Shriya Sekhsaria is founder and CEO of Lumhaa: The Memory Jar Company, which is a collaborative social media platform that helps people create digital and handmade “memory jars” — time capsules for people, relationships, and experiences they care about. The company was founded based on her award-winning psychology research, which showed that memory jars made people happy and improved psychological well-being. Previously, Shriya worked at Goldman Sachs and was co-founder and CEO of BodhiMetrics. She is also a best-selling novelist, All East archer, and recipient of the 2020 Women STEM Entrepreneurs of the year award. She grew up in India and graduated from Princeton University (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) with degrees in psychology, entrepreneurship,
finance, and European cultural studies. For more information, visit www.lumhaa.com
Where did the idea for Lumhaa: The Memory Jar Company come from?
Our idea for memory jars came from a book I was writing about terminally ill children in India. The idea was to raise money for their treatment, but a lot of them unfortunately passed away before the book could be published. I knew that I couldn’t bring the children back, so I tried to do the next best thing – I sent their families glass jars with stories the children shared, drawings they made, voice notes from their interviews, and whatever I could find, really. When I heard about the impact these jars were having, I was incredibly moved and wanted to understand more about why these “memory jars” worked the way they did.
I decided to study memory jars for my psychology thesis at Princeton, where we found that even a few minutes spent making and revisiting memory jars increased happiness, reduced loneliness, and improved psychological well-being. I knew then that we had to scale this memory jar making experience by taking it digital while preserving its authenticity. Now, Lumhaa is a collaborative social media platform that helps people make “memory jars” and later order handmade versions of these jars!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day varies by which country I’m living in, but it largely involves information consumption and workouts in the morning, interviews and meetings through the afternoon, and solitary work or planning in the evenings. Here’s what my past week looked like, in case you’re curious about a day in the life:
6:30 a.m. – 7 a.m.: Email and news
7 a.m. – 7: 30 a.m.: Lumhaa India updates and sign off
7:30 a.m. – 9 a.m.: Boxing or dance, followed by a shower
9 a.m. – 12 p.m.: User conversations, feedback synthesis, and app testing
12 p.m. – 2 p.m.: Team meetings and strategy assessments over lunch
2 p.m. – 5 p.m.: External meetings, usually with prospective partners
5 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Independent work, usually pitch or design for Lumhaa
7 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Dinner break, usually while watching TV dramas
8 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Learn something new, usually Lumhaa-related
9 p.m. – 11 p.m.: Pending work or something creative, like writing a novel
11 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.: Handoff to Lumhaa India
11:30 p.m. – 6:30 a.m.: Sleep, with intermittent calls and poetry
Being accountable to other people and understanding that they can’t do their jobs until I do mine helps me stay productive. Food and dance breaks help too!
How do you bring ideas to life?
Usually, I just write them into whatever novel I’m working on. But if an idea manages to will itself into the “real world”, it’s usually because I found the correct person to pass the idea to, because it aligns with a personal mission, or because it furthers Lumhaa’s progress in some way. In all cases, the ideas come alive through conversation, prototyping, and careful examination of whether the time and team are right.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Humane technology design! With increasing conversation about The Social Dilemma, social media addiction, and societal implications of the apps we use; it’s a really exciting time for the industry to face a reckoning and make sure we’re doing well by doing good. My thesis in college was about how we can create an experience that makes people happy, with the eventual dream to have social media platforms like Lumhaa being designed to improve psychological well-being, instead of being designed to keep people addicted. Seeing that dream play out in a very public way, even beyond Lumhaa, is really exciting!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Reading poetry, especially in different languages. It teaches me about the world as seen by different cultures, widens my imagination, calms my soul, and makes me feel ready to demolish anything I have on my to-do list!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Whenever you feel like you don’t belong in this world, remember that it’s because you were born to create a better one.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Capturing human attention is currently more valuable than deepening human connection. Think of the money and brainpower that’s gone into the advertising industry, versus the money and brainpower that’s gone into making people love one another more. This is part of the reason I created Lumhaa – to try and go back to a world where love was more important than “likes”.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I protect my time and sanity at all costs by saying no over and over again. To meetings, events, press, and anything else that could take time and energy away from making our users happy. If it doesn’t align with a personal mission or make a single user smile, I’m not going to spend my time on it. Value your time like your company’s success depends on it. Because it does.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Asking our users to design the app with us! At Lumhaa, it’s never us vs. the user – it’s all of us together vs. the problem. We have a user research panel to gather insight, a button in the app that lets users chat directly with me, and a Hall of Fame to recognize users who have helped us find bugs and design pieces of the app. This helps us design something we know users will love, but it also motivates them to tell other people about Lumhaa as if it were their own app – which it absolutely is!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When we first started marketing Lumhaa’s app, people didn’t download it. And the handful that did download it didn’t bother making memory jars or adding a single memory. This was heart breaking, because our team had spent two years working on the product and I’d spent even longer imagining how perfect the launch was going to be. We immediately went into problem-solving mode, and started having conversations with users about why we missed the mark. Turned out that Lumhaa wasn’t useful or easy to understand at the time! We then ran design sprints, where users redesigned our app and marketing materials. That worked like magic – people not only downloaded the app and made virtual memory jars, but also ordered so many physical versions of their jars that we had to hire extra people to help!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A cultural center modeled like a mall food court where refugees and immigrants have different sections to serve authentic cuisine!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My at-home boxing setup. Workouts keep me from getting cranky, as my team can attest! Also, I miss my boxing gym so having a piece of it at home makes me smile.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Our team lives on Skype — we’re always calling and messaging in one of the million Skype groups we’ve created for different teams and topics. Also, Lumhaa — I get a reminder every day at 7 p.m. to post a work accomplishment I’m proud of in my “work” jar, so I’m often super productive from 3:30 p.m. on to ensure that I have something new to be proud of every day.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook” by Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer. As entrepreneurs, we often tend to get too hard on ourselves, so learning how to be self-compassionate without compromising our drive is essential to stay in the game!
What is your favorite quote?
From an exercise at a writing workshop I once attended:
“Once upon a time ____
And everyday _____
Until one day _____
And because of that _____
Until finally _____
And because of that, and ever since that day ______ ”
I’m constantly thrilled by the possibilities that pop up every time we read that quote!
- With increasing conversation about The Social Dilemma, social media addiction, and societal implications of the apps we use; it’s a really exciting time for the industry to face a reckoning and make sure we’re doing well by doing good
- Whenever you feel like you don’t belong in this world, remember that it’s because you were born to create a better one
- The best way to stay productive is to give yourself a new reason to be proud everyday! For example, set up a “work memory jar” on an app like Lumhaa, where you get a reminder every day at 7 p.m. to post a work accomplishment you’re proud of. This will probably make you super productive close to the reminder time to ensure that you have something new to be proud of every day
- Lumhaa is a collaborative social media platform that helps people make “memory jars”: spaces where friends and family can save and share photos, videos, sounds, and notes. You can make memory jars for babies, birthdays, long distance relationships, and any experiences you care about; as well as order handmade versions of these jars!
- Lumhaa was created to try and go back to a world where love was more important than “likes”