From Learning to Code to Llamas
Michele chats with Marie Ng, founder of to-do list SaaS Llama Life.
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Hey everyone, I am so excited to have
a guest with us today, who is someone
I have talked to on Twitter a lot, um,
and shared a lot of dog pictures with,
but have never actually spoken to.
So it is Marie Ng, AKA three hour coffee.
The force behind Lama life.
Marie, welcome to Software Social.
Marie: Thank you.
That was a good intro.
Michele: So excited to have you here.
As I was thinking about this, I
realized that we actually haven't
talked about business very much.
Like we mostly just trade pictures
of your adorable dog, and then like
my strawberries on my farm, and my
dog and used to like fleet together
when that was a thing on Twitter.
Marie: Yeah, I was gonna say it
all started with fleet, right.
Because um, I think we've sort of seen
each other around and amongst the
Twitter, like indie hacker audience.
There were a handful of us that
were really using fleets a lot.
Michele: Yeah and Vic.
Marie: And Vic as well.
Um, Hey Vic, if you're listening and
um, I, I think what I liked about your
fleets is that you used it to show
a glimpse into your personal life.
And I tried to do the same as well,
like just showing pictures of my
dog and when we are walking and
just not so much business stuff.
And I think some people were using
it for more business and a bit
more like promotions and marketing.
And I tended not to not to
follow those fleets as much.
So I think we ended up just
kind of looking at each other's
fleets a lot and just commenting.
And um, I feel like I kind of got to
know you a little bit through that,
but yes, we haven't really talked
about business or, you know, indie
hacker journey or anything like that.
It's just been more personal stuff.
But that's great as well.
Michele: Yeah, and I think it's like,
I don't, so I don't know how you
feel about Twitter, but like, I guess
I have this like, reticence about
sharing stuff that's too far, you know,
sort of like off brand, so to speak.
Like I, I honestly like hate
the concept of personal brand.
Like I find it really stifling.
I think that was actually a part of
like what dealt with like the burnout
I had last fall that I felt like
really just, kind of pigeon holds
of my own doing and my own pressure.
What I loved about fleets is I
felt like I could just share.
Like what was going on
with my strawberries?
Or like how the tomatoes like weren't
doing well, or, like, you know, just
like pictures of my dog playing.
I guess I feel like if I shared that kind
of thing, I guess I'm always afraid like,
oh, people follow me because they want
me to be this business person who's gonna
help them grow their business or whatever.
They don't care about my strawberries.
And I don't know if that's true, but
like, that's how I felt about it.
And so I felt like fleets
kind of gave me that freedom.
Marie: Yeah, I'd have to agree with that.
I think when I started Twitter,
I had the same kind of concern.
So I remember early on, I was kind
of writing down, like, here's kind of
what I want my account to be about.
And here's like the tone that I want.
I had this list of, I don't
know, like 10 different things.
And I was trying really
hard to fit within that.
And in the end I just kind of threw
that all out and I was like, all
right, well, I think the easiest
way to do it is just be myself.
And, I actually have a rule for
myself, which is like, when I
tweet, I generally don't take more
than two minutes to do the tweet.
So it's a two minute rule and the reason
for that, and it might not work for
everyone, but I find this helps for me
is that if I take more than two minutes,
it's not, I feel like I'm not being off
the, or I'm not, or I'm overthinking it.
So for me, it's like, all right,
well, if I can't write it in two
minutes, I just delete it because
probably wasn't really meant to be
shared or the thought behind it.
Wasn't clear enough to be shared.
And yeah, that's just kind of how I do it.
I'm just trying to be
myself, I guess, on Twitter.
And there's a lot of typos in my tweets
too, just because, because I'm doing it
quickly and I'm like, well, that's, I
guess I, It's just part of my account.
There's typos in there and I'll leave it.
Michele: It's your account.
And if people don't like it, they can go.
That's the thing.
It's not a book, you know, like,
I think if you're writing a book,
then obviously you wanna spell
check it, make sure everything's
Michele: Books still have typos.
Talking about someone who may be me,
who was finding typos in their book
Marie: oh, is that when you have like
Michele: recently as like six months ago.
And I was like, oh my God.
I thought I found all of them.
I hired a copy editor.
Michele: Or proofreader, like I just,
Marie: That's when you do like, you
know, sec, second edition, third edition.
you fixable in that?
Michele: Introduce more
errors in the process.
So, okay, so you built Lama life
which speaking of branding, the
Lama branding is fantastic.
And it's like a, a to do
list productivity thing.
Marie: Close enough.
It is a to do list at the core,
but the main sort of focus for it,
no pun intended is to help you focus.
So, I still use a
separate to-do list app.
I put everything in notion.
That's kind of like my master to-do
list, but when I'm working for the
day, I transfer stuff to Lama Life.
And the thing that's different about
Lama life is it lets you add a timer,
a countdown timer, not a stopwatch, a
countdown timer to every single task.
And the concept behind that is
kind of like a time boxing concept,
kind of like a slightly different
spin on the pomodoro technique.
A slightly more flexible pomodoro
technique, cause you can assign any
amount of time that you want to a task.
And I find that just helps
me focus because I know I've
got a set amount of time.
Um, Maybe it's 10 minutes, maybe it is 15.
And I try not to do anything
else during that time.
And I just focus on whatever
task it is that is in Lama Life.
And I guess on top of that, it's a little
bit, the design is a little bit fun.
So it's designed to feel
kind of low pressure.
There's a lot of emoji in there and
it's designed to make you feel
good when you complete a task.
So you get things like confetti
animations when you finish something
and lots of little sound effects
that, that are kind of cute in nature.
And yeah, so it's a it's enough that
helps you focus at the end of the day.
Michele: It's sort of like a todo
list, but that has all like these
sort of built in dopamine boosters
on top of actually completing a task.
Because it sounds like it's really
important that the person using,
it feels a sense of accomplishment
Michele: from it and that it
pressures them into do it.
Like a lot of these things sound like
basically things I have had to somehow
build into how I work, like manually with
paper checklists and stuff like that as
somebody with ADHD, because I have spent
Michele: so much time over my life
trying to figure out how to make
myself focus, how to, you know,
get tasks done and everything.
I'm curious, why did you make it?
Not just the reason of like, you didn't
like existing to-do lists, but like,
Why were you so motivated to build this?
Marie: Yeah, so I don't know if we've
ever talked about this on fleets or DMS
or whatever, but I've got ADHD as well.
Michele: Can I just, okay.
I feel, I was like, I feel this is
like the kind of thing that would
be built by an ADHDer tier, but
like, I don't wanna ask that, like
that's up to her to like, offer that.
I get it.
Marie: It's, it's funny.
It's funny, cause like I had this
challenge right of, you know, do I
put this on the landing page or not?
When I was putting together the
landing page, I wasn't sure if I should
kind of mention that, but at the end
of the day, I decided to just make
it a bit more general because other
people can benefit from this as well.
So my thinking is that if I design
it with neurodiversity in mind, like,
and I I'm coming from that background,
then, you know, everybody in my mind
is kind of on a spectrum anyway.
So even if you are further along
the spectrum, if it's designed with
neurodiversity in mind, then you
probably still get some benefit from it.
And that's kind of what I'm finding.
I don't think all of Lama
life's customers have ADHD.
I'm pretty sure that's not the case,
but I do know a large number of them do.
And I know that because they actually
email me and they, oh my god like
this t is like you you've designed
this tool that works for my brain.
Like, This is exactly kind of
the thing I'm looking for I've
been looking for a long time.
And yeah, it's kind of interesting.
So when you say, you know,
why did you build this?
There's two reasons.
One is, I couldn't find a tool that
worked for me, and I was trying to do
all these hacks with other tools that
were out there, but they just felt like
it just was too, it was just too much.
Like I was trying to do too many
things, and it was getting in the
way of the actual productivity.
So I started just trying to
put in features that like I
wanted and that worked for me.
That was the first reason.
The second reason is I was
just learning how to code.
I taught myself how to code about two
years ago just by watching YouTube
videos and, you know, when you're
learning to code, one of the first
things you you make is a to-do list.
I think a lot of, you know, new
developers are like, let me make
a to-do list because it's a really
good way to practice web development.
Cuz you get to, you know, you work with
a database, and you can create a task.
You can edit a task, you can right
to the database retrieve tasks.
There's a lot of good things that you
can learn by making a to-do list app.
So it started off as like
a really simple to-do list.
And then I put it on Twitter and
people were like, I really want this.
So I just started building it out more
and more, and then adding in features
that like I just wanted, and it
started getting a following from that.
From just sharing the stuff that I
was, is working on and just the fact
that some of the features were a little
bit different, a little bit kind of
quirky, or just a little bit focused
on the fact that I've got really bad
time blindness, so I was putting in
a lot of features to help with that.
And people liked that, they were either
surprised because they'd never seen that
before, or they were just searching for
that because they already had that need.
Michele: I love that.
I mean, there's so many things in there
like that I, I'm exploding to talk about.
So like the first thing is like building
something as an ADHD, or basically for
ADHD years without actually saying it.
Like That reminds me a lot of what
Marie Poulin does with notion mastery.
Because she started using notion,
sounds like you do as well, sort
of as her like second brain,
because we forget things a lot.
We need a place to store things, and
I think there's this thing, um, you
know, I I believe that like all of
the things we have that like, that are
deficiencies or seen as deficiencies,
if you can master those, you can then
turn them into this thing that like
massively helps other people, even
if they don't have that struggle.
And so I think because those of
us with ADHD have to spend so much
time, like learning these very basic
things about how do you focus, and
what makes you feel accomplished, and
what makes you go onto another task?
And like, what are all of the things
that can go wrong when you're trying
to just get one stupidly simple thing
done, and you've been at your desk
for four hours and still not done it.
And it would take you 10 seconds to do it.
How do you prevent yourself from
getting in that situation, like
we've had to think about that
Michele: so much.
Like more than somebody who maybe
doesn't have ADHD that we end up being
really good at, like communicate.
Like, I feel like that's for me as
like listening to people like between
being ADHD and being from the Northeast
where we interrupt people constantly,
like, I really had to learn how to
listen to people at a level that most
people just never even think about.
And then in turn, I was like, oh
wait, I have all of this knowledge
about like how to have a conversation
and how to listen to people.
And I guess other people haven't
really thought about that.
That could use that to like help them.
it sounds like you are doing that with
Lama Life, but then I also love, okay,
sorry, so how you were like learning to
code, got yourself watching like YouTube
videos building the basic to-do list app.
I remember like my God, like years
ago going to like a rails girls
thing and like, yeah, starting out
building a very basic to-do list,
but then like, you got into it.
It sounds like you got that little
hyperfocused bug, and then you went
from like doing these YouTube videos and
then you're just in very ADHD fashion,
completely off somewhere else, like
totally on the other side, like running
off with something completely unrelated,
but it is related, but like, you're
just like, just way off on a tangent.
And, and like now it's your business.
Marie: Yeah, I think that's the thing
like with, with, with no, that's pretty
much what happened because so with
hyper focus, I think so I've been
thinking like the reason why we tend
to hyper focus is because when we find
something that really lights up our
brain, like you just love that feeling
and you don't, you don't wanna stop.
And that's how I felt about coding.
So it's interesting though, because I,
this is actually my third attempt to
learn how to code, the first two times I
tried to read a book and it did not work.
It didn't, it didn't click for me.
I tried reading a couple of chapters
and just couldn't get into it.
And this third time, I tried
to think about, you know,
what is my learning style?
What works for me?
I am terrible at reading books,
fiction, nonfiction, it doesn't matter.
So I don't know why I thought reading
a coding book was a good idea.
But I just guess, I guess I
saw people online doing that.
So I was like, yeah, these
books have good reviews.
Let me try it.
But in the end I thought, well,
I really like watching videos.
I'm really good with audio.
And I'm really good with video
from a learning perspective.
So then I just started watching
YouTube videos and I supplemented
that with a Udemy course.
I think I paid 20 bucks for it.
And that became, you know,
my whole, like how to learn
I just, I absolutely love it.
I was spending, I don't know, four
hours, five hours a day, just hyper
focusing and just being obsessed,
learning everything I could about coding.
And it was just a very natural thing.
It was first a to-do list.
And then I was like, okay,
well it's just a to-do list.
Maybe I should connect a data base to it
so I can actually save stuff for people.
Let me add like a user profile
and an account and authentication.
And every time I Did An extra thing.
It was, it was all about learning.
Like, okay, well I wanna learn
how to add Stripe payments next.
And if I look back now, it's sort of, it
looks kind of like a larger app now, but
it didn't feel overwhelming at the time.
Cause I was just doing it in little bits
and it was all about me learning to code.
So it was just kind of this very
natural progression, weirdly so.
Like just very weirdly.
So, and I just love it.
So it didn't feel like a chore to me.
It was quite fun to do.
And it's just kind of become
what it is today from that.
Michele: Did you use Lama Life to build
Lama Life like, like when you were
like, oh, like learn how to use Stripe.
Did you have a, to do list item
that was like, you know, learn how
to integrate Stripe and then like
you check off the item and you're
like, oh, that could be more fun.
Like, let me add some confetti.
Hold, let me add like a to-do list item
to add confetti when I complete an item
and then like 10 steps down, you're like,
oh, I was gonna add Stripe checkout.
That's why I started doing
this in the first place.
Marie: A little bit like that, yeah.
I guess it's, it's kind
of meta, meta in that way.
But, um, yeah, it does keep me on track,
and yeah, there's kind of all sorts of
weird things that I've built into there.
So it's not just When, when you
finish a task or when the timer
runs out, there's an alarm, but I
also have kind of the reverse where
if you're doing a task and you get
distracted, you might need something
to kind of bring you back to focus.
So I I've created this thing called
chimes, and you can just have it play
like a chime, like a little sound
every five minutes or every 10 minutes.
And it's just something to kind
of snap you back in case you're
hyper focusing on the wrong thing.
So it's kind of like a
reverse, a reverse thing.
A lot of people have liked that feature.
I guess It's just having
an, an alarm on an interval
Michele: It sounds like, you know,
an alarm is very like, an alarm
says pay attention to this now.
It's very, very startling, but it
almost sounds like you're building
this kind of like Pavlovian sort of
like you snap your fingers and it's
like, oh, and when I hear that snap,
that means I'm supposed to figure out
what I was doing in the first place.
And so it's not as in intrusive, or
like yeah, as intrusive as an alarm
is, but more of the like, oh, I
hear, you know, the whistle sound.
And then I know that I need to, you know,
get off of my Wikipedia rabbit hole.
It's really designed to be
kind of a companion to you.
Like while you're working kind of like a
friend, and that's, I think that's where
the branding comes in with the Lama,
cause the Lama looks kind of friendly
and quirky and fun, but it's really
just meant to be with you while you work.
And it almost like hold
your hand and guide you.
So you stay focused and not get
distracted on, you know, down a
rabbit hole for something else.
Michele: So I'm curious, do you remember
like was there any particular person's
YouTube videos you were watching when
you were learning to code or was it
like a whole bunch of different things?
Like, what did that look like?
But also like, how did you
find four to five hours a day
to watch YouTube videos about
So I I had actually quit my job.
I was working in like the innovation
team for a healthcare company, and that
was good in a lot of different ways,
but it wasn't really what I wanted.
It wasn't really kind
of what I wanted to do.
Like I wanted to create
like a lot of products.
I'd actually done a few
startups in the past.
So with those previous startups, I
was working with a friend and that
friend was doing all the coding, and
the dev work, and I was doing more the
marketing and sort of the product and
business side, but I've always just
wanted to create like my own stuff.
And I don't know, I kind of just hit
this point in corporate life where
I was like, okay, I think I just
wanna, I just wanna do my own thing.
And I think, I think this decision is a
very personal one and it's different for
everybody because some people say, you
know, I'll, I'll do my, my corporate gig
and I'll do my indie hacking stuff on
the side until I reach a certain level
of MRR and then I can afford to quit.
With me, I think it was quite, I
was quite lucky in the sense that I'd
saved up a lot of money with previous
work that I I'd kind of worked out,
I had a certain amount of runway
where I could quit and support myself
for X amount of, you know, months.
For a bit more context, I don't have kids
either, and so in terms of supporting
myself, it's really just supporting me.
There's less responsibility in that
sense, cause there's no one sort
of under my care, except my dog,
Homer, which we can talk about later.
Um, So I'd kind of just.
Yeah, I kind of just quit, and
I knew I had a certain amount of
time to make something happen.
And because of that, I think
this works for my brain as well.
There's a sense of urgency for me.
You know, there's a sense of like, if you
don't do this, you're kind of screwed.
And that really helps
me get into gear year.
Personally, if I kept working, and I had a
regular income, and I was trying to learn
this on the side, personally, that doesn't
work for me because it's not as urgent.
And I think that's just something
for me, like that's just how
my life has been in general.
When I'm thrown into like a really
crazy situation, I tend to get
a lot of focus, and I find it
exciting, and stuff gets done.
But if there's no urgency for
me, then it could just drag on.
I probably wouldn't have spent four hours
a day, if there was no urgency behind it.
But I, I think everyone's a little
bit different, but that's kind of
how that's kind of how I did It.
Michele: But it me, it makes sense, like
on a sort of macro level, like knowing
that you had, you know, X months of
living expenses, basically time boxed you
Michele: into doing this.
Now, some people also like they, if
they did that, like they might also just
get really stressed that like it wasn't
going to happen in that amount of time,
Michele: it sounds like you were, it was
able to be a productive force for you.
I mean, I'm one of those people who, you
know, had the side project on the side,
and the corporate jobs, and like, and
just like kept putting it off, and putting
it off, and putting it off because I
was so scared of, you know, I, I think
like there's a really this question
of like, not only can I afford it.
But also like, am I capable of this?
Those are feel like two
very different questions.
And it sounds like you believed
you were capable of running your
own business for me, it took me
a really long time to believe it.
So, the other way I look at it is, so
obviously if you quit your job, there's no
income coming in and you are spending time
kind of getting a business off the ground.
But I kind of think of it.
You know, sometimes people take a gap year
or, you know, they're working and they
might stop and do an MBA or something.
They might go back to
university, and they're spending
time and money doing that.
For me, the way I justified it in my
head was okay, well, I'm not gonna go
back to university and pay for another
degree, but what I will do is, you know,
I'll just take time off work to do it.
And in effect, I'm kind of paying
for that experience because
there's no money coming in.
So I kind of justify it that way as like,
I'm not paying for an degree, but I'm
paying for experience, in a, in a way.
In a fashion.
And that kind of really helped me
think about the value behind it.
And obviously you're not, you're
not going to a lecture and being
taught, but you are teaching yourself.
And for me, that actually worked
out really well because I could
never sit in a lecture and pay
attention for the whole time.
I just, I struggled so badly to do
that, but if I'm teaching myself and
I'm watching a video, I could fast
forward the video if I get it and I
can rewind the video if I don't get it.
If the video itself wasn't working
for me, if that particular channel
on YouTube wasn't working, I would
just go and find someone else.
And I think you have a lot more control
over your learning when you're doing it
that way, and you asked before, like, are
there particular channels that I follow?
And I think what I did was
I had like two or three.
So there's one called
There's a guy called Dev Ed on
YouTube, which I really like.
And also Traversy media, they're kind
of the three that I was looking at.
Uh, We can put some, some links
maybe in the show notes later.
Um, They were kind of like
three sort of staple ones.
And then if there was a specific
topic that I was struggling on,
like a specific coding challenge.
I was struggling on.
I would just go Google like that specific
thing and hunt for anybody who had
solved that or who could explain it.
So it was kind of like a mixture, but
I think the main point I'm trying to
make is that like, you have to really
just go with what works for you.
That was kind of like a big thing for
me was I don't really fit into some
of these more traditional learning
models, university, reading books,
et cetera, but I kind of know what
works for me and because I'm doing
my own thing, I have so much more
freedom to go, well, that doesn't work.
I don't wanna do that.
I don't wanna sit, you know, for several
hours doing that one thing, listening
to this one teacher on YouTube, if they
don't work for me, if they don't click
with how I'm thinking about things.
Well, I don't click with the way
they're explaining it, but that's fine
because I can control my own learning.
I can go somewhere else.
Maybe it's not YouTube.
Maybe it was stack overflow
or maybe it's Reddit.
You have so much more freedom to
figure out what works for you, and
you can just go in that direction.
Michele: Yeah, I mean, it
sounds like you basically built
your own education, in this.
And really got so much satisfaction
out of building it, but also you
were like, sounds like from the very
early stages, you were also getting
feedback from people who wanted to
use it, who wanted to try using it.
And I think this is something really
like, there's something really magical
about getting feedback from users that
not only does it help you make sure
you're kind of building the right thing
or building in the right direction.
But having people who are using
it is so like motivating, right?
I think people talk about like how do
you keep motivation as an indie hacker
or as an independent business owner?
And for me like that, that
motivation comes from just like
knowing that I'm helping people.
And it sounds like that like, like I
almost like took you by surprise that
people wanted to use it, but then
that like kind of kept you going.
Marie: Yeah, a hundred percent.
You know, I think I tweeted about
this a few weeks ago, but it was
maybe nine o'clock at night, and I was
ready to, you know, just relax, put
my feet up, maybe watch some Netflix.
And then somebody emailed me with
some really positive feedback about
Lama Life, and then I was like, oh,
I'm like, I've got a second win.
And then I was like, okay,
let me get my laptop back out.
And I started just coding, like a
new feature because you're right,
like, it's just so motivating.
It's just so empowering, and it just feels
so good that someone else appreciates
the work and yeah, it really just is
like my energy for this, and um, yeah.
So I always, whenever I look at other
indie hacker products, I'm like, if I
like it, even if it's just a small part
of it, I will write to that person because
I know how good it feels when someone
writes to me and says, hey, you know,
I really love what you've done here.
And here's a feature suggestion.
It's just it's, yeah.
It's just so much, it's like fuel.
It's fuel that keeps me going.
Michele: I think the world would be
a much nicer place if like, every
day, like each one of us had a goal
to just compliment somebody's work.
And as you said, it can just be
like a small thing about it.
It doesn't have to be like, you know,
I love the business model you've
created here and like, this is amazing.
It should be like, I love how there's
confetti when I check something
off, like, it just makes me happy.
Just like something small, but taking
the time to appreciate someone else,
can feel awkward, but it's so powerful.
And once you get in the habit of doing
it and receiving appreciation, right?
Like It's just, it's amazing.
Like I, for me, it is
the best dopamine fuel.
Marie: Mm-hmm . Yep.
I think it's also a good way
to make friends, as well.
You know, obviously the feedback that
you're giving needs to be genuine, but
if someone reaches out to me and they
have something nice to say about the
website that is truly genuine, then I'm
probably gonna write back, and say hi,
or, you know, thanks for, thanks for that.
I don't know about you, but I'm
starting to get a lot more like random
DMS on Twitter, and I used to have
this thing where like every time I
looked at my DMS, especially the ones
that are message requests, so these
are people that you don't follow.
And they just, they just message you.
I used to have kind of this anxiety
moment where I was like, I don't
really know what this person's gonna
say, and is it just gonna be something
like, they want something from me.
I get a lot of requests
saying, can you review this?
Or can you, vote me on product hunt.
And I just sometimes like, if I don't
know someone, I probably won't do it.
I probably won't accept the message
request unless it's constructive,
unless it's something like it's a
compliment or they're giving feedback.
But I think there's this, this
trend where a lot of people ex
just ex expect you to reply.
And that was actually really
getting to me for some time.
But now when, now when I go
into my message request, I
kind of take a deep breath.
I'm like, okay, let me see what
there is, but I don't know if you've
ever had that with your account.
I think as you get more followers, it
gets, it kind of gets exponentially worse.
Michele: This is, well, that's
something weird about Twitter, right?
Is like the more you use the product,
the worse, the experience gets like,
like if you have a viral tweet,
like, I don't know if you've ever
had a viral tweet, but like your
mentions just become a dumpster fire.
Like, like leaving your little safe little
community, like is dangerous on Twitter.
I was thinking about this the other day,
like I'm really struggling with how to
like, manage like the whole thing of DMS.
Because like, if it's like somebody
that I know and I follow and like we're
chatting about something, like, it's fine.
But there's, there's the whole thing
about, like, I, I used to be able
to just, you know, someone reach
out to me, like I used to be able
to just hop on a phone call with
them and chat and like, whatever.
I just don't.
I have so many people
asking me for that now.
And I just don't have time for
it, in which people say, oh, well
then you should do consulting.
And I'm like, these are like other,
people who are just trying to get
their business started, they're
trying to figure something out.
I can't just like charge
'em $500 for a phone call.
I would feel bad.
Even if they could pay it, I
would feel bad taking their money.
And so sometimes like, I have, I
feel like I'm kind of rude and I'm
like, and like, they're like, oh,
how did you start your business?
And I'm like, I have done so many
podcasts where I talked about that.
And I'm really bored of talking about
that like, uh, I have to like start
either ignoring people or not like not,
you know, they say they want a phone
call and I just like, I can't do it.
And I feel so bad, cause that's why
I, like, I love talking to people.
I just like love making
friends and everything.
And I just feel like I
can't do that anymore.
Like, you know, if it's someone I've
been like tweeting with and they like
ask me up vote them on product hunt.
And like, that's it.
I'm like, okay, fine.
I'll do that.
Marie: Yeah, yeah, totally.
Michele: Though, then again, if I say
this now, and I end up getting like 50 of
those a day, like, I can't do it anymore.
You know, like as the problem, right?
Like I'm actually really struggling
with this, but then there also are
like conversation I do have with people
like where there actually needs to
be something I need to do out of it.
And then, because the Twitter DMS
experience itself is just not organized,
like I end up forgetting about it and
like, I needed to email someone and like
Marie: I'm quite behind on my DMS.
Like I feel like, they build up and um,
Michele: I lose them.
Michele: And then so like if somebody
DMS me something, then I actually
need to like, do an action out of, I
feel so bad, but I end up being like,
Hey, like, can you email this to me?
Because otherwise I'm
going to forget about it.
And I feel like I'm like
imposing my process on people.
But yeah, I I am struggling
with dMS, but it, it's
Marie: somebody create
a product to to manage
Michele: But also, I don't even like,
like the experience most of the time.
I don't think I would pay for it.
I feel like this is Twitter's
responsibility to have a better
product experience here that like,
but, but it's like, where is that?
Where is that like, line and
like protecting your own time
and like it's, I have, have
not, I have not figured that out.
Marie: Of the things I do is if I
get a lot of DMS about a particular
like topic, then I'll say to that
person, let me tweet about it.
So then everyone can sort of hear, hear
the answer or just, you can kind, you can
kind of use it as feedback in a way, like,
this is what everyone's asking about.
So for your case, if it's, you know,
how did you start your business then
maybe you could just do a tweet.
You probably already done this a
billion times, but you could do
another tweet on it and just say,
well, I'll tweet about it again.
So then everybody can learn.
Michele: So I don't think I actually
have, like, I don't think I've
ever made a threat of like, this
is how we started our business.
Or like, here's like, you know, five of
the , you know, dozens and dozens I've
done where we talk about how we, or like,
here's a talk I did or whatever, I don't
have those references for myself that
I can basically use as a safe reply.
Marie: I hate threads
normally though, but um,
Michele: I know.
It's like how much time do I actually
wanna spend thinking about twitter.
I think of, you know, cause we had
Arvid on a couple of weeks ago, like
talking about Twitter strategy and I
was like, oh, I should like really, I
should really think more about this.
I should go through his course, like,
and you were saying how, because you
have like ADHD, you find it really hard
to sit in traditional classes and read
books and you prefer watching videos
and said, I hate watching videos.
Like, I like, if you send me a video
to watch, I will probably not watch it
because I can read so much faster that
like, someone asked me the other day,
if I'd listened to their podcast and I
was like uh, no, there's no transcript.
I only listen to podcasts when
I'm driving a long distance.
And so, and I don't do that very often.
That's really the only time I can sit
down long enough to listen to audio and
deal with the fact that I could absorb
the information so much faster and text,
and also be able to reference it later.
Cause I feel like in a video,
I can't reference it later.
And like I love like checking
off things in a, like, like a
syllabus with all of the homework
assignments, list it in chapters.
Like that's a to do list to me.
I love that.
I have an MBA.
I am all in on structure like,
cause I don't have any myself.
Marie: I think, I think, but I think,
you know, that's, this is the, so I
think everybody's different, right?
So it's just about, it's just
about figuring out what works for
you, and you having a system to go
through that and to check things off.
And that's why I like notion so much
because it's so flexible as a tool, right.
It can be as simple as you want
or as complicated as you want.
And you can have multiple databases in
notion and you can also link to those
databases, kind of create, you know,
relational databases, but that's, what's
so cool about it is that it kind of
gives you all the building blocks and
you can design something that works
for you based on what they give you.
And that's kind of what I I'm trying
to do with Lama Life, as well.
I'm trying to make it flexible
enough that you can tweak stuff.
There's a lot of settings.
So when you look at it,
initially, it looks really simple.
And I don't know if that's worked against
me in some ways that people come and they
look at it and they think it's so simple.
And they're like, well, no,
I don't need that, but that's
kind know how I've designed it.
So it looks simple on the surface,
but if you go into settings,
you can actually customize it.
And that's just because like, I feel
like everybody's slightly different.
So what works for me might
not necessarily work for you.
Conceptually obviously there's like
a core of it and it's always around
timers and time boxing, but in terms
of how you wanna set it up and tweak,
it turns, sounds off, turns sounds on,
um, have different types of alarms.
So there's like a, there's a
visual alarm, that's just silent.
Some people don't want to have
a sound that startles them.
So you can just have it flush at you like
in red or whatever color you choose just
to kind of catch at the side of your eye.
But that's kind of one of the
design, like the core things of it.
When I think about the design, it's I
wanna make sure it's really flexible.
Um, so what we'll see if that hurts
it in the long run, but now it's just
something I, I constantly think about
like, well, if someone, someone might
not like that, so let me put in like a
toggle switch and you can choose to turn
it on or off depending what works for you.
Michele: I love that because like,
your neurodiversity is not, mine
is not somebody else's is not
like, you know, like, like your
expression of that, or like, even
for, people who don't know what the
word neurodiverse is, which probably
means they're neurotypical in word,
Marie: you said, I thought
you said nerd as in like
Michele: Oh, nerd diversity.
I like, I like, I've
never heard that before.
And I was like, that's actually kind
of a cool little phrase neurodiversity.
You know, like accepting like, your way
of viewing something and getting something
done is not everybody else's and like,
there's a certain hum in that, that I
think, you know, people talk about whether
products should be opinionated, right?
Whether they should have a
specific flow for things.
And there, it sounds like you, there are
some certain things that your product is
opinionated about, like the concept of
time boxing, but then a lot of things
actually extremely flexible on it.
I think what I'm I'm pulling
from this is that you can build
something that other people have
already quote unquote built, right?
Like you built a to-do list app.
That has been built literally millions
of times because so many people
do it as their first code project.
But what made that different
was that you really applied
your own perspective on this.
And it reminds me of a famous
um, Goethe to quote, which is
that, you know, all truly wise
thoughts have already been thought.
And what is simply need to be
done is to, you know, rethink
them in our own experience.
I'm probably butchering that, sorry, my
apologies to the great German philosopher,
but like, you know, it doesn't matter.
Like people ask this question all the
time of indie hacking businesses.
It's like, well, like somebody
already built, you know, a to-do
list, somebody already built a
Twitter scheduler, somebody already
built like whatever, you know, a
calendar app, like whatever that is.
Like, but have they really.
Like you have this unique lens to it.
And if you can find like there's
something there that you feel like
hasn't been done yet, you can make
something really magical about it.
I, I spent so much time thinking about,
am I writing a book that already exists?
It was really important to me that I
didn't write a book that already existed.
And so I read a million book books on
it and, and the more I read about them,
the more other books I read, I was
like, you know what, my perspective, and
the thing that I notice resonates with
people, cause it's not just about your
own experiences, how do people react
when you share your perspective on it?
Marie: mm-hmm yep.
Michele: that's not here.
And so, you saw that, and you
ran with that and really made
it into this flexible tool.
This thing that people kind of take for
granted and and made it kind of exciting.
Marie: I think it's a good example of,
you know, nicheing, nicheing, nicheing
depends how you say it nicheing down.
So it is kind of this to do list
app, but it's got timers and then it
is really kind of, not everybody,
it's not gonna work for everybody.
So it is, it's really obvious to me
cause I can see when someone signs
up, and when they convert to a paid
user, and typically what happens is
they convert like really quickly or
they just leave really quickly.
Like, I can see all the activity
on their account has just stopped.
They're not returning like the next day.
It's just, they've looked at
it and they've decided no,
that doesn't work for me.
Or, or they go, yeah, I'm just gonna pay
for like an annual plan straight away,
because it just clicked so, so strongly.
So, I think it's a maybe a good
example of, you know, your product
doesn't need to be for everyone.
It can be for a specific kind of audience.
And because it's polarizing, like I can
see that I can see that in the data.
Like it's completely polarizing,
and it's not a bad thing because
that means I can, when I design
it, I'm designing for my audience.
I don't have, have to design for everyone.
That's when it kind of gets
to be like a nothing product,
because it becomes so general.
And then it becomes like any other
like you said any other to-do list.
That's kind of not where I want it
to go, but because it's slightly
opinionated in, in the way it's going.
And the design is a little bit different.
It just makes it, and the
audience is different.
It just makes it a lot easier
for me when I'm thinking,
like, what features can I add?
I don't need to satisfy everyone and I can
just go, well, if I satisfy myself, that's
the first step, because I know that I'm
definitely someone who really needs it.
The pain point for me is so strong.
And like you said, I've been kind
of thinking about this so much.
What works for me?
What can I, you know, conceptually
what works for me and if it works
for me, that's kind of the first step
and I might build it in, or at least
talk to some customers like I've got
some super fans for Llama Life life.
So I sometimes will just say, hey,
I'm thinking about doing this.
Would you want that?
And then they're like, yeah, yeah, we
would like, we would really want that.
And then, I'll just build it.
But I think it helps to kind
of, yeah, get laser focused
on it and, sort of niche down.
Michele: Well, like crucially
important, there is that your audience
is willing to pay for it, right?
If you niche down on an audience, and
a way of doing things or a problem
that nobody else experiences or only 10
other people experience, and they're not
willing to pay for it, then, you know that
that's sign to move away from it, right?
Like there's, there's dangers in following
a niche, but for you, you, you have
struck on something that other people
experience, other people under, like other
people understand your perspective on it.
And you also understand other
people's perspective on it and
they are willing to pay for.
Marie: Yeah, that's the key
thing, you know, cuz at the
beginning it was just free.
Like when I started partly cuz I
didn't know how to add payments.
So it was just this free app.
It kind of went through stages, so
originally it was free and then it
became buy me a coffee, so I added
the, the buy me a coffee link.
Then it became a one time payment for
like a crazy, like, it was like $4
or something crazy, like super small.
And then it went to $6, I think, $9.
It's like the typical thing where
everybody tells you to raise your price,
but you are kind of super nervous to
do it cuz you always underestimate
how much your own product Is worth.
So I think it went for $4 to $6 to $9.
Then it went to $19.99.
Then it went to subscription.
So it started off just that one time
payment, then it went to subscription
and now it's, now it's 49 99 per
year for an annual subscription.
And that seems to be kind of the price
point where, you know, obviously you
wanna look at your overall revenue that
that's not go down, but for now, And
this might change in future, but for
now, like I'm happy to have slightly
fewer customers at a higher price
point and really make sure that those
customers are getting value from it.
And then I guess we'll see from there,
but that's kind of where, where it's
at at the moment, rather than having
like a crazy number of users at a
super cheap price point, I'd rather
have it a a slightly less number
of users for a high price point.
Because that means I can have a
relationship with those users.
We can email more if they have requests
or any support requests as well.
I can attend to them.
You know, there's kind of
always this balance, right?
In terms of how much time you have when
you're a really small team, and I wanna
make sure that everyone that's using
it is like super happy people with it.
And that can't happen if there's too many
users, you know, at a low price point,
Michele: Is that 49 99 a year
price point sustainable for you?
I guess what I'm wondering, like does the
business as it is right now, like, does
it cover your, not only like business
expenses, but like living expenses?
Marie: Not at the moment, not at
the moment, but I I've shared
this on Twitter before, Um, I did
get into an accelerator program.
Marie: Yeah, so this was a,
this was a while back now.
This was in May in 2021, actually
it's almost coming up to a year.
Um, But in May, 2021, it's funny,
cuz I was just doing my usual thing
on Twitter, kind of just building in
public sharing stuff and Ja you know,
Jason K Calacanis um, angel investor.
So someone on his team
saw Lama Life on Twitter.
They bought it and they liked it.
And then they reached out to me over
Twitter DMS and said, hey, like, I really
like what you're doing with Lama Life.
I can see that you're bootstrapping it.
Would you ever consider, you know,
raising a little bit of money and
joining an accelerator program?
And I was like, well, I hadn't thought
of it, but now that you see it and
because you are in my DMS, yeah.
Let's have a chat.
So we had a chat.
He said, why don't you apply?
So I applied, went through
all the interview process and
as part of that accelerator.
So this is, the launch accelerator
that's run by Jason Calcanis.
And as part of that, they give
you a hundred K and you go
through the accelerator program
in exchange for equity, which
is a, are 6% of the business.
And that has really helped kind
of, you know, sustain it, take a
little bit of pressure off as well.
And um, yeah, I think that's a tricky
thing when you are you're bootstrapping
and indie hacking is that you kind of,
you want a price point that is acceptable
to your, your consumers, but based
on the volume you get at the time, it
might not be sustainable for you from
a living perspective is, and in which
case, a lot of businesses just fail.
Just because you, you just, it's just
hard to keep going when you got no money.
But I think with this, it kind of
just gave me a little bit of a buffer,
so I could focus a bit less on the
price and just try to figure out what
customers are, are wanting, make sure
the initial customers are very happy.
Um, and I think that's one Llama life
because the user base isn't massive, but
the user base it has, they're, they're
pretty like happy with the product.
And I have a, I have a good relationship
with a lot of them as well, because if
they email me, I'm gonna email back and
we have a dialogue going and it's kind
of one of those things where you've got
a small group of people who love it,
and they're all really kind of loyal and
they generate word of mouth and you can
kind of grow it out from their, whereas
I think if you take the opposite approach
where you just going for like volume,
you can kind of spread yourself too thin.
Both from a, you know, a customer
support perspective, but also just
a community building perspective.
And when you're too thin, like
it can fall apart really quickly.
It's kind of just held if you
kind of imagine it's kind of just
held together just by like thin
whistles of thread or something.
And I think that's kind of where things
can break apart where Llama Life's a
bit different, it's of it's quite solid,
like the community around it and it
might not be growing like exponentially
at the moment, but it's growing quite
steadily with a really strong community.
And at some point, you know, at some
point you can start adding fuel to
that to make it grow exponentially.
But for now, I'm just trying to make sure
that everyone who uses it really likes it.
And they're really happy.
They felt heard.
So, you know, I play to every single
email might take me a little bit
longer, but Yeah, everyone who
emails me, they get an email back.
And yeah, that's, that's kind of
the approach we're taking right now.
And I actually hired my friend,
as well so now there's two people.
It's me and my friend.
So it started off just myself, but
getting that sort of injection of cash has
allowed me to hire, hire somebody as well.
That took a little bit of pressure off.
Michele: Yeah, it sounds like it.
I'm curious, do you have a sense
for, you said somebody on Jason's
team bought it and started using it, do
you have a sense for for whether like
because it sounds like this product is
both B to C and potentially B to B.
Like, Do you have a sense for what
percentage of your customers consider
this to be a business expense that
they charge to their business or
a business versus what percentage
are paying for it personally?
Marie: I don't know that for sure.
Cause I don't ask them, but there
is a little note on Lama life's
website that says, you know, a hot
tip is that you could ex you could
possibly expense this as a work
expense, but check with your boss.
I think it's kind of the right time for
a product like this because a lot of us
are working from home and that kind of
expense is a lot more acceptable nowadays.
But I don't know for sure.
In my mind it's still very much a B2C
product and if it, that there are plans
to take it to enterprise, but I think
that has to be managed like very, very
carefully because I would never want it to
be a product where somebody in a corporate
environment is sort of mandating that you
use Lama Life because they wanna make sure
everybody on their team is productive.
That's definitely not
where I want to take it.
When it goes into enterprise, I
want it to be a lot more bottom up.
So it would be a tool that the
employees and selves use or want to use.
And they go to their manager and
say, can we have this for the team?
Can we expense it?
That's definitely the way I want
to go in versus the micromanagement
sort of top down approach.
And, you know, I think it's, it's
a hard transition to make and it's
not anywhere near that at the moment.
I'm still focusing very much just
on B2C, but at eventually I think in
order for it to become very profitable,
Selling the enterprise or selling it,
you know, a, a bulk deal for licenses.
You know, maybe a company says
our employees really want this.
Um, or maybe they wanna offer it
as part of a wellness package.
I see a lot of big companies doing
that nowadays, you know, as part
of a wellness package, a working
from home package, we will give
you access to a meditation app like
calm.com and maybe a productivity app.
Here's like a hamper of like chocolates
or something to help make your
work from home experience better.
I can kind of see it going that
direction where a company says,
hey, we'll buy a hundred licenses
for Lama Life, a hundred accounts.
And we'll distribute that to our
employees as part of a, a package
I've like to try that kind of route.
Um, But it's pretty early days.
So we'll see how that goes.
We haven't, we've had
one customer do that.
So one customer shout out to Preshan, he
bought 10 licenses uh, or 10 annual plans
for Lama Life, so that was, that was good.
I'm not sure how exactly he's using
it, but I think he plans to give it
out to his, his team or at least,
you know, people in his family.
So that was a really good, that was kind
of a really good moment for me because
I was like, well, This could happen.
Like somebody else has wanted to buy
it in bulk and give it out to people
on their team or to their family
to, to help them with productivity.
Michele: Yeah, I love how you're thinking
of that as like, you don't want, you
don't want it to become this like forced
pro activity tool that's, you know,
the, the factory manager, like walking
around and, you know, getting the data
back on whether the employees are being
productive and using it, cuz like that
could get really, that could get toxic.
So I love that you're
being conscious about that.
But perhaps this is a good place
to stop, but also to mention that
when you get to that point of thing,
thinking about company wide plans and
enterprise and whatnot, maybe we should
have you back on because that sales
process that you described where the
employees want to use it themselves.
And then they ask their
boss if they can use it.
And then the boss reaches out to you and
says, hey, my employees wanna use this.
How do we make it work?
That is our sales process.
Like we don't do any
outbound sales at all.
Like we just have people calling us
up and then willing to pay us tens of
thousands of dollars a year for something.
So that can definitely work.
It does take a lot of care and sort
of how you, how you structure that.
But yeah, I I feel like this,
you know, that's gonna be one of
the next stages for you and that,
that could be a fun conversation.
Marie: It is definitely the next
stage, I think the next 12 months
or so are gonna be very interesting.
So if people want to follow all of the
interesting things that are going to
happen, where should they check you out
and where should they check out Lama Life?
Marie: So you can follow me on Twitter.
I'm at three hour coffee that pelts out
the word three hour coffee and Lama Life
firstname.lastname@example.org that's dot co Lama Life.co.
Michele: Well, Marie Ng, thank
you so much for joining us.
This has been really lovely.
And uh, speaking for myself personally, I
cannot wait to see more pictures of your
adorable dog, Homer on Twitter, cause it
only makes me wanna follow you even more.
So thank you so much for
coming on software social.
This has been really fun.
Thank you so much for having me.
I'll see you on Twitter.
Michele: See ya.
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