Founder Story: Shmoody By Nate Thomas




Austin, TX



We're excited to feature an intriguing startup today: Shmoody, co-founded by Nate Thomas and Mike McSweeney. They started Shmoody during the early days of the pandemic, driven by personal experiences with mental health challenges and a desire to offer practical, engaging tools to others.

Nate, a former Goldman Sachs financier turned lawyer, and Mike, who envisioned a digital app that was far from the typical clinical offerings, aimed to create something both effective and enjoyable.

Shmoody stands out because it's designed to be fun, funny, and user-friendly, incorporating the human touch often missing in mental health apps. Now based in Austin, TX, Shmoody has quickly grown, boasting nearly 1,000,000 installs and 50,000 paying subscribers who appreciate its engaging approach and the beloved Shmoody Cat mascot.

Their success demonstrates that mental health tools can be both scientifically robust and engaging.

Stay with us as we chat more with CEO about how Shmoody is changing the way we approach mental health support.

Please Introduce Yourself and Tell Us About Your Startup?

This is Nate Thomas, the CEO and co-founder of Shmoody. I’m a lawyer and used to work in finance at Goldman Sachs in New York, but I wanted to live out my values and be of service to others.

Serving others became my purpose 11 years ago when I got sober from drug and alcohol addiction, and found a framework to work on my mental health by taking positive actions. I met Shmoody co-founder Mike McSweeney in the early part of the pandemic, at a 12 step recovery meeting in New York.

We bonded over the fact that we have both dealt with major mental health issues (including depression and anxiety) and found practical tools that work.

We were both inspired by the idea of bringing these tools to millions of people. Mike had been searching for a digital app that would make it easy to take daily positive actions for mental health, but the apps he found all felt boring and clinical – not the kind of thing he would ever use when he was actually struggling with depression.

So he created the early version of Shmoody – it was fun and funny and had the authentic human touch of someone who had actually dealt with these struggles themselves. I was blown away, and other users loved it too.

We moved to Austin, TX to build a company, and have kept that early vision in place: there are powerful tools to help with mental health, but they need to feel real, human, and fun. Shmoody now has nearly 1,000,000 installs, and 50,000 paying subscribers.

Our users love our fun voice, our easy-to-use UI, our and our brand (people love Shmoody Cat!). And the discovery that effective, science-backed tools don’t need to feel boring and clinical.

Overview of Shmoody

Shmoody, co-founded by Nate Thomas and Mike McSweeney, sprang from a genuine desire to improve mental health in a fun and engaging way. Nate, a former Goldman Sachs employee, pivoted from finance to pursue a more purposeful path after his personal journey to sobriety.

Meeting Mike during a 12-step recovery meeting in New York, they both discovered a shared experience with mental health challenges and the lack of engaging tools to address them.

Their startup, Shmoody, introduces a mental health app designed to be enjoyable rather than clinical. The app’s early versions, developed by Mike, featured humor and a relatable human touch, quickly winning users over.

The positive reception inspired the duo to relocate to Austin, Texas, to evolve their vision. Today, Shmoody has nearly a million installs and 50,000 paying subscribers, beloved for its fun approach and effective, science-backed tools.

Shmoody tackles the mental health crisis by making daily mental health actions accessible and engaging. From a humble start using humor-filled memes to reach users, they experienced rapid growth, navigating early monetization challenges through adaptive strategies in pricing and subscriptions.

Now standing on the verge of expansion into educational institutions and partnerships, Shmoody continues to focus on human connection and mission-driven growth, aiming to make their platform a staple on every phone within the next decade.

What Problem(s) Does Your Startup Solve?

We’re in a mental health crisis, and most people don’t know there are simple but powerful tools that can help. We get people to take the actions that are good for their mental health.

How Did Your Startup Gain Its Initial Momentum? Share Successful Strategies or Future Plans.

We started by building a fun and funny app, and reaching potential users with funny internet memes about Shmoody and mental health. Memes are very on brand for us, and humor cuts through the noise.

Humor actually changes people’s mental state. We grew from 100 users to 100,000 users in nine months, using memes.

What Were the Biggest Hurdles in Gaining Traction, and How Did You Overcome Them?

Early monetization was challenging, but we rigorously experimented with subscription models, pricing and onboarding, until small breakthroughs added up.

We were able to scale our user growth dramatically after finding a super talented growth team who had previously scaled a mobile wellness app, and believed in the Shmoody product and mission. We went from $57k revenue in 2022, to $1.7M in 2023.

From Your Perspective, What's Missing in the Current Startup Environment?

A sense of mission, and a sense of humanity. You have to understand your user or customer, and actually want to help them.

Can You Share Your Experience With Fundraising? What Was Your Approach?

We ask for help instead of pretending we know everything, and we build human relationships. As a result, we have awesome mentors, and an amazing network of people who believe in us and care about our mission.

One of our mentors introduced us to an amazing VC and accelerator program in Austin (Sputnik ATX), and they immediately understood the mission and the differentiated approach.

From there, we’ve stayed coachable, rigorously tracked metrics and exceeding targets, and networked like crazy to meet more investors, and more people who can help. And there’s no substitute for unique mission, best-in-class product, and explosive growth.

What Hurdles Did You Encounter While Fundraising, and How Did You Tackle Them?

We almost ran out of money in early 2023 during the downturn in VC funding. But we leaned into our network, and found angel investors who believed in us. And eventually our growth numbers did the talking and we raised a seed extension from a major Austin VC (Live Oak Venture Partners).

What’s Next for Your Startup? Any Exciting Developments on the Horizon?

It’s top secret! But we are ALWAYS making product improvements and improving the user experience. Also, after a hugely successful pilot, we have closed our first major deal with a university (Texas Tech University right here in Texas), and are extending the Shmoody offering to educational institutions nationwide.

We’re currently talking to over 30 colleges and universities. And we are in partnership talks with major tele-therapy apps and other partners who care about mental health.

We are concerned about the mental crisis getting worse, but we are excited by the fact that Gen Z is more willing than any previous generation to talk about and work on their mental health. Gen Z is the future of Shmoody.

It’s going to seem obvious in hindsight, but in 10 years, every member of Gen Z with have a mental health platform and app on their phone (like every millennial has Instagram on their phone now). And that app will be a household name brand that’s fun, social, and trusted. Shmoody will be that app.

If You Could Go back and Give Yourself One Piece of Advice at the Start of Your Journey, What Would It Be?

Don’t work all night every night!

Your idea can change the world, let's make it a reality!

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