Jessica Mah

Founder & CEO at inDinero

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON February 05, 2016

Discussion

Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
Hi! I’m Jessica Mah, founder/CEO of inDinero. We are helping businesses manage their money better by doing all of their accounting and taxes for them. I studied computer science in college, started my company right out the dorm room, and raised over $10M in funding and hired over 200 employees since. Ask me anything!
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@JessicaMah thanks so much for joining us today. How was approaching the world of VC as a young founder? Was it difficult to garner respect? Is hiring experienced people more challenging at the beginning due to your age. P.S. Would be great to meet IRL at Saastr!
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@harrystebbings I was definitely intimidated by raising money at age 20, but I knew I was capable and I had a lot of my mentors and other entrepreneur friends cheering me on. That helped a lot! I never thought about needing to garner respect... I just thought about how to act mature, talk about problems and downside risks, rather than just selling the dream. I think that shows that I wasn't just naive.
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@harrystebbings Hiring more experienced people is harder for the same reason -- they're scared to work with someone who hasn't managed and led for a long time. I think it's great that I started small and worked with more junior staff for a few years before starting to hire the ultra experienced veterans. Now, it isn't such a big deal anymore. Hope to see you at Saastr!
Jessica Coane@jessica_coane · Founder, PEX+
@jessicamah @harrystebbings Hi Jessica, I have an additional, related question: What do you think are some key pointers that helped you attain seasoned employees to to join your team, before and after you received funding?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@acarpathian @harrystebbings Great question on hiring seasoned employees! I think it's just going to be very hard to get seasoned employees in the very early days, because the truly best talent want to come into something that is at least semi-established. So I'd just bring them on as consultants and advisors. But once the company is humming along, I'm talking to these candidates about how far inDinero will go and how big our vision is. We have gotten a lot of great PR and that has helped a lot too. I tell all of these candidates that inDinero will not be the most fun place they've ever worked at and will not be the easiest place either... but it will definitely be the best learning experience of their entire career.
Samat Bsk@samat_bsk
@jessicamah I have a very interesting offer. can write me on my personal facebook page. question about social networks
Alex Rodriguez@headhanchoarod · Founder/CEO at WorkMand & Code2040 EIR
Thanks for doing this today, Jessica. Few questions. 1.) Best advice you would give yourself at 21 ? 2.) How did you go about getting your first 100 [paying] customers? Any strategies that worked best or you would try starting over? 3.) Best advice for those applying to YC? Thanks again for doing this! :)
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@headhanchoarod If I could go back to age 21, I'd put together my personal "10-20-30 year game plan" and also be more diligent about my annual and quarterly personal goals. When I say personal goals, I mean things outside of just work and business. I have personal goals to see my favorite girl friends, to upgrade my instrument rating and private pilot license up to a commercial license, and to continue seeing my NYC-based parents every 6-8 weeks at most.
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@headhanchoarod Best advice to those applying to YC: get other YC founders to read your application and to critique the hell out of it. And build your business no matter what. Assume you are moving forward even without getting the support of an accelerator or incubator.
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@headhanchoarod The first 50 or so customers were just friends of mine. Network your butt off and sign up your friends!
Alex Rodriguez@headhanchoarod · Founder/CEO at WorkMand & Code2040 EIR
@jessicamah Awesome! Thanks for answer this. How about with getting your first 100 [paying] customers? Any strategies that worked best or you would try starting over?
tengyuan@jutou · Diuit
It's impressive that inDinero has been growing to become a 200-employee company. What do you think is the biggest challenge when leading such a big company? How did you overcome it?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@jutou Thank you! Lots of challenges. 1) Scaling culture and getting everyone to care about it more. We talk about it ALL the time now and it's being baked into our management/leadership training. We are also giving out culture awards every month now. 2) Better training for new team members. We waited too long to invest in this area. Now I have a full-time professor who is running our internal inDinero University. 3) My own leadership gaps. I joined EO and YPO to get support from other experienced leaders. I hired an executive coach. I also do executive education programs now. I read about 100 books on management and leadership and business a year. This is the key.
tengyuan@jutou · Diuit
@jessicamah thank you! So it's all about building the culture for the company, training you team, and learning. Thank you so much for sharing with me about your insights!!
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@jutou My question of the month is this: what will inDinero look like when we have 500 team members and thousands more clients? I want a rock solid, high performance company culture. I want ridiculously great service for all of our clients. And now I'm meditating on what it's actually going to take for us to get there long before we hit the 500 number. So the point is that we need to be more proactive now than ever before.
tengyuan@jutou · Diuit
@jessicamah Yes, but I also think it's really really difficult to make other people in the company as proactive and hungry as you. We're still a small team but I already find it's difficult for me to manage. I guess the answer would be building a solid company culture when the team is still small and before it's too late?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@jutou Back when we were only 10 people, I had the team huddle together and come up with our core values. We brainstormed our favorite ideas on paper, collected the votes, and picked the top five that everyone resonated with. I think the only core value suggestion that I had to veto was "work life balance" -- that phrase bothers the hell out of me and we try not to hire people who care too much about it, because it just isn't reasonable to offer as an early stage startup.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, Jessica! You've hired hundreds of people. Can you share some hiring tips?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@rrhoover Lots of hiring tips! First off, create a list of the top criteria for what you're looking for in a hire. Then brainstorm questions that help you give a rating for a candidate against those criteria. Two, take reference checks VERY seriously. We have decided not to move forward with so many candidates after realizing that they lied about their experience or after learning that they weren't very good in their past roles. And three, hire full-time, internal recruiters to help you expand your search to more candidates, and to help you do all the early screening. More candidates means you're less likely to hire people out of desperation.
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Jessica, thanks so much for joining us! What is the hardest part about your job? And what is the aspect of your job that you love the most.
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@corleyh Hardest part of my job is just staying focused on the right things. I built a calendar grid on Excel just to make sure I'm organizing my time properly, and I'm having everyone in my company do the same. Best part about the job? Dreaming about where to take the company six to twelve months out. And putting together a game plan for how to get there. Right now I'm working to emulate Rackspace's Fanatical Support and that is keeping me up at night in a good way.
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
With the big push in remote working, flexible hours and, (according to research) Millennials preferring those work environments and freedom, where is your 200 person team located? What type of tech are you using (non-proprietary, naturally) to keep everyone on the same page? And what's your favorite cookie?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@jspepper We're located across five offices. Millennials prefer flexible work environments, but we can accidentally take it too far. We're super flexible for most roles, but we aren't so much for client-facing roles. Our clients expect us to be here during our business hours and we like having people in the same room so we can collaborate better. Remote working and flexible hours work better for companies like Wordpress and Github because they don't have service and sales teams the way we do.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Jessica, when did you first know that you wanted to get into tech? Did you always know you were going to found your own company?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@ems_hodge I knew I wanted to start a business from the time I was in elementary school! I started by selling traced drawings on the playground, and I decided that I loved programming by the time I was 10 :)
Yoshi@dnxx28 · Freerance Engineer
Hi Jessica-san! I'm Japanese Yoshi. 1: By the way , do you like ping-pong? 2: And do you know Freee which is called accounting cloud service and startup company for Japanese. So is this your rival ?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@dnxx28 Hey Yoshi! Love ping pong. I have several trophies from tournaments actually. I haven't heard of Freee before. I don't think about rivals and competitors too much, but I think they are all great because they keep me on my feet. They make me hungrier, and they motivate me to work harder to deliver the best solution to our clients.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Hey! How did you handle starting the company while in college? What spurred it on?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@bentossell I always knew I wanted to start a business, and I felt that it'd be better to start early rather than waiting until I had a few years of work experience. It takes a long time to get good at something and I wanted the head start! I'm also really excited by entrepreneurship and I felt that a service like inDinero could help all the other entrepreneurs out there. Accountants and tax people are not the most pleasant people to work with, and I knew we could build something better.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What have been some of your biggest challenges to over 200 employees?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@bentossell Hey Ben! I went into some detail on this above, but to add to that... 4) More long-term planning. Instead of just planning a quarter in advance, it's important to start thinking two and three quarters out. It's also more important to start thinking about the 3-5 year vision, which I haven't put much thought into until recently. 5) Really strong financial planning. We have an army of accountants and analysts working at inDinero, so it isn't too hard for us, but it's something I think a lot more about now.
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello @jessicamah Great to meet yo here. How was the early funding process? What worked for you to get the attention of investors?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@neeeharika great to meet you! The early funding process was fun and exciting, but super stressful too! I knew I needed the support of an organization/incubator/accelerator like Y Combinator. My strategy was to get a lot of press built up before going for my fundraise, and that helped a lot. I practiced my pitch dozens and dozens of times with mentors and with less-sophisticated investors before going after the big shots that I wanted in my round.
Ben Center@benhcenter · Investor Relations Associate, Onevest
@JessicaMah thank you for taking the time to answer questions. In the early stages of a growing startup, there is a lot of debate about resource allocation - mainly, the value of marketing early on as opposed to focusing on building a great product and selling it. How did you balance and allocate resources when the company was less than 10 people? How important was marketing to grow so fast?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@benhcenter Excited to be here! I loved reading The Outsiders (http://goo.gl/G0Eois) which talks a lot about capital allocation and how this is the most important job a CEO can have. In the early days, we were focused on just making sure we had a product and service people would want. All of the money and focus went towards that. Sales and marketing would get sprinkled on afterwards. I did much of the sales and marketing myself until we had more money in place and I think it's great for a founder to have this experience first hand. Sales/marketing was and still is super important, but product and service hiring comes first!
rptrainor@rptrainor
As a fellow Golden Bear myself, who is working on a project right now, how do you feel the Cal community helped you when you first started - and how has this relationship changed over the last 5/6 years? Also, Top Dog next Wed, it's on me. :)
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@rptrainor Super great to meet a fellow Bear! I loved working with Professor Ikhlaq Sidhu who ran the Center of Entrepreneurship there. I just came back to speak a few months ago and enjoyed talking to all the students. I felt that Cal was incredibly supportive and definitely wanted to see more entrepreneurs coming out of the University.
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
Yo @JessicaMah! Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. What are some of your favorite interview questions? Thanks and have a great weekend!
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@p_ngu Hey Phil! My favorite interview questions for evaluating prospective team members? I love asking about what they do for learning and self development. What were their favorite books for the year? I also ask what they're looking to learn while they're here and I'm trying to gauge how clear of a vision they have for themselves.
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
@jessicamah Yep, should have been more clear. Thanks for sharing!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What are some of the early challenges that you faced when founding Indinero? How did overcome them? What are some ongoing challenges - and what's you're approach to tackling these?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@ems_hodge The biggest early challenge was just finding the right product/market fit. We were a software only solution in the early days, and we helped businesses visualize their money online. It was a vitamin and not a pain killer. I went on a customer visit to see how one person used our software, and he told me that he would pay thousands of dollars more if only we would just do the accounting and file the taxes for him. That changed the course of the entire business.
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@ems_hodge Other ongoing challenges: 1) Hiring fast enough. Now we have an army of full-time, internal recruiters, who are searching for candidates and interviewing them. 2) Expanding our service capability. Our service is good, but it needs to become exceptional and amazing. That I am working hard on. 3) Making our culture better and not worse as we add more team members. We're doing deeper culture training upfront when new team members join us and we're also celebrating people every month with our culture awards :)
Lukas Fittl@lukasfittl · Product Hunt
@JessicaMah I love inDinero - especially the fact that you solve the complete problem, and are not just accounting software. Question: How do you handle international, or other complex cases? Can I work with the tax experts you have, or do I need to seek additional counsel?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@lukasfittl Hey Lukas! The key part of our strategy is that we're combining great software with expert-level service. No other company can offer that. We work with a lot of international companies and do have some very complicated businesses. And we have an army of tax experts working here too. :)
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What is the biggest mistake young startups make with their bookkeeping?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@andrewmettinger Haha... biggest mistake young startups make with their bookkeeping is just not doing it in the first place! Or waiting until tax season. At that point, they are just playing catch up!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Do you think people should learn to code?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@bentossell I think it'd be great if all elementary schools taught their students how to code! It's such a great skill to have. It helps teach problem solving. I think studying computer science in college was probably one of the best decisions I've made in my life.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What is the best advice you've ever received? Flip side, what's the worst?
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@ems_hodge Best advice: keep on working hard, think long-term, stay patient. - Kevin Hartz @ Eventbrite.
Jessica Mah@jessicamah · Co-Founder & CEO inDinero
@ems_hodge Worst advice? Probably "you should work at a big company for a few years before starting your own business." While that may be true for others, it would not have been good for me.