, or something that they can ‘fail’ at. When they’re already exhausted or anxious, they find themselves looking for more fragmented emotional regulation tools like cosy games, ASMR, lo-fi music etc.

To offer players something fundamentally different, we designed Kinder World as a free mobile game where players take care of their own unique virtual houseplants by taking care of themselves in the real world. 


Our evidence-based self-care activities are designed with a concept called ‘crowd healing’ in mind, informed by the work of our full-time wellbeing researcher, Dr. Hannah C. Gunderman, Ph.D.” 


What challenges have you faced as a female co-founder of a tech-based startup? 

“It’s hard to be what you can’t see. We put a lot of work in to connect with mentors that would understand our underrepresented founder journey, and I’ll be forever thankful to those that helped restore my confidence when I experienced disrespectful treatment in early pitching. 


Despite decades of experience and Masters-level qualifications, we still had our technical skills questioned at a much higher rate than my male contemporaries, and it was often hard for investors to share the ‘aha’ moment with us. 


It’s a challenge for the (often very homogenous) male senior VCs to get from-the-heart excited about what we were building, because they aren’t the target market.” 


What is your advice for women looking to launch their own business or startup?

“Embrace marketing. Break down why you’re passionate about the concept of your business or startup – what emotional need are you meeting with this product or service, at a very human level? Who, very specifically, is your priority target market that will *love* your offering even at its earliest, roughest stage? Focus on that. 


You don’t need everyone to love or understand what you’re building, you just need to know who will absolutely adore it – and learn from them wholeheartedly.” 


What’s next for your career journey in 2022  (and beyond)?

“We’ll be growing Kinder World with more updates and content! I can’t wait to continue growing our game and its amazing audience – we hope you’ll join us!”

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