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6 months in and $1k MRR: my biggest mistakes so far (lunchbag.ca)
454 points by jnfr 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 161 comments

This was super interesting! The design really helped as well. I liked this one:

"Lesson learned: People care about the narrative behind your product, so don't be afraid to tell your story!"

As someone who finds new things on HN all the time, I always check the "about" page, especially if it's something that isn't free. I'm surprised at how often the "About Us" isn't actually "About Anyone", there's no names, it's all just "Us" and "We".

I'm surprised at how often the "About Us" isn't actually "About Anyone", there's no names, it's all just "Us" and "We".

That's something I often get instructed to use when doing freelance writing. It is considered "professional" and "corporate speak."

The other thing is that women and minorities sometimes intentionally hide or downplay their personal details. One guy with a very "foreign" sounding name legally changed his name to something normal WASPy sounding because it was a barrier to doing business. I have seen at least one article on the front page of HN where a woman founder was being sexually harassed and generally treated terribly by clients when doing support chats. She changed her picture and her name to make it appear you were dealing with a man and that largely stopped.

I'm a woman and I've had to deal a lot with awful behavior from people, much of which is pretty clearly rooted in misogyny, basically. I'm still not sure what the best path forward is for me.

One part of me is clear that hiding or downplaying my gender to try to be successful just reinforces sexism. Another part of me has to wonder if that's a hill I really want to die on or would I rather be able to, you know, eat more regularly and what not.

Damn, I might be guilty as charged! Not long ago, I officially launched greenleaves.io, a logistics startup. The main issue I have with the about us thing is, that for now it is just me. So I use a lot of we and such (the co founder will join as soon as there is enough money to sustain a second person, we both have family, so...).

Would you to have quick look at https://greenleaves.io/about/? Because the last two weeks told me that I might be overthinking a couple of things...

Try reading this: https://johnnycupcakes.com/pages/about

Then sit down and "tell your story" in writing as if you were telling it over beers at a pub to a few new-ish friends who don't all equally well know your backstory. Get someone to read through it before publishing it. Good feedback is very helpful. Also, grammar check, spell check, etc.

You want to be somewhat entertaining, but more importantly you want to capture as succinctly and compellingly as possible why you are uniquely/especially qualified to offer a new and better solution to an old and tired problem space, basically.

There's also a movie clip I like and I've written about why elsewhere, so let me link you to that write up:


I actually suck at the doing business thing or I would no doubt have some brilliant tie-in here to "And if you have trouble with that, you can hire me..blah blah blah." This is why I still work for a writing service. And I blog.

Thanks for pointing me there! This whole about us thing took me longer to write than the content for the rest of the page, I hate selling myself. Seems I have my work cut out for me over the next couple of days!

Feel free to email me with your first draft or whatever.

I don't know how to do this networking thing or whatever, but I do know something about writing and about doing stuff on a budget.

Sounds good! Expect mail next week. And I ain't good at this whole networking thing neither.


This was an excellent exchange that I learned a lot from. Thank you both.

I agree with the "tell the story as if you were telling it over beers at a pub" part but please don't make your page 9Mb like in the first example ;)

Someone at a meeting recently quoted some historical figure about "If you want me to write a speech of 5000 words, that will be a thousand dollars. If you want me to write a speech of 500 words, that will be ten thousand dollars."

Writing concisely is a virtue, but getting in all the details often matters more. It's fine if the first draft is wordy. If you can reach a point where it tells the story well and is also concise, you probably have something "worth its weight in gold."

It can take a lot of time to get there. Good writing can take a lot of time. This is often not at all obvious.

My feedback is the story itself has no flavor or personality to it. It’s essentially “we’ve worked in this space all our careers and then decided to start a company.”

What I would suggest is to add your personalities and some interesting details to it. Something like “Fred started out as an intern at a lightbulb factory and soon realized he loved making things more efficient.”

Thanks! That's really valuable feedback!

Those stock photos. cringe

I am working on a budget, so... But yeah, on the list to be replaced with something non-stock!

Thanks! I took them from pexxels for now, but that looks pretty good!

If you get somewhat a big audience you will get weird messages anyway, it doesn't matter if you are a man or women. For an app that probably have hundred of apps just like it I think it helps go get personal, you want to build trust and bound.

This is absolutely true and it's been enormously helpful to me to actively seek out such information and have a more balanced perspective. An important difference seems to be that women very frequently get a lot of weird and problematic attention before they are big and it often outweighs the positives.

If you get enough positive attention and money out of it, putting up with some icky stuff can be worth it. But women frequently are facing a situation where it's far more downside than up in the early stages in a way that makes it actively difficult to even get traction.

I've spent a lot of years trying to come up with constructive mental models to help me more effectively navigate such things. I think it's problematic to frame it in strictly gendered terms. Among other things, this tends to make women feel like it's hopeless and can't be fixed.

I think women get raised to have private lives. Men get raised to have public lives. This ends up being self reinforcing.

I lived an extremely private life. I was a homemaker for a long time. Learning to effectively interact with the public has been a long, uphill slog.

It's perhaps been something of a gift that it's been so hard. The extremes of it have likely helped make some things apparent to me that may get overlooked by others due to being too subtle.

You have to grow thick skin. People will try to bring you down mentally. Doesn't even matter if you are famous, the world is full of people that will try to put themselves above you so that they can feel better about themselves. Its just that the more ppl you talk to the more of those you will interact with. Get moderators that will moderate public forums ( control your communication channels). Dont share stuff about your private life. Everything you say can and will be used against you.

My skin is pretty thick. "Don't share stuff about your private life." is probably the more pertinent bit of advice.

I think it's not obvious to women that men share less of such info "in public" because they often share such info with women, even women they barely know. I am often appalled at the degree to which total strangers overshare with me and just immediately trust me with info I really shouldn't be getting.

It took me an overly long time to conclude this is actually a behavior that's extremely problematic to be on the receiving end of. It helps keep women trapped in a private role (which people expect them to play for free) and helps keep them out of a public role (ie a role you would pay them money for).

In essence, people want me to be a shoulder to cry on and it actively prevents me from being taken seriously. They want me to play a wife or mom role and they expect to get that from me completely for free. I'm supposed to care out of the goodness of my heart.

It doesn't open doors for me to be trustworthy in that fashion. It closes them. It's an expectation of slave labor and it's nothing short of abusive treatment, especially when you consider I was also treated this way while literally homeless and going hungry.

That assumption that moms care for "free" is really an assumption that her husband makes good money and is providing for her.

If you aren't paying my bills or otherwise taking care of me in some kind of meaningful fashion, expecting me to "care" about you while you don't give a damn about my welfare and won't help me establish an adequate income is just shitty behavior.

And it's rampant. It's pretty much everywhere and from almost everyone. It's appalling.

Anyway, I've gotten better about figuring out how and where to draw that line (between public and private) and it's made life suck less. Onward and upward and all that.

Edit: It's late. I'm tired. I really meant to also make the point that women being deterred by ugliness on the internet is often a genuine safety concern and not them simply being thin skinned.

This is a real problem for women you that don't typically see for men.

The “royal we” as they say!

I would recommend hiding your gender. You'd be surprised at how awful women can be to each other. The only people I see activity holding back women is other women. I just don't understand it.

You'd be surprised at how awful women can be to each other.

LOL. No, I wouldn't be surprised. I'm well acquainted with the phenomenon.

The only people I see activity holding back women is other women.

This framing may be on the mark, but my observation has been that the primary way men are a problem is that men mostly don't want to engage a woman too much if they aren't looking for a sexual relationship and this is a huge barrier to networking, getting referrals, etc. I don't think most men are intentionally, actively and on purpose trying to keep women out, but it's a big, big problem that they don't want to talk too much to a woman for fear that it might lead to an affair or a really terrible misunderstanding or gossip.

For serious business people, a good reputation is worth a lot of money, so I think a lot of businessmen don't want to take the risk of talking overly much to a woman for fear of pointlessly sullying their reputation. In most cases, they don't strictly need to network with women to further their career, so it's just not worth the risk involved to them most of the time.

I just don't understand it.

I think I do, at least to some degree, but this is not really the time or place for me to natter on about it.

"...I don't think most men are intentionally, actively and on purpose trying to keep women out, but it's a big, big problem that they don't want to talk too much to a woman for fear that it might lead to an affair or a really terrible misunderstanding or gossip"

It's bewildering how everybody knows there are these tremendous informal barriers, that have withstood all past attempts at equal rights, and yet everybody also knows that women have better social skills and emotional intelligence than men.

One thing that jumps out at me is you seem to be saying what holds women back is that men don't trust them. This is a very interesting point.

I have, and have had, a very negative reaction to anyone demanding trust beyond what feels right to me. The "golden rule" is central to most people's value systems, I think, and it is completely unimaginable to me that I could or should be able to demand trust as an entitlement.

However, I think your expectation of trust from men is normal, or at least common, based on my personal relationships. I do think that you might consider that not trusting women can and does have significant negatives for men too.

I don't disbelieve in your description of issues people have, but explanations I read - yours or others - tend to sound circular to me and not really explain why things are the way they are.

> One thing that jumps out at me is you seem to be saying what holds women back is that men don't trust them

Throwaway for obvious reasons.

As a man, I’m rather skeptical about trusting women in business. I will never have a one-on-one meeting with a woman (especially somebody under my management), and I will especially never interact with with woman I work with outside of the office. I will generally try to keep discussions with women in the office strictly about business and professional. I am incredibly cautious about mentoring a woman.

The risk of being accused of something untoward is just not worth taking. There’s little risk of my male colleagues taking some extreme level of offence at banter or any of the other normal interactions of friendship. None of my male colleagues are going to file a complaint against me just to spite me, or to further their career objectives. However this is a non-trivial risk with women. I know women who openly talk about having done this, and I know men who it has happened to. I don’t like it, but that’s simply the reality of the current political climate.

I’ve heard the same in a lot of places. After #metoo got rolling and “guilty until ... fuck it, accused means guilty, #believesurvivors” became the norm, I heard a lot of guys in higher positions say they wouldn’t work closely with / mentor a woman if they could in any way avoid it. If they were accused, their career and possibly marriage would just be over. As you say, just not worth it.

I don’t share this feeling, but then, I may live to regret it. It only takes one bad actor.

I know some men have this attitude but I still find it astounding.

Are you really so unable to determine appropriate behaviours that you think women are making extreme overreactions to normal “banter”? Or that the risk of a false/inflated accusation is so high that you think freezing out all women is a reasonable and rational approach?

Women finally begin talking publicly about the endemic sexism they face, which many men just don’t see, and your conclusion from that is that women can’t be trusted.

I mean, sure, some woman might maliciously make some accusation against you. That’s certainly possible. It’s also possible that a man makes a false bullying accusation. Or accuses you of sexual advances. There are malicious people everywhere and gender doesn’t really come into it.

I don’t have any concern about the appropriateness of my behaviour. I care a lot about the people I work with, I want them all to succeed, and I want them all to feel good about coming to work. The problem is that it’s very easy to paint personal discussions as being inappropriate. Take an example of a discussion related to family. This could be a perfectly ordinary personal topic for two colleagues to discuss. But you don’t have to think very hard to come up with a reason that family could be a taboo topic of discussions with female colleagues. Why is he talking to me about family? Does he want to know what my plans are? Is that why I didn’t get that promotion?...

> I mean, sure, some woman might maliciously make some accusation against you. That’s certainly possible. It’s also possible that a man makes a false bullying accusation.

It sure is. But if I catch the ire of a malicious man at work, it’s much more likely to just amount to the regular office politics nonsense. Even if a man were to make a more outrageous accusation against me, I’d expect to be treated to some reasonable form of due process. With the same accusation from I woman, I absolutely would not have such an expectation. I would also expect that such an accusation could follow me around for perhaps the rest of my life.

Now, I’ve worked with some very talented women, and I’ve done what I can to support them. But sadly I don’t feel as though I can do as much as I would like. You’re free to criticize me for that, but from my perspective it’s a perfectly rational risk avoidance strategy. It’s motivated by cultural factors that are entirely beyond my control, and it’s a perspective that I would guess is shared to some extent by a non-trivial amount of people.

Thank you for speaking up.

I don't know how to constructively engage your points, but I appreciate that you posted.

Given how rampant this issue seems to be, I'm somewhat appalled that there isn't a more supportive response to the comment. It suggests an awful lot of men think they absolutely don't do this when observation suggests to me that it is more or less the norm.

Really well put and so true. I have know careers ruined because of falsehoods believed without question.

I posted a link elsewhere in this discussion to a piece I wrote some years back called The Gray Zone.

TLDR: Establishing trust is always a long, involved process, no matter who the parties are. But it's just much, much clearer that it's platonic and for purposes of doing business when it's two (apparently) heterosexual males. The waters get muddy really quickly when it's a heterosexual man and a heterosexual woman.


One thing that jumps out at me is you seem to be saying what holds women back is that men don't trust them.

I would say that women end up under pressure to meet a higher bar for trust than men typically face. If men had to meet the same bar, they would fail more consistently as well.

When I worked in government I noticed something similar. Every department had about five senior leaders. There would be one female and she would always be the hard as nails, gruff, no nonsense type. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that they had had to behave like that to be taken seriously and trusted to be competent. The men could get away with being affable and clubby but women’s range of accepted behaviours was far narrower.

Yeah, I'm pretty personable. I've found that being more standoffish is necessary to get taken at all seriously, otherwise men just interpret everything as flirting, basically. Whether they want to be flirted with or not, it does absolutely nothing for me professionally.

That's an interesting idea, that women are required to meet a higher bar for trust than men. I've always thought trust was the most valuable currency there is.

Do you think that being trusted or not trusted has a predictable effect on whether a person is trustworthy?

Women are required to meet a higher bar in part because it's assumed that two men meeting for coffee are meeting for business, but it's less clear what is going on if a man and a woman are meeting for coffee.

The relationship between trust and a character trait of trustworthiness is not necessarily straight forward. If people think you simply aren't in a strong position to hurt them, they expect less of you.

Women are often in a position to inadvertently harm a man without meaning to do so. Important men often want no appearance of impropriety. This makes it unclear how a woman can even establish a trusting relationship to a man.

Sometimes, husband-and-wife teams work as an effective in for the woman. Her relationship to him helps establish intent for everyone. It helps prevent muddy Waters in that regard.

If a meeting over coffee reads as a date if it's mixed gender, it may not matter how trustworthy she is. It may only matter that he doesn't want there to be talk, so he won't meet with her.

I attended GIS school in my late thirties. It's a two-thirds make field. I have a strong math background and argued with one of my professors that his math on the board was wrong.

He said "I bet you lunch." right before realizing I was right and saying "I feel a lunch coming on."

He was probably around 50 years old. He didn't really want to be seen buying lunch for a relatively pretty, young female student. After class, he quietly thanked me for standing my ground and correcting him and he slipped me a twenty dollar bill to cover lunch.

If I had been male and we had actually gone to lunch together, this would have been an incredible networking opportunity. But we never did have lunch together because he didn't want any appearance of impropriety, even though he respected my mind and appreciated my class contribution. It wasn't enough to overcome the question of "What will other people think?"

Of course, that story and conclusion involves a lot of inference and assumption on my part. Maybe he would have slipped a twenty to male student as well and not actually eaten lunch with them.

And that's part of what makes it so intractable. If I accused him if excluding me based on my gender, it would only deepen the rift, not bridge it and I can't actually prove it's a gendered thing, which makes women look histrionic when they complain about things like that.

And, yet, we continue to be subtly shut out. And I think this is a major way in which doors just never open for us.

If you can't even have coffee in public with someone for fear of what others will think, how on Earth do you even begin to network and get known well enough to establish a name, get referrals for work, etc?

I'm not sure what GIS school is. Was this an undergraduate program? Having lunch with professors is something that I am not really aware of people doing non-romantically, and certainly never did myself in college.

When I went back to try to complete my degree in my late 20s, I thought I needed to find an internship if possible, and I went to the office of whatever they called it, and asked for suggestions on where to start. The guy responded that (as I was a transfer student that hadn't been there for long) he didn't know me and couldn't recommend me. I was taken aback and said of course I wasn't asking for a personal recommendation from him, just general hints or advice on what to do.

After that, I applied to be a volunteer at a local hospital, which made me jump through a lot of hoops just to work for them for free. I did things like putting educational material in binders and assembling nametags until I graduated, and created a resume based on that and my one-day-at-a-time assignments at a temp agency. And it got me my first corporate IT job a month or two before graduation - they let me work part time until then.

So, I wasn't sure where I was going with this (other than comparing my experiences) until I finished, but it seems like a pattern that when I've gotten a cold shoulder from men, I've gotten a break from women. Every time I've really needed to get back on my feet employment wise, I've volunteered to prove I was able to cope with a job, and at a place that was disproportionately women. And after years of being underpaid, a woman offered me close to a market rate salary (although I have reason to think she may have considered it a mistake).

If you feel you've always been disadvantaged by how men treat you, I hear you implicitly saying women can't substitute in your platonic relationships.

My choice to use personal anecdotes to try to elucidate the problem was not intended to turn this into a personal discussion about my life.

There are tons of aggregate statistics out there about how men generally make more money, disproportionately take up top positions in corporations, etc. Iirc, only 17% of people in the C suite are female. Less than 5 percent of S&P 500 have a female CEO.


So when you turn it into a personal question, no doubt trying to be sincerely helpful, that kind of implies it's some kind of personal problem and I must be doing something wrong. It inadvertently implies it's not really a societal level issue.

And I think people generally tend to do that to women and women -- including me -- tend to go along with that and reply in kind and it leads to women giving out an excess of personal information and feeling like they are being treated dismissively, etc. It also quickly gets into muddy water territory where it isn't clear what kind of relationship this is supposed to be.

And that's where that private-public framing is helpful to me personally. It helps me to remember that most people aren't behaving with malice aforethought and aren't trying to force me into a particular role. They just respond to a combined set of social signals in a way that seems appropriate at the moment without connecting it to the larger context and it just happens to keep those patterns alive that invisibly exclude women from money and power to a large degree.

Declining to post that first draft I tend to write that actually answers all those personal questions and, instead, turn the discussion back to "the issues" and aggregate data has been helpful for me.

Maybe someday those larger patterns will change. In the mean time, having a tool for figuring out where things went wrong without screaming about sexism on an overwhelmingly male forum has been better than not having it.

Italicizing platonic is rude and I have no right to insinuate anything about your personal life nor do I expect you to share anything further. I regret the tone.

Since you shared a meaningful experience with me/the world, I responded in kind, because to me, my experience is also essential truth.

However, I'm not sure that I was trying to be "sincerely helpful" to you. That's not how I would automatically think of it when I respond to some random non-gendered username on the internet.

...I also don't think asking if you were in an undergraduate program is such a personal question.

I'm absolutely not accusing you of anything whatsoever.

I wrote out this long reply answering all of your questions and felt weird about it and wondered why and didn't post it. Then I decided to try to use this as an example of exactly what I'm talking about.

Thank you for talking with me. I'm running a fever today, so I no doubt could have said something better than I did.


In fact, I'm mixing up two discussions, because I talked about the private-public divide to someone else. So I apologize for the disconnect there.

Other discussion where I talked about that:


Women being hit on anywhere they show a picture is pretty common. In western culture it's the men that are supposed to do the approaching, and if you're attractive and a lot of men can see you, well, the same thing always happens. This is fine for Victorian parlors or whatever but not ideal for business!

That's a fairly obvious problem, but I think the larger problem is what I said in my other comment: The lack of strong business connections.

It is a self-reinforcing nightmare because it sets women up to assume that if a man is taking a strong interest in her, there is only one reason he could be talking with her. If she then reacts with flirtatious behavior or trying to make sure he understands whether or not she is romantically interested, etc, this can drive off men who would like to make a business connection and don't need some woman threatening their marriage, etc.

Part of the reason we're stuck in that nightmare is that there are so many workaholics out there that for many people, braving the obvious risks and downsides of doing relationship stuff "on company time" is their only path to not dying alone. It would be so much easier if we could all agree to divide the sterile from the personal right down the 5pm line, but there are too many people that have nothing on the other side of 5pm.

I think it's inherently tricky for reasons I tried to explain in an old blog post, recently republished here:


> I'm surprised at how often the "About Us" isn't actually "About Anyone", there's no names, it's all just "Us" and "We".

I tend to assume that a lot of times this is because "We" is a lie, it's "Me" and they want to avoid revealing that it's someone's side project.

I could be completely wrong. I am a lot.

I wouldn't go as far as to say "We" is a lie especially with malicious intent. In short, "we" can be an appropriate way to refer to a company as a whole. Btw this is a hotly discussed topic among solo founders (whether to use "I" or "We") so it's nothing you can be "wrong" about!

One academic solved the problem of not wanting to use "I" and simultaneously not wanting to refer to himself as "we" in a rather creative way. Meet F.D.C. Willard, the first-ever feline to co-author a physics paper:


Not to jump on you specifically, but seriously, why does this matter? I'm not saying "don't think about this thing I don't think people should talk about," I'm saying, "in what way is pronoun selection important?"

It might matter to your customer. Especially if you are trying to succeed in the B2B market. My side project is a piece of software I am confident has real value, and therefore the price won't be chump change. My biggest early hurdle will be convincing companies that they can trust I will be there to support them. I won't lie, but I'm not going to advertise how small the operation is.

> "We" is a lie, it's "Me" and they want to avoid revealing that it's someone's side project.

Or if it’s a small group of co-founders and they don’t want to paint a target on their back, and have their employers suing for the IP they created on weekends and evenings.

Related to this: I wonder if the days of founders naming their companies after their own (family) names are ever coming back. There’s something wholesome about it and it inspires confidence. Who is more trustworthy: someone attaching their name to their business, or someone who hides behind WeeBlee or BlooBloo or whatever it is they came up with?

I've always dreamt of doing that, but someone else already used my name: Fox. Even if there weren't probably some kind of trademark issue, there's definitely a negative sentiment associated with it.

There's a reasonably popular streamer named Michael A. L. Fox, his URLs are his full name and in casual conversation he's referred to as MALF.

It doesn't seem like there's been any association between him and the company Fox. In fact it doesn't even seem like there's any association between him and Michael J. Fox.

My personal advice would be to brand around the imagery of a remote controlled fox and not bring up other things with the same name. The comparisons will happen but if you don't call attention to them I'd bet it happens less than you imagine.

Add your first name or just your initials. That would pretty much solve that problem.

HashiCorp :)

To be honest I assume 99% of startup-stories about their inspiration, their journey, and their motivation are just faked.

It is nice to see when it comes from an obvious solo-developer, but mostly these things are sanitized and improved over time.

Yep. I get so tired of the "Shark Tank Template" in which entrepreneurs must pretend that they stumbled upon the need their product fills.

Thanks for reading and great point. I toyed with the copy here, too, but mainly it looked weird to have "About Me" on a professional landing page. Also I figured if they cared enough to know more about the company behind the product, I guess they'd found out soon enough that it's just one person behind it. If not, we can leave it at "Us"/"We" and keep it professional.

> People care about the narrative behind your product, so don't be afraid to tell your story!

But the whole story would include the number of users that they have now.

Hey Lunch Money founder, if you are reading these comments, a big congratulations on reaching $1K so quickly! I loved reading your story so far.

IMO getting to that first $1K is harder than getting from $1K to $10K. Most first timers never make it to $1K at all.

To be clear, 1k to 10k in recurring revenue (SaaS style). I sell one time purchase apps, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to scale from what I make (2k$/month) to even 3k$/month any time soon.

To be sure, what you have is MR, not MRR.

Can I ask why you picked this model instead of a subscription based model?

If you check the apps I currently offer (link in my profile), I’d have a hard time asking for recurring payments. I’m basically implementing missing OS features.

I have other products in the pipeline where I will consider a subscription model.

Your model is what sustained the personal computer industry (as standalone apps) for 30+ years before subs and webapps became so prevalent over the past decade. You might benefit from paying a bizdev type person for a couple hours (or enough for a plan) to figure out how to get some recurrence out of those apps. People absolutely paid for new versions of Eudora, for instance.

Generally speaking, don't most users prefer one-shot payments, even if it is a relatively large amount, rather than monthly subscriptions? So it doesn't require followup mental maintenance... You just pay once and forget.

They probably do prefer that, and also probably want free updates forever.

But as a maker, recurring (read: predictable, continuous) revenue makes a software business easier to sustain and gives incentive to grow.

I was thinking the same way, but once a client explained that at least for them it is the same - they periodically roll out the major version update which is paid, and users pay upfront a lump sum the amount they had to pay anyway if it was a monthly subscription during that period.

Gotcha, makes sense.

I suppose subscription model makes more sense for apps that basically reside online or at least interact with a web server.

How you make lots of small products solving a single problem well is cool though! I could see some of these kinds of concepts evolving into a decent subscription business.

If you bring back the Dashboard I will throw money at you.

Thanks for the kind words! And that's encouraging to hear seeing as getting to $1k was quite the journey to me!

I recently switched to Lunch Money from Mint (6+ years user). I was sold after spending a weekend setting it up and getting used to it.

The app is a delight compared to Mint. The interface is simple, fast and snappy. You never get an annoying "Refreshing your accounts" notice every time you login. I've come across far fewer connection issues compared to Mint (~everyday).

There is a host of nifty features I never knew I wanted: custom rules; recurring expenses; split transaction; grey/green checkmark for unreviewed/reviewed transactions.

Jen (the founder) is also very responsive to feedback. It feels great to have your bug report addressed and fixed in a couple days. Keep up the excellent work!

Thanks for the awesome review and for your continued support!

The bit about the lack of a mobile app, and the over-compensating for it was a great illustration of guessing at the importance of features to users. Something I'm dealing with a lot right now as I strip out incomplete features to get to a better MMP. Thanks for posting.

Thanks for reading and I'm glad that bit helped you out! I was in my own head so much about the lack of mobile app and it was paralyzing at times. Good luck with your own product!

I had that revelation last week. Well, actually earlier but it took a while to settle.

The plan was to build product until around May / June, simply because I wanted a little bit more sophistication than spreadsheets ( these would do the job, by the way). A chance encounter with a potential customer ended with me sending an offer after his most important question was "are your transports insured". Pretty much looks like my MVP is much more M than I assumed!

Yep! I took over a 3 year old product where we're rewriting/refactoring a lot of features that we're poorly engineered (and UX designed). For a bunch of them, the "rewritten" version is just stripping out the feature, because no one is using it or ever has used it.

"A $5 monthly membership adds up to $72 per year."

Nope. Might want to fix that.


Haha thanks, great catch :) Just patched that up!

Comical. A budgeting app that can't get basic math correct.

Guess it's a good thing I'm not calculating totals by hand within the app! :)

I _wish_ I could have this good an attitude about people being assholes over tiny mistakes I make in public. One rude comment like the GP’s can easily ruin my mood for hours.

People forget that the person on the other side of the keyboard is a human. :(

Totally agree. Having read a lot of similar threads on HN, relentless positivity and humbleness (maybe with a sprinkling of humour) seems to be the solution.

Reminds me a little of being very young, at school, and learning to deal with other kids taking shots to look for a weakness - effectively early mild bullying. Then, again, the rule was stay positive and don’t show them you’re upset, or else they’ve found their weakness... and it will get worse.


I don't even understand how you could get a number not ending in 5 or 0 and think it's remotely correct...

Presumably because they used to have $6 in the copy (or in their head) and fat fingered it.

Probably because they AB tested multiple prices as the article states and settled on the current price and forgot to replace one mention of an older price in the copy. No biggie... doesn't mean that person is dumb.

I'd recommend listening to the Indie Hackers Podcast episode that Jen was a guest on. Super enjoyable listen.


Thanks for the plug :)

While I commend the creator on a good looking and well-designed user interface - I will say that it boggles my mind when people give up their login credentials to unknown entities on the internet.

There is this fundamental disconnect between wanting to save yourself some money - but not realizing that you are setting yourself up for immense risks. You can lose far-far more by signing up to a site like this than what it could ever possibly benefit you.

The same applies to the founder as well - it is all fun to reach 1k MRR - but are you prepared to shoulder the responsibility that comes with managing people's login accounts and finance records? It is a massive risk.

Someone that forgets to set the development flag on their production service should not be in charge of accessing bank accounts.

This is no different than giving out legal or medical advice on the internet. Most people don't understand what they are getting into.

Jesus, its comments like this that will stop future developers from documenting their stories honestly or even having an About Me page. As already pointed out, Plaid takes care of this not the dev. Sheesh

Isn’t it Plaid that manages all the logins?

Still a security risk, but I don’t think the dev is the risk.

Plaid is handling the credentials, and they work with banks with their cooperation. This is FUD - it’s no different from accusing projects using Stripe of hoarding credit card numbers.

Or they do, they've done the calculus, and their threat models are different from yours. Ideally, yes, Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo would make an API and give OAUTH (or SAML) access for mint.com to your bank account. But that problem's been around forever, and they trust lunchbag.ca with their login creds. You could fake a site similar to lunchbags' and grab a bunch of login creds and steal all their money? Go for it.

The issue here is the banks: until they change, the status quo here is stupid - you, the user of mint/lunchbag/etc, have to trust an agent with your password.

How do I convince Bank Of America that it's worth their time to work on giving 3rd parties API access to my account?


>That is until I realized that it was my own dumb fault because I accidentally left my Plaid environment set to development

One of the last things you do before launch is pay money to yourself by running a real payment with real money in production. An automated test for config is nice, but nothing beats actually doing the critical thing yourself before launching to the world.

> which only supported 100 connected accounts. My free test accounts which I had been diligently rationing up until this point had been depleted and Plaid was rightfully denying any new connections.

You picked an odd time to stop reading!

I don't see how this changes anything? If they had attempted to do a production import of their live bank account, it would have been denied, same as what happened to their customers, and they would have caught it before the mistake affected real users.

My understanding was that it would have worked for her because she still would have been under the 100 user limit. So the test env still worked for production data, for the first 100 users.

Yeah, exactly. And running a payment through wouldn't have revealed anything since those two systems aren't connected.

Got it. For some reason, I was reading it as you had depleted the accounts before going live, but that makes much more sense. I take back what I said then about the live production test helping here. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Au contraire, I was diligently rationing my free test accounts, haha!

Thanks for reading!

I use YNAB but I'm compelled to give this a try. I love the simplicity and I enjoy the transparency behind the product's development (not that it makes a difference while budgeting, but I'm a sucker for a personal touch). Really cool, I'm stoked to see how the trial goes. Thanks for sharing Jen. Keep up the great work.

Thanks for the kind words! If you run into anything during your trial, feel free to let me know!

I've tried YNAB and use Mint alongside Lunch Money and I'm super sold. I started using it when she first launched on HN and have been in love with it so far because it's super speedy and not as manual as YNAB. The way she handles recurring expenses is what made it for me. I set a task in my todo app to reconcile my transactions every day (usually only happens every week).

Ahhh this speaks to me! Recurring expenses and the sheer manual labor required for YNAB makes it a chore. I don't expect software to be magic — the stuff I make certainly isn't — but it always feels like too much effort.

Colin, that's awesome to hear! Thank you for your support from the beginning!

Currently use YNAB and it drives me bananas. The way it refuses to reconcile budgeted money for a CC against the interest/fees for that card as monthly payments often go out BEFORE interest is assessed for the month, requiring a convoluted interest bucket and juggling. I'll give this a shot.

The way I treat interest/fees is as just another expense. Then there's no juggling. But I manually enter all the transactions, I don't know how this works if you automatically get transactions, as it would depend on how the CC or other companies add interest onto the statement (as a regular transaction or separately). So once a day (typically, at least 3-4 times a week) I go into each account and YNAB and make sure everything is present. If interest or fees are present, I add those as transactions. YNAB properly accounts for it (if you budget money into the interest/fees categories) for the next CC payment.

Ah, that sounds complicated.

Feel free to let me know if you run into anything during your trial!

I subscribe to this application, and I love it. I was not one of the first 100 to experience any of these difficulties, and the one bug I did experience was fixed by Jen two days after I pointed it out. In the mean time, Mint still has not deleted my account two months after I requested it...

Awesome! Thank you for your support!

Did you struggle in convincing people to share their account details with an unknown startup? What if you are fraudster and not a real company?

It'll always be a struggle but it's not something I'm actively pushing for anyone to do. If you're comfortable with it, great! If you're not, I think I'd be the last person to change your mind.

The company is definitely real, but anyone with at least a few hundred bucks can incorporate. Building trust is a non-trivial thing, and I try to do that by putting my name and reputation behind the product and blogging transparently about the journey.

I didn't see anything on the Plaid flow authorizing the ability to charge my accounts or make transfers, so I'm assuming it's only limited to to Transaction data.

Really wish Plaid showed what APIs were being authorized in the flow...

What a trooper. Well written, very interesting journey and very forgivable mistakes for a startup. Hope this takes off big time

Thank you for the incredibly kind words!

I like the look of this. I would think about switching but I've paid a year of YNAB and I don't have the time to switch budgets right now.

But I will probably re-evaluate in 11 months when my YNAB expires.

Onboarding with the kind of products may take longer than the author realises. People like my self will need reminders that this product exists. It took years of YNAB ads for me to switch from HLedger and that really only happened because I needed something my wife could use after I got married and we merged finances.

Thanks! In a year, the product will likely be more fleshed out, so it'll be a good time.

IMO, onboarding with YNAB specifically would take longer than most other budgeting apps, since on top of getting used to the interface, you also need to get used to their very specific method of budgeting. With Lunch Money, I've heard from users coming from YNAB that it's easier to get set up likely because we've approached organizing transactions and budgeting in a more pragmatic and flexible way.

Love to hear what you think when/if you ever decide to join Lunch Money!

This looks great and I'm inclined to give it a try. But do you have a privacy policy? I try to avoid services that sit between me and my financial institutions, as I worry they're building analytics off my spending patterns and selling it to third parties.

I felt the same way, and it's part of why I made spendweek.com (a privacy-first, easy-to-use competitor to Lunch Money, YNAB with a single focus on saving money instead of keeping track of all your accounts). I am sort of proud of my privacy policy, so it's a link right at the top of the home page.

Here's the basic manifesto of the SpendWeek framework in case anyone's interested: https://www.spendweek.com/blog/you-need-a-different-budget/

Nice domain and nice concept. I too am among those with a home-grown approach to managing the budget. Mine is more of a spending journal than it is about planning or reconciling the entire budget, with motivations similar to those who would have a meal journal. I focus on the decision making process and self-evaluate spending according to my budget and my overall values.

My approach won't appeal to a lot of folks, but there are dozens of us who find it super useful: https://www.spendlight.com/#how-it-works

We're on the same page regarding privacy. Except for taking money for the subscription, I keep my hands off bank accounts. And for those wanting a complete air gap, there's always the printable paper version: https://www.spendlight.com/download/paper-spending-journal

Yes! This is awesome. Looking at all the budget software that uses monthly time frames, I was wondering why no one uses weekly. This quote is a great way to say it, "Even though most bills are paid monthly, discretionary spending is more naturally tracked on a weekly basis."

Ages ago, my tool tried to do both weekly and monthly but then I had the realization out that almost all of the monthly items were not ones I was having trouble with in the budget. The fixed expenses were (obviously) fixed. And consumption-based utilities would vary month to month, and that was easy enough to track and reconcile every so often.

In other words, the budget would get "broken" more often in the week-to-week habits than the monthly ones... hence, the resulting focus of my tool.

A quick answer to this is that 365 doesn't divide into 7 so cleanly. In any case, the use case for weekly budgets is definitely strong :)

There are more than 4 weeks in a month, should you not divide by 4.33?

Cool approach! Best of luck!

A very valid concern! Our Privacy Policy is listed here: https://lunchmoney.app/privacy

A promise we make from the beginning is we're definitely not ever going to be selling any of your data. We don't have an incentive to since we're selling the service directly to the user as a subscription.

Side note about budgeting apps: anyone just not have the time to use them? I just use a spreadsheet to keep track of subscriptions and balances — can’t bother to “categorize” transactions which seems like such an arbitrary grouping exercise anyway.

Plaid's API, and probably other similar APIs, already returns broad categories when you query bank or card transactions.

Businesses already do bookkeeping as required for taxes, so categorizing is a must. We use bench.co for bookkeeping.

I would change the footer of your website. The yellow background / white text combination is really hard on the eye. I would switch to a lighter shade of yellow for the background and black text instead.

The contrast (1.81) is also so low it isn't considered accessible at even the worst tier. And while the legal status of accessibility requirements is a complex topic, in terms of user experience, good accessibility normally means good experience (particularly color contrast, there are a lot of color blind people, or older people with diminished eyesight).

Thanks for the tip! Great reminder that I need to be more mindful of these things.

a11y is hard. I like to let axe ( extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/axe-web-accessibil... ) do all the hard work for me.

my wife and I live in Tokyo and I have been using a programmed google sheet for over two years since we moved here to track our expenses and also use currency APIs to fetch rates and convert currencies in my spreadsheet. I am also originally from Canada. Looking at this encouraging post, I realize that maybe there's a big market for this since it was able to reach $1k MRR in 6 months!

I think I will also start working on something like this on the side that encapsulates my budgeting knowledge. Should be a fun project. Thanks for posting and good luck.

Fyi TillerHQ does this.

thanks that looks interesting. I realize there's probably a lot of solutions in this space. I probably won't implement a spreadsheet solution like TillerHQ. I am thinking more in line with an app and thinking of features to differentiate the app from run of the mill personal expenditure tracking apps.

How close is this to Mint? I'd be interested in paying for a Mint alternative. They've really gone downhill plus they sell my information.

But then again I don't trust Plaid and avoid them at all costs.

Here's a quick page on Lunch Money vs Mint: https://lunchmoney.app/compare/mint-alternative

Pasting from an earlier comment:

> Totally understandable that you'd like to avoid using services like Plaid. We have a lot of users who share the same sentiment, and also many international users who cannot use Plaid, so it's a priority to ensure the experience is without Plaid is still an enjoyable/practical one.

> We offer two other ways to bulk insert transactions: 1. we offer a CSV import tool, and 2. we are currently beta-testing our developer API so you could write your own integrations to import data

I'm always hesitant to use any of these services because (AFAIK) they need to store your banking credentials in order to access your account. The one exception I've found to this is Chase, which actually has an API. But even with providers like Plaid, its not clear whether the API is being used - I don't think it is, because the request does not go to Chase.

Is there a better way? Or a service that would let me enter credentials if I want to update data? Rather than storing them and updating automatically...

I am building a similar app as a hobby, and have done some research on this. I am also very interested in avoiding Plaid, mostly because they are very expensive, and require a signed contract with them for production use (which I don't want to do under my own name, and forming a LLC is also expensive).

Without Plaid, you only have three options: connect to bank yourself with OFX, let user upload OFX file, or let user upload CSV.

OFX stands for Open Financial Exchange, an open standard to programmatically access and transmit financial data - which is basically Plaid, but provided by the banks themselves, which as you can imagine is 1000x worse than Plaid.

Connecting to bank using OFX is really annoying. First, if you want to do it without storing the user's credential, you need to run the app in the user's computer, so forget about auto update in the background. Second, I don't know a single bank that publishes their OFX connection parameters, so people rely on crowdsourced data, which is iffy at best and totally unreliable at worst. Finally, OFX is a disastrous format to parse. It uses SGML (!!!) and require DTD to parse correctly (!!!!). Furthermore, banks' implementation are, as you can imagine, widely inconsistent. For example, each transaction is supposed to have a unique identifier. However, HSBC decided to reuse them, so you can't completely rely on it to dedupe your input.

To be fair, OFX has improved, and the latest revision abandoned SGML in favor of XML and introduced OAuth for authentication. But few bank support them, and among those that do, the API is still not public, so you probably need to talk to the bank's BD people to use them. For example, Chase says "Access to the Developer Ecosystem is currently by invitation only and limited to developers and businesses that have a relationship with Chase."

Most banks support downloading OFX file yourself, so you can just let user upload them manually. This is obviously a huge hassle for the users, and you have the same problem with parsing OFX format.

For the rare cases where OFX is not available, you can count on CSV. However, since there's no standard, you can't automate the import, and must require user input to annotate the columns, which further increase user friction.

In conclusion, in today's landscape, Plaid is a necessary evil if you want to have a seamless user experience. Anything that preserves user privacy will result in a 10x worse UX.

I reached a pretty similar conclusion investigating OFX to add support to Firefly III. I think best case scenario would be to setup OFX connections to the institutions that require the user to enter credentials and manually refresh data. Unfortunately you wouldn't get the benefit of automatic budgeting/spending alerts, but in my case, for just tracking spending, it would work. Right now I have to export each account to csv monthly, and import to Firefly. Fortunately the import settings are saved as JSON so as long as the format doesnt change it works well enough.

I have read in some places that you can get OFX access as an individual if you call the right customer service dept.

Totally understandable that you'd like to avoid using services like Plaid. We have a lot of users who share the same sentiment, and also many international users who cannot use Plaid, so it's a priority to ensure the experience is without Plaid is still an enjoyable/practical one.

We offer two other ways to bulk insert transactions: 1. we offer a CSV import tool, and 2. we are currently beta-testing our developer API (so you could write your own integration with Chase)

I'll give the CSV import a shot, thanks!

Loved the UI and signed up for your 14 day trial. Looking forward to using your web app and seeing if it can benefit my life or not.

Suggestion: A heavier font, in darker grey or black. Hard to read as is, on my 7" tablet screen, with Firefox.

Wow, great job! I love how you're documenting all of this, it's super inspiring. Congratulations on this!

Thank you!

The part about the lack of an app is a great insight, I think people do have a lot of fatigue around apps right now, and a really well done responsive page will work for most users.

Most of the features enabled by making an app are ones users are tired of: push notifications, mic/camera access, etc.

Good point! Also, web apps are definitely making a comeback!

WRT the android/ios app question: Why do you want to implement a native app? Seems like a significant investment if you're already meeting user needs with your PWA offering.

Exactly :-)

It's definitely punted for now as I continue to round out the product. When the time comes and we're ready for an official mobile offering, we'll evaluate the current solutions out there (the landscape is always changing!)

As a browser developer, I really do want to know why folks choose native over web. [Disclaimer: I'm not denying that there are sometimes valid reasons!]

If you do reach that point, I hope you share the factors contributing to your decision.

Honestly seems like you are doing well and that many of these had quick solutions. Great job.

Thanks for sharing! I've been using Lunch Money for a couple months and really like it.

Thank you for the support!

It would be great if you could add an RSS feed to the blog.

Noted! I know a friend of mine reads my blog via an RSS reader, so they still might be able to automatically parse it?

Are you on a path to get 5-10x users?

What, that doesn’t matter? I’m just interested in how to go from hobby to career.

I clicked on the link thinking that this was about the card game “Lunch Money”. Disappointed.

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