Building a Mental Health Startup as an Early Career Dev with Rahat Chowdhury
The increasing volume of the societal discussion on mental health is blooming into a variety of results. One of the interesting aspects of these developments are apps aimed at helping users with their self-care and mental health management and, today, we have a conversation about a new mobile app called Whimser, which is doing exactly that! We are joined by their founder and CTO, Rahat Chowdhury, who speaks to us about the startup, its roots in CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy, and how they approach using journaling to combat negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions. Rahat explains how the application is not designed as a replacement for therapy but rather as a tool to enhance practices that users already have in place, offering continuity and opportunities for further reflection. Rahat also explains a little bit about how the company is currently being run and the leadership philosophies that ground what they do. He strongly believes in bringing a human element into the work, and shares the interesting decision to bring in junior developers from the get-go and the motivations behind this. For this fascinating conversation with an inspiring young founder and developer doing important and conscientious work, make sure to tune in!
Key Points From This Episode:
- A little bit about Rahat and the two companies he is involved with.
- Understanding cognitive behavioral therapy and cognitive distortions.
- Experiences of imposter syndrome and the ubiquity of these feelings across the industry.
- Rahat's inspiration for creating Whimser and adding to the mental health conversation.
- Considerations around broadening the scope of Whimser beyond therapy.
- How Rahat approached things at the outset and how he chose his co-founders.
- The importance of taking action and balancing this with patience and delegation.
- Rahat's approach to code reviews and the consideration that goes into better communication practices.
- The impetus behind the decision to bring in early-stage developers at the beginning.
- Lessons that Rahat has learned from working with different team leads during his career.
- Decisions around salaries at Whimser; how Rahat and his co-founders are funding the company at this point.
- Translating skills as a web developer into the world of mobile applications.
- The funding component of running a startup; Rahat's thoughts on effective pitching.
- Data collection considerations and the idea of user-owned and licensed data.
- The inspiration for the name of the company: combining whimsy and whisper!
- This week's picks: Litter robots, Focusmate, headphones, new songs, and more.
“We do stuff like having some natural language processing in the background that helps you categorize your thoughts into what could be potential cognitive distortions to help you set yourself up to figure out how to combat those thoughts.” — @Rahatcodes [0:02:14]
“Trying to create a better atmosphere or a better community around tech will definitely help out in fighting imposter syndrome.” — @Rahatcodes [0:06:37]
“Whimser started from when I started taking better care of my own mental health. I started going to therapy and treating my depression, and a few other things.” — @Rahatcodes [0:09:46]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
[00:00:09] T: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Enjoy the Vue. I'm Tessa. Today on our panel, we have Alex.
[00:00:16] AR: Hello.
[00:00:19] T: I was like, “Did you forget how to say hello?”
[00:00:22] AR: I realized I was muted.
[00:00:26] T: Our special guest for this episode is Founder and CTO of Whimser, not Whimsor, Rahat Chowdhury.
[00:00:34] RC: Thank you. I enjoy being a special guest.
[00:00:37] T: Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?
[00:00:39] RC: Yeah. As you said, my name is Rahat. I’m a, by day, a software engineer at a health tech startup. By any other time of day, a founder at a mental health startup called Whimser. Whimser is all about at first, getting you started with a little bit of, I guess, self-help therapy type of thing, utilizing what's called cognitive behavioral therapy, and journaling to help you combat negative thoughts, where we're trying to take it a little bit beyond there is facilitating a better way for people to collaborate a little bit better with their therapists, or psychologists, or whoever they're seeing and the mental health professionals, that sort of thing.
[00:01:25] T: Awesome. Cognitive behavioral therapy. That's the idea that instead of only our thoughts and forming our behaviors, we can change our behaviors to change our thoughts, right?
[00:01:35] RC: Right. With cognitive behavioral therapy, it's all about battling, I guess, what are called cognitive distortions, which is just a fancy way of saying, things that your mind tricks you into believing stuff that isn't true. I think, there's 15 or so different distortions. Some examples are jumping to conclusions, or catastrophizing, things like that, which are both things I do a lot. Whimser aims to help you figure out what distortions you're facing through your journal entries. We do stuff, like having some natural language processing in the background that helps you categorize your thoughts into what could be potential cognitive distortions to help you, I guess, set yourself up to figure out how to combat those thoughts.
[00:02:28] T: Nice. Yeah, cognitive distortions sounds like in some magical girl anime, or something. Like, they got to defeat all the cognitive distortions. Yeah, speaking of having these kinds of, I guess, exaggerated negative views of yourself, one topic that comes up a lot in the tech industry, or at least on tech Twitter is imposter syndrome. I'm curious what everybody's thoughts or experiences are with that?
[00:02:53] RC: Yeah. I'm still pretty early in my career. Going into my third year now. Definitely get imposter syndrome a lot, especially with trying to build a startup, and even just regular stuff at work. I've recently been put in charge of making forms and things on our site a little bit more accessible. Although, I love being able to do that, I’m just like, “Oh, I have to do that. Where do I start? What do I do?” I think, it's just a lot of those initial probably, thoughts that stop you from getting started, as well as just while you're doing it like, “Am I doing this right?” Second guessing yourself throughout the process.
[00:03:40] AR: Yeah. I've definitely experienced imposter syndrome. Experience it pretty regularly still. There's a lot of times where I'm like, “Do I even really know what I'm doing?” There are days where I'm just like, I don't know that I really belong here. I fooled you all.
[00:04:02] T: Yeah. Speaking of which, Alex, this has all been a big prank. Thanks for coming on the show. It was nice having you. One six-month long, joke. Eight-month long. I definitely am cognizant of the fact that sometimes, I am overly like, “Oh, I can't do anything.” Or a lot of times, I like to focus on the things that I need to improve on, or work on, rather than taking time to also recognize things that I've done well, or progress I've made.
On top of that, I feel like another aspect of the imposter syndrome conversation that doesn't come up as often is just the amount of negative messaging that there is for a lot of people that have, or think that they have imposter syndrome, especially in tech.
[00:04:56] RC: I guess, when you refer to, I guess, those negative things is that, the negative things we think about ourselves, or I guess, what other people are saying about it.
[00:05:08] T: Yeah. What other people are saying. I think, some famous examples are if you don't code in your free time, you're not a real programmer, you're not passionate. Or, if you don't know these 30 frameworks, you're not a 10x developer. Or, maybe, even women are genetically predispositions to not be able to code. People of color’s brains are different sizes. Now, we're getting into eugenics. Yeah, just disparaging comments. You can't do anything.
[00:05:41] RC: Yeah. I think, definitely a lot of that heavily contributes to the imposter syndrome. Yeah, it's like, there's a lot of gatekeep-y, bro-y culture in tech that, I think, even if you don't, I guess, subscribe to that way of thinking, it's just so in your face and in there, on tech, Twitter, or on that place called LinkedIn. You just see it all the time, and even if you don't agree, even if it's just there, just in your face constantly being told at you. It probably definitely contributes to some of that imposter syndrome like, “I'm not good enough, because XYZ. Because these people are constantly saying all these things that are always there on my timeline, on my feed, or wherever.”
Yeah, I think, definitely trying to create a better atmosphere, or a better community around tech will definitely help out in fighting imposter syndrome a little bit. Because it's not just, I guess, us trying to find out negative thoughts. It’s also, what’s all the information being shoved at of us from everyone at all times and all that. Yeah.
[00:06:58] T: Yeah. Also, I imagine, although, I hope not, too many of our listeners have this experience that some people are also hearing this directly at work, whether it's from their co-workers, or higher-ups, sometimes even people below them.
[00:07:10] RC: I think, In some cases, it can be helpful-ish. At least, it was for me. I remember, in a previous job, I made some errors. My manager at the time decided to go through and point out all the errors I made on the floor in front of everyone, from that day. I decided to look for something different, where I was a little bit more appreciated.
[00:07:36] T: Okay. I was like, “Helpful in what way again?”
[00:07:41] RC: Yeah. It was helpful in a sense that I needed a push to go look for something else, I guess. Maybe just understanding that the environment isn't where you want to be, or isn't good for you, then to go look for something else.
[00:07:55] AR: Yeah. My first job, I was a junior developer, brand new at an agency, they were like, “You're like a two and we really need you at a seven. That's where we really need you skill-wise is you're a two and we need a seven. Here, we're going to double your salary.”
[00:08:16] RC: Wait. What?
[00:08:18] AR: What? Super mixed signals I was getting from upper management at that job. Then they'd be like, “Yeah, you're too slow, so we're going to give you more work.”
[00:08:28] T: I mean, if Ari were here, she would say that it's not unheard of for a white guy to be told, “Hey, not doing a great job? Here's more money and power.”
[00:08:39] AR: I have coasted by on my mediocrity for a very long time. It seems to do me well. Yeah, I've been in situations where it's like, “You're telling me that I don't know what I'm doing. At the same time, you're not backing that up very effectively.”
[00:08:57] T: I think, another frustrating situation might be if they're like, “You do know what you're doing. Advise us on this thing.” You're like, “Great. Based on my experience, this is the best decision. Here's why. Here's all the ones you shouldn't do it. Here's why.” Then they're like, “No. Pick the other decision and tell us it's a good one.”
Rahat, you talk a lot about mental health, I feel like, in the tech sphere. What inspired you to create Whimser, and why do you talk about mental health so much?
[00:09:23] RC: Yeah. Whimser started from when I started taking a little bit better care of my own mental health. Started going to therapy and just treating my depression, and a few other things. One of the things that helped me a lot was cognitive behavioral therapy in general. I initially was looking for an app I could use that let me do the whole process on my own outside of therapy, because therapy is very expensive.
What ended up happening was I found a couple that I liked. One that I really liked that was then no longer maintained, and then I couldn't really use it anymore. Then being a dev, I was just like, “You know what? It's time to make it.” I started just building it for myself, not really intending to put it out there. Then, as I was building it, I told a couple friends about it, a couple other people, and there was like, “Hey, this is useful. We'd love to use it, too.” There was a little bit of interest there.
As I went through and just started really trying to dive into, I guess, the CBT apps that exists right now, a lot of them just stop at being a journaling app. You journal, it might help you. A lot of them don't actually help you figure out which cognitive distortion you're facing. It's just like, here's a whole list. Which one are you facing? It's up to you to guide yourself through that whole process. If you're not overly familiar with it, or haven't done it with a professional, then you probably won't get the full benefits of it.
I started trying to tinker around with a guided CBT experience, of what you should look out for. That's when I decided like, “Okay, if we can use something like, natural language processing, or NLP, we can parse through what people are saying, and try to give them suggestions on what they might be facing, rather than a full gigantic list of things that could potentially be wrong.” Just trying to make it easier to go through the process. From there, it ended up with me wanting to go out and find people to work on this with, because as one person, it was just almost impossible to build this gigantic thing that I wanted to build. I found two other folks, David Aguillon, and Jason [inaudible 00:12:02], they're my two co-founders. The three of us got together. We started building things out.
Jason and I are taking care of most of the development work, while David is our CEO. We just realized that this is something that could be really helpful for folks, especially a real, actual guided experience with this type of therapy. From there, we just started piling up more and more ideas on top of it. We're exploring ways, like I said before, to make it more of a collaboration type thing. Just a way to work with therapists a little bit better, collaborate them with them a little bit better, because one of the other issues with going through therapy was okay, I do a 45-minute session once or twice a month, because it's very expensive, and I can't afford to do it every week, even if that much. What do I do in between? How do I figure out what to focus on when I actually get into those discussions with my therapist?
The other aspect of Whimser is like, as you're going through the CBT process on your own, we don't want it to be a replacement of actual professionals. We want to give you data points and things that you can share with your therapist, so that you know where to start off in the session, or you have something that you can export some data and send it to them, so that they can guide the session a little bit better to help you. That's one of the big things that we decided to do of, make sure that we're not doing, I guess, what a lot of other health tech startups start doing is replacing therapy. It’s more just being a tool to enhance therapy a little bit more.
[00:13:47] T: Yeah. I was going to say, not that I would expect any different from you, Rahat, but it's really refreshing to hear to a founder CTO not be like, “Our app, or our AI is going to replace human beings with something better.”
[00:13:59] RC: Yeah. That was one of the first thing is like, we have to just make sure that message is clear from the beginning, that we're not doing that.
[00:14:07] AR: Yeah, that's really nice. I like that. It may or may not have just signed up for the mailing list. You've convinced me.
[00:14:17] RC: Awesome.
[00:14:19] T: Yeah. Being on our podcast, we get to try it, right? No, I’m kidding.
[00:14:23] RC: Oh, definitely.
[00:14:24] AR: Live on air. I'm going to write about my –
[00:14:30] T: Well, I guess it's off topic. I don't know. It was also making me think, wor, it would be really useful to have an app like that, but for one-on-ones with your manager to be like, “Here's what you should focus on each week with your manager.” Managers or not therapist, PSA. I think, yeah, distilling focus, especially when you're just thinking about your problems, or your day-to-day tasks and stuff can be hard to do. An app like that sounds like it would be really helpful, especially in conjunction with a licensed professional.
[00:15:03] RC: Yeah. It's funny that you brought that up, because we've also been thinking about ways that this approach could probably be applied to non-therapeutical scenarios, or something like that, of things you want to talk about with your manager or whatever, is something we've been throwing around. What's good about, I think, having other people is that at least one of us can be like, okay, we're getting off topic. Let's actually finish what we started to build and we can talk about the other things later. Scope creep is a big thing when you're working by yourself.
[00:15:37] T: How did you go about starting, I guess? Seems like such a big task.
[00:15:44] RC: Yeah. When I was doing it on my own, I went on Fiverr and stuff. I was looking for someone to design it, and just figuring out how I build it. I was talking to different people in different Slack groups, or Discord groups, who have been, I guess, an engineer for a lot longer than I have. Given that I've only been here for a couple years. That was the biggest thing of just getting past that initial like, can I even build this? That imposter syndrome part of things. Because I was actually told by one person, “This is a really good idea. I don't think you should do it, though. You should probably give this to someone else, because you're not quite experienced enough to do this, or build this.”
For me, that actually feels me to prove them wrong. With a lot of people, that would probably be a really harsh thing to hear. We're not friends anymore. I guess, for me, it was just a whole spike-driven development thing, I guess. Like, “You know what? No. You think I can’t do it, I'm going to prove you wrong. I'm going to do it.” From there, I actually put up a listing on angel list of like, “I'm looking for a CEO. I cannot pay you, because you’re CEO, and we will be co-founders. Do you want to work together on this?”
What ended up happening is, so David, one of my co-founders, he is actually a friend of mine from high school. He saw the listing. We haven't spoken in a couple of years. He reached out, we started talking. Funny thing is, so I used to be a somewhat, not decent, not very good rapper.
[00:17:40] T: I was wondering if rap was going to come up in this episode.
[00:17:44] RC: He was a much better rapper than I was. We had collaborated and performed together a few times. Now, we had that, I guess, camaraderie in our past. It naturally worked out, where we were able to, I guess, collaborate, work together, talk. I brought him on as our CEO. He's got a background in sales and customer-facing type of stuff, which is what I don't want to do. I'm just like, “You know what? You can do all the things that I don't really want to do, and you're good at that. This is perfect.”
The other person, Jason, I actually mentored him when he was first getting into tech itself. I always felt like, we work pretty well together, the couple of the times that we pair-programmed, it was a good synergy that we had, so that I brought him on too. We have three other people who are non co-founders helping out on the team. One person on content, one person doing design, and one person, also a developer.
The way I found them, it was helpful, because from the boot camp that I graduated from, they have multiple different types of boot camps. There's a coding boot camp. There was a data one, a design one. I just went into our alumni Slack. I was like, “Hey, does anyone want to work on this together? This is what I'm doing. This is where I want to take this. If you're interested, let me know.” People are interested. That's just, I guess, how the team was brought together.
Then we had another member from the data bootcamp. She unfortunately, couldn't be with us any longer, because she had a lot of other things going on. She was a really good part of our team as well. Yeah. I mean, early on, people will come and go, but it was cool to just be able to see that a lot of people were interested in this.
[00:19:52] T: Nice. As a side note, I share a Slack workspace with a fellow from the boot camp. Any time I mentioned anything about you, whenever you're putting out a call for something for Whimser or something, I'm like, “Blah, blah, blah. Look at this.” Or like, “Rahat is looking for a place to talk.” He's always like, “Hey, I was that guy's fellow. I know him.” One time, I even put like, “Oh, I think Rahat’s fellow in the Slack somewhere.” I put it in a thread. He appeared. He was like, “Did you summon me?”
[00:20:19] RC: Yeah, that’s interesting.
[00:20:22] T: Yeah, going back to your point, I feel like, if you always wait for the perfect time, or when everything is in place, you'll never get started. Then on the other hand, it sounds like, you've pulled in a lot of team members. How do you distinguish whether there's something that you think you want to, or you should do yourself, versus something that you'll delegate to someone else?
[00:20:42] RC: I think, I guess specifically, on the development side of things, being I guess, I'm the, I guess, the team lead of these devs. We've had a couple other devs come and go on the team too. I just tried to emulate how it was, I saw things done at work. Just doing, like grooming sessions, figuring out what we needed to get done, breaking them down into tickets, pointing them, things like that. There's like, “Okay, who wants to do which task?” Once we actually broke things down into tasks, it was just easy to have everyone jump in and figure out what they want to do, rather than what I was doing at first was just sitting down, coding things out and going off whatever I had in my head, and trying to just translate that onto the screen. It became easier to organize things. Then after, we were actually organized, delegating those off to people.
[00:21:41] T: How did you decide? Or what are things, specific things that you saw that you thought were really good that you want to emulate, or conversely, things that you were like, “I will definitely not do.” For example, I doubt you pulled your friend in and was like, “This is a mistake that this guy made. Everybody point and laugh.”
[00:21:58] RC: Yeah. The things I saw with things like code reviews and things like that was people can come off very harsh. In code reviews, even if they don't mean to, it's communicating with text is a very difficult thing to do. One of the things that I tried to do from the beginning was we would have weekly pairing sessions and things like that, where we could actually just talk and go over PRs in on Zoom, or whatever. That helped, because everyone was able to be on the same page.
If there were issues, or things that need to be changed in the code, we could just talk about it in a more casual way, instead of just like, “No, change this and slap on needs change tag on it on GitHub, or whatever, or requesting change or whatever.” Because, I always find that really passive aggressive. It helps just to talk more, I guess, as a team. In code reviews, or comments, or whatever, I would just reference things we talk about in those meetings, or whatever. It brings a more human element to things that I didn't really see at work.
I definitely tried to [inaudible 00:23:22] that a little bit. Although, we're at a point now where we're just trying to build things really quickly, and we're not being super good with code reviews, and just merging things in, I'm hoping we bring that back a little bit. We do still have those weekly catch-ups. Yeah, hopefully, they feel – I should ask them if they feel that's helpful.
[00:23:49] T: I just had a flashback to a co-worker that at channel, that 4 a.m. on a Saturday being like, “Don't merge directly to master, because I'm working on something.” I was like, “Who does this?” He was like, “Maybe somebody was coding at 4 a.m. on a Saturday.” I was like, “Yeah. You. You, you weirdo.”
Yeah, I feel bringing a human element into things isn't something that you often hear a CTO say. Similarly, bringing in early career developers at the beginning of a startup is pretty unusual. What drove those decisions?
[00:24:24] RC: Yeah. I don’t remember what the name of the article was. I read this article about how having a group of several senior developers is probably not the way to go about quickly getting through things, because everybody has an opinion, wants to do things certain ways based on their own experiences or whatever. Having a mix of someone more senior, or someone more junior, will help you move quickly, because you have someone who in charge of making whatever those, I guess, architectural decisions should be.
Then, you have folks who are eager to learn and trying to gain experience, who will absorb that and do the work, basically. I think, that's one of the advantages of having probably, more junior developers on your team, is they're trying to learn, they're trying to dive into things and contribute quickly, to gain that experience. You have a little bit less of that initial friction of like, “But I think we should do it this way. I think we should do it that way.”
They're going to, as they contribute and see how things are working, they're going to get that experience anyway. They're going to start getting the ideas of like, “Hey, this didn't really work out for me. Maybe we should do it this way.” I think as you get, I think, those perspectives coming from someone more junior, are more helpful than someone who's more senior, because this more senior person might just be like, “Oh, this is what happened in some other situation. This is why we should not do this thing.”
Whereas, the junior person will be like, “This is what I did, based on what you told me to do. I think, we should do it this way, because of X, Y, and Z.” Because they actually just experienced it, and can probably explain it a little bit better than the senior person, who may have seen this happen X amount of time ago. That's why I feel like, juniors are a really good asset to have on the team. That, and when you don't have money, it's very hard to get senior developers to do anything for you.
We're trying to figure out the best way to – we're gearing up to talk to potential investors and actually, get more senior folks on the team, because I think, I'm the most senior person on the team, so I'm making a lot of decisions. We're trying to get some money, so we can get more folks who can actually come in and help me with that side of things.
[00:27:02] T: Yeah. I'll be curious to hear how you end up evaluating the people that you're interviewing, because like, even though everybody has different experiences, there's at least some level of shared experience with a more junior developer, but how do you evaluate somebody to be senior, right?
[00:27:20] RC: I've had a couple of ideas around that. I've been trying to look at, I guess, team leads I've already had and people I've already worked with, and seen the ways that they work. I've tried to emulate some of them, if I can. Or if not, I try to find some of those qualities people. I used to work in American Express. One of my team leads at that time was David Ashe. He was an awesome team lead, because he had actually, had weekly catch-ups and meetings and was just like, left that door open for I guess, growth and stuff there. I would definitely look for a quality like that, in someone, if I were to eventually get to a point where I can hire someone more senior, of having that ability to mentor more junior folks, or just being open to leaving the door open for people to come to them and ask them questions.
I think, I got lucky in the fact that I had someone like him as a team lead, because a lot of people probably don't have people like that as team lead. They might not necessarily know the best thing to look for when hiring. Yeah, we definitely need more David Ashes in the world.
[00:28:45] T: Yeah. Yeah, I guess, another question that I have, since you brought up doing things for money, how are you navigating the ethics of the salary situation?
[00:28:56] RC: Yeah. For our initial co-founders, the three of us, we're all putting our own money into it, so none of us are expecting any salary, since we're the co-founders and just building things up. When we do need to figure out something to pay people to do stuff, where we sit down and budget out and figure out what it costs, we've contributed towards a little account that the three of us put some money in to be able to pay some people, maybe for some one-off things.
We're definitely not at the point, where we can bring someone on full-time and have them actually work for us as an employee. The other three people who work with us right now, so one of them, the content person, he's one of my co-founder David's friends, they just have an agreement, where he is going to be using a lot of this for his own career building, and trying to get into content writing and things like that. They have that history, where that's cool between the two of them.
When I went into, I guess, that alumni Slack group and was talking to folks, I was like, “Hey, look. This is just a project. It could eventually be a company. We don't know. We don't make any money. We're not charging anyone for this. We're not doing anything yet. We're hoping to start charging people at some point in the future. If you're okay with that, and you want to help us here and there, that would be cool.”
We have like, NDAs on a level of agreement. If it gets to a certain point, we'll figure out a way to pay you. If it's not one of those one-off things that we need done, a couple of them are pretty invested in just helping us get this off the ground. It's like, if they believe in the project and want to help us, we are happy to have them help us, but we're not going out and specifically trying to get people to work with us for free, I guess. It's hard to navigate, I think at this point, especially in the beginning. We're broke.
[00:31:11] T: Well, at least, you’re not a billionaire founder, offering people exposure, right?
[00:31:15] RC: Yeah.
[00:31:17] T: Speaking of navigating new experiences, my understanding is you're primarily a web developer. How are you going about building a mobile app?
That helped us speed things up tremendously, because now we could just do what we already knew, and use the tools that we were already familiar with and everything. I am so grateful that that exists, because if it didn’t, we'd still be in React Native Land, I guess. Yeah, both solutions are great, just specifically for our team, because we were just more of web developers, React developers. Capacitor.js just really helped us up.
[00:33:02] T: I'm guessing, React Native is pretty different to writing just React.
[00:33:05] RC: There's definitely a lot of similarities, for me, it was just not being able to write I guess, normal JSX, or HTML within everything and having to learn a bunch of, instead of using a paragraph, using this text component, or something like that. It was just a lot of, I guess, I don't know, context switching, or something. I don't know if that's the right word for it of like, just in my mind, trying to map, okay, a paragraph is text in React Native, or a heading is something else, or whatever it is. That was a little bit difficult, at least for me. Once we got back into just being able to use regular HTML, I was just at home again. That was great.
[00:33:59] T: You're getting ready to find funding. How do you make an effective pitch and get buy-in for your product?
[00:34:08] RC: We're still figuring that out. David's the lead for that side of things. We've been speaking to – we're bringing on an advisor from LSU. He's a third-year PhD candidate in psychology. We're speaking with a couple of doctors who are interested in potentially investing. We're hoping to, at the very least, start practicing with like, I guess, maybe angel investors, or things like that, to figure out how we want to pitch.
The main thing that we're trying to focus on over these next couple of weeks is just launching a beta, where you've got an MVP, mostly done. It's just like, we're at the point where we just need to launch it. Get the app stores to give us all the harsh feedback that we need to change to make them happy with our product and get it into people's hands.
What we're hoping to do is after we launch, we're able to get some users, and then post-beta start, I guess, charging people for it. Then seeing what we can do on that end. Our main goal is like, okay, let's get a whole bunch of customers, hopefully, and then use that to tell investors like, “Look, we have a lot of traction. We have a lot of interest and things like that.” The pitching and things like that, right now, is really just not the biggest priority, because two out of three of us are people of color. We realized that two guys from the Bronx may not always be appealing to a lot of VCs, who have never founded anything before, or anything like that. We're trying to figure out first, how to get traction and get people to actually use our product first, before really focusing on that.
[00:36:03] T: It sounds like, your monetization plan is primarily a subscription model, rather than using people's mental health data.
[00:36:11] RC: On that end of things with the data side, we want to – We're trying to figure out a way to let users monetize their own data, rather than us monetizing it, like research companies and medical companies all need this type of data to do whatever it is they do. One of the other things that we're considering, as we try to scale out is actually, letting users own their own data, and license it out to people from those type of companies that we might facilitate that thing with. It's not us directly selling people data. It's the users saying, “Okay, I want to maybe make a little bit money off of this,” and going through with that route.
[00:37:01] T: Where does the name Whimser come from?
[00:37:06] RC: It doesn't have that cool the story. I was just trying to think of different names. I think, initially, I wanted to call it 'Whimsy', because something with a Y at the end was what every other app does. That was my initial thought with it. It’s all about whimsical thoughts and challenging those thoughts and things like that. That didn't work out.
Then, I was looking through my notes, like whimsical thoughts. We wanted to figure out how to keep those private. You work on it on your own, and only share what you want with our best store of clinician or whoever. From there, it was like, you're whispering these things to whoever you want to be included in that conversation. We combined those words into Whimser.
[00:38:05] T: Got you. Yeah. I mean, speaking of what other apps do, that makes me wonder why Fiverr went with two R’s, instead of taking out the E.
All right, and with that, Rahat, where can people find you on the Internet?
[00:38:17] RC: Mainly active on Twitter, @rahatcodes is my handle. I've also been recently on Polywork a little bit. I have a profile there. You can probably reach out to me there, too. I guess, I'm on LinkedIn. I'm not very active there. Yeah, if you want to follow the other stuff that I do with Whimser and stuff, the Twitter handle for that is @whimserio. Just IO at the end of Whimser. Yeah.
[00:38:47] T: Cool. I just tried to add a comment to be like, put your Polywork here. Instead, it opened a terminal through Google Docs. I didn’t even known it was possible. Yeah. Great. It's now time to move on to this week's picks. How will I choose which panelist should go first?
[00:39:05] AR: Ari, you should go first.
[00:39:09] T: All right, I'll tweet at her. In the meantime, would you like to share your picks?
[00:39:13] AR: Yeah. My pick this week is a little crappy.
[00:39:18] T: No. Get out. Fired from the podcast.
[00:39:26] AR: We can cut that joke. This week, we have received our litter robot. Besides the fact that the cats are mildly terrified of it, they do use it. Let me tell you, it is pretty fantastic. I have not even been paid to say this. This is legitimately, I am very pleased with it so far. There you go.
[00:39:55] T: I’m like, all the other things you said, which you have been paid to say.
[00:39:58] AR: Yeah. I know. I've been paid for everything else. No. We have two cats. The litter boxes are an ever — our struggle all the time here in this house. This has been super helpful. If you have the ability to buy one, and you are debating whether or not to get one, do it. It's worth it.
[00:40:22] T: I also want to call out, I mean, I saw this earlier, but I didn't want to interrupt the flow of the episode, because maybe listeners won't hear that much of Alex's episode, but he's been doing a lot of talking with his face. Earlier, he stretched, and I saw it there's a night owl t-shirt. What?
[00:40:39] AR: Yeah. Sarah Drasner made a – I hope I can add this to my picks as well. Sarah Drasner made a theme called Night Owl for VS Code. Yeah, it's a great theme. I really like it. I put it on everything. Jason Lengsdorf made a fundraiser for one of the empowering things. I don't remember which one. It was a while ago. Proceeds went to it. You could donate extra, but he was selling t-shirts to supplement that. I got a t-shirt. That’s where it goes.
[00:41:18] T: Yeah. I was going to say, I wanted to call you nerd, but it was for a good cause.
[00:41:22] AR: Yeah. Yes. I was doing it to support a good cause. That is my primary reason behind doing it.
[00:41:30] T: You're paid to say that.
[00:41:32] AR: I was paid to say that.
[00:41:33] T: How about you, Rahat? Do you have any picks you'd like to share?
[00:41:36] RC: I do. I go to this virtual meetup that happens twice a week. It's called Virtual Coffee. Shout out to them, because they're awesome. One of the things that I – this tool that I found out about during one of those conversations is called Focus Mate. What happens is, I still haven't tried it myself. It just looks amazing, so I just want to call it out. It's like a virtual co-working room, where you talk about a goal that you want to get done with whoever you're matched up with, and then you both silently work on that goal for, I think, 15 minutes, or an hour, or whatever it is. Then at the end, share what you've gotten done.
I think that's amazing, especially in, I guess, working from home life right now. Just like, it's cool to have a little bit of accountability for certain things. I've been looking for different tools to boost my productivity a little bit. I think, just suddenly working with someone, as weird as that sounded at first, sounds pretty enjoyable, all things considered. I think, it's just that feeling of knowing that someone is there working with you is pretty cool, I guess.
[00:42:58] T: Sounds nice. Yeah. I just taped an angry photo of Alex on my monitor, so I can't see anything. Get your work, done. I guess, because this has been a thing, can you also tell us about your headphones? We've been asking guests that lately, or I have.
[00:43:13] RC: These headphones are – what are these? These are Sennheisers. I have another set of Sennheisers, that are wireless that I use for everything else. This one is wired, so it's just connected to my mic setup. Yeah, I like them a lot. It’s comfy. I hate earbuds. I can’t do them, so I like over-ear comfortable headphones, which Sennheiser makes a lot. I did not get paid to say that.
[00:43:42] T: I thought you just came on here to show your headphones. All right, I guess, it's time for my picks. I guess, since Ari’s not here, that makes me the song pick person. I've been listening to radio relatively frequently this last couple of weeks. Two songs that keep on coming on are A-O-K by Tai Verdes and Deja Vu by Olivia Rodrigo. I think, they're both pretty catchy, and I'm ambivalent about the lyrics or both.
It's like, Deja Vu, the melody really hooks you, but also, the lyrics have the feel of Lizzie McGuire, you are an outfit repeater. Because it's like, “Oh, you did these things with me, and now you're doing it with your new girlfriend. You're so unoriginal.” I'm like, I mean going out for ice cream or something, it's pretty banal. You're going to have to do it more than once, right? Then A-O-K, it's interesting, because it's talking about having a positive outlook on life and deciding how you want to feel. In some areas, it almost feels it's getting veering on toxic positivity. Then in other areas, it talks about how you go through a lot of – then, you just grind through it, but you know it sucks. It would be great if we have a custom rap to take us out this episode. Anyway.
On that positive note, that's all for this week's episode. If you aren't following us on Twitter, what are you doing? Head on over and follow us @gloomylumi. I mean, @enjoythevuecast. Be sure to subscribe, if you haven't already. If you have time, leave a review. Alex says, it helps us a lot. Finally, remember to tell at least one friend what you enjoyed about today's episode and let us know if you'll be trying out Whimser.
Thanks for listening. Until next time, enjoy the Vue