This is Lab80’s weekly journal from our trip to the SF Bay Area to soft-launch Hello Money. See all entries.

Emotional Rollercoaster

It is amazing how fast the pendulum swings.

One day I am very proud of our accomplishments as a team and a positive early reaction from the DIY investing community. The next day I am stressed out about quickly responding to the Reddit feedback, as well as reigning in the errors in our data and on our live site.

It reminds me that there is never any time to relax and enjoy your progress — there is always something demanding your energy and attention.

Because of this stress I pushed hard to get an early release out on Wednesday, well ahead of our scheduled Friday release. Wednesday’s release contained a few key improvements requested by members of the Reddit investing community.

However, some data and teamwork issues caused us to have long, tense meetings on both Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and it took a lot of my mental and emotional energy. In the end, we got the release out on Sunday night, but did not have any time on the weekend for relaxation.

When was the last time I took a day off? Next year.

Who Needs Drugs When You’re Doing a Startup?

I knew it.

We had such a blast last week, and I knew this week would be a tough one, a dragging one, a fight-to-get-it-out-the-door-Sunday-night one. And it was.

You shouldn’t need to spend money on alcohol or drugs when just your life and work gives you so much ups and downs.

What Happened?

So our story goes like this. We had a small wave of visitors and signups last two weeks, thanks to Reddit and Hacker News posts. That wave of traffic and usage had three consequences:

  1. It motivated us to tighten and improve our data operations – updating, maintaining, validating, etc. our fund data and calculations.
  2. We got direct feedback from a top contributor to Reddit /r/investing and /r/personal finance communities, and really started to believe that we’ll grow by catering to a specific audience well first.
  3. Our friends encouraged us to post Hellomoney to Product Hunt and Show HN, in addition to getting feedback from Reddit users.

And this is how those consequences unfolded into a long painful week:

  • In the course of addressing #1, we had to pay down a big chunk of communication debt. It’s probably cost full 3 days of team’s time this week, and we are still working on it. It is painful, unpleasant, and because of the extra time that process has taken, Michael and I ended up working the entire weekend. Fingers crossed that it improves.
  • #2 really motivated us to deliver new features and improvements that the community members suggested quickly. On top of the design and feature coding work, I spent my late nights and early mornings forming the concept of community-driven growth of our service. It got me thinking about our messaging, lack of “About Us” page, and future content marketing. Less sleep for me!
  • In anticipation for #3, I added another work item for this week’s feature work for me: Updating the Hellomoney homepage design. The intention is to show what it does, and how it’s better than self-serving portfolio analyzers by brokerage firms (that are so user-unfriendly even rocket scientist couldn’t use), or free online tools that are built and maintained as hobby projects. More work for everyone!

At the end of the week, we have a better idea about where our data operations stand, at least three improvements in direct response to Reddit community feedback, a draft of community-driven growth plan, and a slightly more marketable homepage.

Takeaways

  • Wearing many hats => Always wearing a hat (may lose hair). We’re spread thin and we’ll soon need to find more people to help.
  • This week was painful as we were all trying to up our accountability for running a live service. Accountabilityis different from responsibility and all teams need it.
  • Simple human conditions: Sounds funny, but we all felt better after going out for yummy Chinese claypot dinner, got full bags of groceries, and had some ice cream. Throughout all this, we should never forget to take care of ourselves and enjoy the journey.

I Shall Not Give Up

It’s been 3 weeks. It feels like 3 months for me.

I’ve tried to blend in really hard, meeting a lot of brilliant people. One girl I met at AngelHack is a hackathon killer, going to hackathon every week and winning a half of them. One guy I met at meetup is doing both development and design pretty good and got a job position (with visa support) at Mozilla by impressing one of judges at hackathon that he attended. Another girl I met at meetup just won the 3rd place at Y combinator hackathon on this weekend. They are all awesome and still young.

On the other hand, I’m still pretty novice mono-language programmer (data processor, technically) and have been struggling with same data problem for last 7 months.

And I also have difficulties with communication in three different ways - one is my attitude retaining a lot in my mind so as to communicate less, which leads to lower team performance, another one is having high-level top-down summary with essential details and the other one is my incomplete English, which make it harder to socialize local people.

Business major with coding skill and speaking some English was somewhat enough to get flattered back in Korea, However, surely, it’s actually nothing here.

One good thing is that I’m not getting knocked out yet, not giving up or facing away from it. Actually I’m glad to see the wall that I have to crush since I know that I’m growing when I get stressed.

In addition to that, I’m also happy to feel this frustration because it seems that I’m turning this SF trip into some emergency to-do list. Learning more CS, becoming full-stack programmer, having greater communication skill and so on… A lot of things to do!

{Effective + Transparent} x N

I can say this week was very crucial week for my life.

It was very obvious that I realised how I am fortunate and lucky to work with Lab80 team since all the members are wise, smart and hardworking. At the same time Keywon and Michael were good advisers as well as boss for me.

This detailed story goes back to this Monday. Keywon told me she and I are going to have an individual meeting and I was kind of concerned.

After lunch, we went to Atlas cafe near our office and we had a long conversation about my data collection project status as well as how I should position myself in the team with a firm faith.

So she recommend me giving a presentation and she was completely patient with me asking same questions and more explanations. After meeting, she allowed me to use the whole day to make the presentation.

It was quite hard for me to summarise works that I have been doing and I was really nervous about it. And it took me more than 10 hours to prepare it so I finally finished making the presentation at 3 am and fell asleep wishing I present it with clear voice and attitude.

The following day (Tuesday) I gave the presentation about project status and future plan. As I am giving it, of course there were some questions I couldn’t answer them but it ended fairly well.

After the presentation, Keywon, Michael and I went out to have lunch and there I had a big chance to get absolutely sincere advice from two of them.

Basically, Michael said that they will help me fix things if I show them my weakness or mistakes but they also would like to see my strength at something. And also they said to me that I should say my opinion, negotiate with team, keep reporting what is happening, what is significant or isn’t and give them WHY.

I think their advice was a quick but very crucial lesson for my work experience as well as my life. When I feel vulnerable, I should admit it as quickly as possible, respond smart and figure out what I have to prioritise.

You can do it Seungri! Do not try to be perfect and think smart. The only thing I should build is to have ability and skill for coping with crisis when somethign goes wrong. This is more important than any other ability.

It is pretty sad that already 3 weeks were gone and left only two more weeks. I must try to be productive all the time.

Stream of Consciousness

I want to write this week’s journal in a very casual and an unstructured way, so that I can just record my stream of thoughts at this moment (Keywon please tell me to rewrite this before posting on blog).

I lived a very busy week but it was a lonely one too. As I was realizing that my time in SF was reaching to an end, I wanted to make sure I was at least trying to make the most out of it. Working in a small startup whose members already feel like family to me has been the best thing that could have happened to me, but it has its cons too, especially when it comes to social networking.

When I visited Mozilla, thanks to Junhee’s friend Valentin, I was jealous not because of the stunning view or the prime location, but because of the number of people who were working there. All of them were working in a very liberal environment just like ours, and they seemed like they were having fun too.

I had always assumed people working for such big firms would be always tired of bureaucratic and political issues and would never find themselves as happy as I was working for a small startup, but the scene and the atmosphere I saw and felt there convinced me that I might have been mistaken. I was jealous how they would all be very close to each other naturally, and not have to worry about where they could meet more people and socialize.

For me, it is a very different story. whining starts I have to actively pursue events and places to have a chance of meeting people, and I must say, it’s not as easy as it sounds. As my responsibilities as a developer have become much clearer, I have been trying to fulfill them better than before (which I am still not satisfied with), and investing time into attending such events both distracts me from work and makes me tired.

Even for a person like me who’s active and shameless, always having to invest time to look for socializing events and attending them has been a stressful task. The environment constraints of having only one month in SF and living in Tenderloin makes the burden even heavier.

I have been thinking this weekend, if I am satisfied with what I have done in the last three weeks. Have I done enough? Not really. There were a couple of events I missed that I should have gone. Have I tried? Yes. I even attended random meetup events and met other interns in Bay area through Facebook messaging. It would have been fairly easy if I just wanted to hang out with my Cornell friends who are near me, but the whole point of working right after being discharged from military was to let go of my comfort zone.

Although I am not satisfied with how I have only managed to make a handful of “friends,” I am glad that I feel lonely and uncomfortable. I think it’s a good sign…

Also, there was work. It was busier than usual because of the unusually long daily meetings. The meetings had been prolonged by certain issues in our data and team communication. I saw the frustration in everyone’s eyes and I was wondering in the meetings what I would have done if I were in their situations.

Well, on a positive side, I think all of us are maturing in some way by having such discussions and learning from our own mistakes. I wonder what will have changed in the next years when I come back to Lab80.

Additional Note: oh I almost forgot. Thank you Michael and Keywon so much for introducing all the amazing people outside of work!! Very thankful to have met such nice people…