Lightdogs was a gamified focus timer app, where users earned points by doing phone-free focus time and used the points to collect dog-like creatures. It was the first product I ever designed.

Mockup of the home screen of the Lightdogs app

When CryptoKitties launched, I was fascinated by the fact that people were spending significant amounts of real money to collect virtual cats. It was another instance of the human affinity for pets extending to pets that were totally imaginary (like Pokemon and Tamagotchi). I thought it would be very cool if you could harness that affinity to motivate a good habit.

My version of virtual pets were "lightdogs" - giant dog-like creatures that were created in labs and grew via photosynthesis. Each specimen grew through three phases: egg, pup, and adult. Adults could be "bred" to create hybrid eggs. There were nine pure breeds and thirty-six hybrid breeds, and each breed had three color variations to collect. I opted to make the lightdogs 3D and animated, which was totally impractical in hindsight but taught me a lot about 3D art production!

Diagram of all the possible lightdog breeds
Lightdog Breeds

I managed to raise $25K and supplemented it with a government grant to build the app (I didn't know how to code back then and needed to hire developers). It was my first time building a product and I knew nothing about startups, so I made all the classic mistakes and ran out of money right after launch. Even so, the app received 17K organic downloads and facilitated over eleven years worth of phone-free focused time.


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