Livin' the Llama Life with Marie Ng

Benjamin: You're listening to grief and pizza, A podcast, exploring the highs and lows at the intersection of business and emotional wellbeing.

In this episode, we're speaking with Marie Ng, the founder and designer of the Lama Life application.

Well, Marie, welcome to the podcast. It's great to have you. We've been following your journey on Twitter for quite a while with the building of Llama Life, your software for productivity software and software for, I suppose, organizing your life. You're technically like the first sort of business conversation we've had on the podcast.

[00:00:28] What has your journey been thus far?

Benjamin: We've mostly been talking about people's. You know, life journeys and, and, and things like that. And, and the business kind of happens as a, a side conversation. So, but it's cool to have some, a founder on who's going to talk about their business. so I'd love to start by you just kind of introducing yourself and maybe give us a little taste of your journey from early founding, learning code on YouTube and founding a successful SAS startup.

Marie Ng: Well, thank you for having me. I've listened to your other episodes and I really enjoyed them. So, um, yeah, I'm, I'm really happy to be here. Yeah. So my name is Marie. I am the founder of LamaLife, which is a productivity tool that helps you manage your attention and your focus, not just managing your time. I didn't always used to be a software developer.

I have a background in advertising and branding and sort of marketing. I did that for about 10 years. So that was kind of my corporate career. And at some point I wanted a change and I started learning software development on YouTube, like you said, and this kind of happened during like COVID. It was kind of my COVID, uh, you know how everyone was learning a new skill during COVID.

I had a lot of friends like doing DIY household stuff and learning to cook and they're all really great skills as well, but they're not really me. So I was trying to find like something I could do. And I've always wanted to learn to code and I've actually tried twice before, but I, I guess I chose the wrong learning method before I was trying to read books and I'm, I'm really bad at reading.

Like I just, I'm the sort of person where I look at a page and I'll read the same page. over and over again because I just lose focus. So I failed the first two times because of that, and I didn't realize it was because of that. And I just thought, oh, maybe it's not for me. But I tried again during COVID and I watched videos and video and audio is just so great for me in terms of learning.

And I picked it up fairly quickly. And Llama Life, Wasn't really meant to be a business. It was meant to be a way for me to practice my coding. And, you know, when you first learn to code, everyone builds a to do list and LlamaLife has an element of a to do list. To it, but that's, it's more than that. So that's what I built as my first project.

And then I put it on Twitter because I was building in public, which just means kind of sharing what you're doing and just being really open about it and getting feedback and also using it as a way to motivate myself and hold myself accountable. I just post what I'm doing. And I posted a really early version of Lama life and someone straight away, like in the comments said, Oh my God, what is this?

Like, where can I get it? And I was like, well, it's just some projects I'm doing. But it made me think, well, maybe I should build it out into a proper business. I guess it was like the perfect thing for me because there's so many aspects to it. Like from a, from a learning perspective, you have to, you know, you do the to do list.

Um, I added some timers. So basically Lama life is I guess at its core, like a list, but you can set a countdown timer to every single task in the list. And it's meant to help you with. Focus and also, um, time blindness. Cause I am super time blind. That sounds really weird, but it's a thing. Um, I got diagnosed with ADHD about 10 years ago, and it just means I have a really hard time staying focused and keeping track of time in the day.

So I kind of built it for myself from a business perspective. There's so many parts you can add. There's like the database side, there's the payment side, there's a design side. And so. It just was like a perfect thing for me in terms of learning all these different things, being able to build something from scratch and just kind of getting better at coding.

It just kind of gradually became something that sounds so weird because I've done other businesses in the past where I've really forced, like really forced it. Like I really tried to make it work and then they failed. But this one was a very natural, kind of serendipitous thing. Like all the different events that kind of helped build it.

Make it be just kind of happened. And on top of that, like, I absolutely love the product and I love building it. So it's the perfect thing for me as a, as a career as well. And as a, you know, quote unquote job, cause it doesn't really feel like a job to me. I just love doing it.

[00:04:50] How long did it take to get to the first sale to another person?

Marie Ng: I have so

Marie: many questions. I don't know if you want to dig in first, Ben, but how long was that process between Okay.

This is a thing that I'm building for myself. Someone expresses interest and then the decision to actually start making something that, uh, is appealing to other people. And so how long did it take maybe to, to get it to that point that maybe you've got that for a sale of a person that was interested in the product.

Marie Ng: So from the time I started learning to code to when I sort of pushed out the very, very basic version of Llama Life, I think it was, I want to say like six months. But to put more context around that, because I think a lot of people compare and they go, well, I didn't do it in six months or maybe they did it sooner.

That was the thing I was doing like a hundred percent of the time. So I had quit my job by that point. Cause I'm kind of one of these people where I can't do two things at once. I'm either a hundred percent in on one thing, or if I do two things, they'll both be done at 50 percent and probably just give up on one of them.

I was needing a change anyway. So I, I'd quit my job already. And I was learning to code like four hours a day. I was obsessed with it because with ADHD, sometimes when there's something that's super interesting, like you get hyper focused on it and lucky for me, like I really love the coding and creating aspect.

So I was just all in on it. Enjoying it, doing it all the time. So it was about six months from writing my first line of HTML to launching the product. I think I added payments maybe at eight months. So before when it came out, it was completely free. Then I added, buy me a coffee. Um, and then I did like single payments and then I did subscription.

But it kind of just happened over time. I'd say about eight months was, was the time frame.

Marie: Amazing. How did you get those first folks? I know Twitter was a place that you were doing that building in public. What's it been like to kind of get those first folks? First a hundred customers. Like I know, you know, Ben and I used to run a software together.

You have people saying like, Oh, take my money. But then when it comes time to ask people to sign up, there's that grind in the beginning. And did you find that, or did you feel like there was that, Oh, wow, the market is clearly asking for this. And it became kind of easy. Like, what was that? What were the first hundred customers

Marie Ng: like?

Yeah, that's such a good question. It was from Twitter because of building in public. That was the only marketing I was doing at the time. And I remember when I got the first customer, the first paid customer that wasn't friends and family, it was a really big moment because, you know, you're kind of like, wait, some stranger wanted to pay me money for this thing that I spent time on.

And it's like the best feeling ever. It was a little bit of a grind as well. Uh, these things are never easy. I think a lot of the time you read stuff on Twitter or elsewhere and you go, it looks easy, but it's, it's so not this. And you guys know as well, there's so much work and effort and things behind the scenes and nobody sees.

Um, so there definitely were some very, very long hours put in rollercoaster up and down, like, should I be doing this? You know, is this the right thing? Just because one person paid me, is it enough to be a business and sustain, like, you know, my life? Um, so there were a lot of questions like that for sure, but I would say first customers from Twitter.

And, uh, I think it was a really good fit at the beginning for indie hackers. So on Twitter, you know, I think, um, Ben, you're kind of part of this, this sort of developer audience as well. There's a lot of developers on Twitter who are building their own products and they're like solo. like the only person in the business and they do everything.

It was a really great fit for that audience because. Those folks are trying to maximize their time and, you know, be really efficient with their time. And Lama Life, of course, helps you focus and, and make the most of, of your time. So, they were very keen to support it and, and use it. Over time, I, I would say that's not the main audience anymore.

Over time, it's kind of, it's definitely more towards sort of an ADHD audience. It just gravitated that way. And it's completely not surprising because. You know, myself having ADHD, all the features I put into Lama life, like their features I want because I, cause I need them. So I think there's a, there's a group of features that help me, not just one specific one.

So the thing I like to do is put a variety of things in. So based on how you're feeling at the time, one thing might work for you. Something else might not. And that one thing that worked for you today might not work for you tomorrow. So we try and put in like, A lot of little things that you can pick and choose from to help you whatever state you're in.

But the other thing that made me think this is actually a business is that, like, I would get emails from people. So when you sign up for Llama Life, you get a welcome email from me. And I've done this in my previous businesses as well, but this time, like people actually like responded to the welcome email a lot.

And when they respond, they don't just respond like with one line. I'm getting essays, like people are telling me their life story. And it's all like, majority of them are ADHD saying, you know, I've been looking for a tool like this and I just got diagnosed later in life, which is what happened with me. I was, I was in my thirties when, when that happened.

It's so common nowadays for people to, to struggle with stuff and then get a diagnosis. And then the whole life just makes sense. That's, that's exactly what happened with me. And I'm like, Oh my God. So it was very relatable to them because in my welcome email, I told my story. So they were kind of responding like, Oh, that's my story as well.

And. I love getting these emails back because it makes me feel validated as well. Like they have the same story as me. And, um, I think because of that, I thought, well, there's something here because it's obviously resonating with people, you know, it's still small. It's still early days, but there's definitely something special about this business that I've never seen in previous.

Businesses that I've tried, like, it was just very clear to me. There's something different.

[00:10:57] The perfect storm of COVID and everyone suddenly working from home

Marie: It's pretty amazing where you're at, even given how short the journey is. Like I know that they talk about the long, slow SAS ramp of death, right? Where people are chipping away on their, their software for years and years and years before they finally get a bit of that traction.

So, uh, it seems like the COVID bubble was probably a really good timing for you. Right. That everything kind of culminated. Timing of COVID, quitting your job, having time to devote into that, and then just hitting the market at just the right time. I imagine it was sort of like a perfect storm.

Marie Ng: Oh yeah, yeah.

Cause everyone was working from home, right? So yeah, we had the indie hacker audience, but there were definitely some people in corporate that were like, I'm at home now. It's really hard working from home because there's no distinction between my workday and when that ends. And then, you know, my evening or like rolling out of bed and starting my workday.

So, You know, time was like a challenge for a lot of people during that period. So yeah, it was definitely perfect timing, I guess. And that's the thing with business, like some of it's luck as well, right? Like it was just that that was a good time for that. If this product had launched, you know, before COVID or maybe now, or I might not have got the same momentum, which maybe wouldn't lead me to where it is now.

So. Yeah, a lot of people don't talk about it, but I think a lot of it's luck as well, like obviously hard work plus luck.

Benjamin: I'm really curious about, um, you obviously have this, this, uh, resonance with folks with ADHD. Is there anything that you're doing specifically to sort of leverage that? Because I, I know that one of the, another classical thing along with time blindness with ADHD is also like oversharing in a sense.

And I think that a lot of ADHDers when they meet other ADHDers that there's this immediate resonance and they're just like, I want to, I want to talk about. This with you and I want to connect with you and sort of like they're in your inbox. Like Marie, how do I, how do I get more of you? How do we connect?

And is there, are you doing anything to like, to use that, utilize that to drive like interest in the product or like, is that, is that like part of your marketing strategy at this point, specifically writing content for people with ADHD? Yeah, yeah,

Marie Ng: for sure. For sure. Um, you know, we, The fact that people respond means they want a connection.

And I, you know, we respond to every single email. I responded to all of them at the beginning. Now I have two other people working with me and someone else on my team is responding, but I, I see them as well. Like I read all of them, they're coming into my inbox, but she's responding to them now, and I'm sort of focusing more on the overall product and the business strategy and sort of direction, you know, community is like a huge thing for us.

So we try and engage with our community as much as possible. We try and get feedback from the community. We create content for the community. So that content does have an ADHD, um, kind of lens on it. We actually don't market it as an ADHD product. That was a really conscious decision because there are customers that do not have ADHD who love our product as well.

So there's kind of these two groups. There's a group, the ADHD group, and then there's a group of people who, um, Um, don't have ADHD, but they just want to be super productive. Like they just want to make the most of every second of the day. And so we're constantly kind of trying to make sure we fit these two groups, but our main group is definitely ADHD because that's the group that I know.

And that is, I'm, I'm just really close to that. And that's kind of. I think all the features that go into it are really angled that way. So they might help other people, but we wouldn't change to become like a, like hardcore, uh, I'll give you an example, like a hardcore productivity tool where There's, there's, there's another tool, which I won't name, but it's kind of, it's really good, but it focuses on metrics.

So it'll say like, here's all the stuff that you did. And it's all almost overwhelming for me. Like it'll list them out and I go, you spent this much amount of time and you were 20 percent more productive today than you were yesterday. And that can be really great for some people and very motivating, but I don't think it's motivating for an ADHD audience.

Um, and I'm sort of speaking in general terms here. Maybe there are a couple of ADHD is that would like that, but that's not our product. So I'm really clear on the direction that I want this product to go. And so unless we get like. An overwhelming majority of people asking for it. We won't do it. And I think that's kind of what makes a good product as well.

Like, you know, exactly what you want it to be. And I'm so close to that product that like that's the vision and that's what it that's, it's staying like that. And if it's not for you, then, you know, you can try a different product. And we've actually recommended other products for people. When they're trying to make our product fit something else, there's no shortage of productivity tools.

It's a very crowded category. So I'm sure there's something for everyone. And this is kind of the niche, like.

[00:15:43] The benefits of being funded vs bootstrapped

Marie Ng: Yeah,

Benjamin: I think those opinionated products can be super handy, um, but sometimes, yeah, you're going to run into that, that wall of, of opinion a little bit. And if you want to deviate from that, you've either got to find something else or build it yourself, even if it gets to the point where you need something really specific.

So yeah, it's a tough, tough, tough road for some customers, it can be really challenging.

Marie Ng: Yeah. And I think maybe one thing that makes it easier for me to go, we're staying the course is that. I can't remember if you mentioned this in the beginning or not, but, um, we are funded now, right? So we started off as a bootstrap company and bootstrapping just meaning, you know, you're funding everything yourself.

Like it's coming out of your own savings. Uh, and it's more personal. It's like gets personal then sometimes. Like I think it affects decision making sometimes because it's personal. And if you have a group of people, maybe these productivity folks that are trying to level up and you have an ADHD group and they're kind of asking for different features.

There is a temptation as, at least for me, as a bootstrap founder to go, Hmm, that person wants to pay for the product, but they'll only pay if I add that feature. So, I'm going to add it, um, because I need that. So, the fact that it's, Mum Life is funded now, it does take off some of that pressure. There's other benefits of funding too, but I think one of them maybe, like I actually haven't heard people talk about this part, but It helps me focus and stay the course with the product.

That's not to say we won't change it depending on, you know, the feedback we get and, It, but it's got to be like overwhelming majority of feedback. It can't just be like, Ooh, I, you know, that person wants to give me money. I'll go and add that thing. It's much easier to say, no, this is what we are. This is, this is who we're building for.

And, you know, sorry, like I'll recommend you check out that other product. It's much easier for me to say that now than before.

Benjamin: Yeah, I think we, we experienced that a lot when we were building our course platform, where I spent, um, I spent about a month building, uh, a discourse integration where when you join the course, you'd be added to certain, uh, Certain areas of the forum.

So, and we started building out these integrations with different forums and stuff. And this came from one person just saying, Hey, we use discourse, not the thing that you currently support. Like, would you consider doing this? And in order to convince that customer to pay for the software, I built out this integration that ended up taking me like a month of time.

And they were one of two customers that ever used that integration. So it's a little bit like, yeah, that was a, that was a waste of time. Maybe, maybe not.

Marie: Can you share a little bit about that? Process of, of getting to the decision where you decided to take on funding and even, was that something that you sought out?

Did someone find you like, what did, I don't know anything about that whole side of, of business. So I'd love to hear kind of what led you to that decision.

Marie Ng: I, I didn't know a lot about it either. When, um, you know, before this, I, I did have another startup before. Um, and that got a small, I don't even know if you want to call it funding.

Like it got a small, um, amount of. Yeah, a small little like check for that. Um, but that's pretty much the only, the only experience I had before this. And, uh, you know, before when I said like Lama life kind of just happened very naturally and very sort of serendipitous, the funding was serendipitous as well.

So what happened was I was building in public on Twitter and, uh, I, uh, at this point it was just myself and Lama Life had, was going to move from a one time payment to subscriptions. So what I did was I posted on Twitter, because you can't just take that away, right? You have to say, Hey, this is happening.

Just letting everyone know, um, Lama Life's one time payment is finishing next, you 24 hours, we're going to shift over to subscription. But if you get the one time payment now, um, you can keep it, you know, we always grandfather in the old, the older plans or a lower plan. And so

Marie: I just Is that a lifetime subscription?

Like they bought one time

Marie Ng: and then you have it forever. Sure. Yeah. Lifetime. Lifetime of the product, obviously not the person's lifetime, but yeah, um, one time payment, um, as long as the product is, is alive. And I just put this tweet up. I literally, I didn't even think about it. I just put this tweet up and then I shut Twitter.

And then all, like a couple of minutes later, I started getting like all these Stripe notifications. So we use Stripe as our payment processor and I'm like, what's going on? And so then I went back to Twitter and I could see that that That tweet just got shared like crazy. Like it was going crazy. It was definitely from Twitter.

That was the only place I put it and it was like a switch. And I'm like, Oh my God, my, my database crashed because it just couldn't handle the simultaneous connections. And keep in mind, I was a really new dev. So I was just like, Oh my God, what is happening? Like, How do I fix this? It was really stressful.

But what happened was somebody from a, um, a startup accelerator, uh, and they also have a VC fund, saw this one time thing and they purchased it and they really liked the product. So they DM'd me on Twitter and they said, Hey, have you ever thought about raising money for this? Um, or joining an accelerator.

And, and I, to be honest, I didn't even reply to them for, I think, 48 hours because I was just too overwhelmed with all the other stuff that was happening. And then I got back to them and I said, I actually wasn't thinking of raising money for it. I was going to bootstrap this. But they're like, do you want to have a chat anyway?

So I had a chat with them and they kind of convinced me to apply for the accelerator. So the accelerator program, there's many different accelerators for startups. It's very similar. Um, it was called launch and it's run by Jason Calacanis, who's a really big angel investor. And. Um, launch had, I think it was a 12 week program.

It's very similar to other, um, accelerators where you do 12 weeks and then you kind of do demo day at the end and you pitch and, you know, potentially raise more money. And so I applied for the accelerator. I got into that and at the end of the accelerator, we did demo day and I launched, I, sorry, I raised money shortly after that and it sounds so simple, but it was such a, it was so stressful because I felt like I had to learn.

All of this investment stuff. Overnight. And you're always at a disadvantage because when you, when you talk to investors, that's their day job, like that's what they do and you're coming in and you've never done it. And there's all these fancy terms that are being thrown around and you don't want to sound stupid on the call.

And so you're like, I don't know what I'm talking about. Like they're throwing all these numbers around and I'm like, I have no idea. So yeah, there was a lot of watching YouTube videos. I went back to YouTube. I'm like looking at all these, um, you know, how to raise money videos and had the accelerator as well so I could ask them questions so that obviously helped.

Yeah, it was super stressful and we ended up, uh, raising a pre seed round. So in the grand scheme of things, it's very small. You kind of have these different stages. You might have heard these terms being thrown around like series A, series B. So you basically start from, usually people start from a family and friends round, which is exactly what it sounds like.

You're getting money from family and friends. I personally don't like doing that because Like, what if something doesn't work out and 99 percent of the time it doesn't? I don't want to feel like tension between, you know, any family and friends. I said no to my family and friends because they did offer.

After that you have a pre seed round, a seed round, series A, series B and the main difference is like it's, it's easier. It's more, more money each time. And, uh, the stakes are obviously like a lot higher each time. And, you know, there might be different like conditions, maybe like a board seat or something like that each time.

It depends how much money you need. It depends on the business. Like a lot of businesses say you're doing something like Uber is very capital intensive because you need to hire drivers. Lamalife is not capital intensive because it's software. The main cost is like employee salaries, but it's not like we have physical costs.

It's not like we have to maintain a, you know, community of drivers like, like Uber does and have both sides. So we. You don't want to raise more money than you need. And also investors won't give you more money than you need. So there's also that, that side of it too. The great thing about it is that it allowed me to hire a team because there's no way I could have afforded, there's no way I could afford to hire a team.

Um, if I didn't have that. Hire a team in advance of where the product is. You know, I think that's the main difference when you're bootstrapping, you don't want to spend more than you have, but it's easier to do that with the VC funding because you've got that money and that's what it's for. They want you to spend the money.

They don't want you to sit on it. Like it's there to be spent. On something, how much influence

Marie: do they have in terms of where that money goes? And I'm sure some of that happened through the accelerator where you're like, okay, here's what the growth plan would look like. Here's kind of the trajectory. But yeah.

I'm curious kind of what was that going from one to, I think you said you're a team of a team of three now, or do you have three employees

Marie Ng: now? I've got two. Two employees. So we're, we're total of three. Yeah, this is a question I get a lot actually, like how much, how much sort of um, influence on the decision making.

Currently, like, they, they will give me suggestions and if I ask for something or I ask for help, currently like I'm making all the decisions at the moment. And there have been a couple of suggestions which have completely just gone 180 against. I don't know if that will change as the series or the round gets larger.

Because that's why there's a board seat, right? Like that's why there's more influence that way. Right now we don't have a board, we're too small for that. And it's just too much overhead and it would not make sense at all to be doing that kind of administrative overlay and it wouldn't help either. So right now I have a lot of freedom.

We just do whatever we want. So I don't know if that changes. I'm just speaking from my level at the moment, but, uh, with, and I don't know if it depends on the investor as well, because I have heard, I think where the question might be coming from is that like, I have heard this, that, um, and there's very public stories about this as well.

There's a TV series on Uber. And I can't remember what it's called right now, but it was like a six part TV series. It's based on true life events, but it's, it's fictional in that the characters, there's actors playing, you know, the roles, but they, they show that the investors have a lot of influence in that.

And there was conflict between the founder and the investors. So it's not unheard of, but right now I'm not feeling that at all. That's incredible.

[00:26:29] What did you hire for when you got funded?

Benjamin: What were the, the two folks that you hired, what were the first roles that you filled and Yeah. And why did you fill those roles?

Marie Ng: Yeah, so the first role I filled is a content community and partnerships role.

So there's three parts to that role. Um, you know, in corporate you'd probably have three people doing it, but, um, the role is, is more basically complimenting my own skills. Because I was focusing more on the product and dev. Um, I can do marketing as well. That's kind of my background, the branding and advertising stuff.

I really needed someone to kind of fill that gap. So. She creates a lot of social media content, looks after the community. So it starts responding to all the support requests and the welcome emails and creating like, um, help articles and blog pieces, uh, SEO, that kind of stuff, and then working with partners.

So we. You know, we will work with influencers in the ADHD space and figure out like, what's something that we can do together that might be a win win. Um, or we might pay somebody to create a video for Llama Life and put it on their, their Instagram. So she would organize those and manage those relationships.

And I would focus on doing dev, design, product, all the business admin, which people don't talk about, but it's, it exists and it's a headache and it's my least favorite thing in the whole world, but. It's there and it has to be taken care of. So I do that as well. Um, so she was the first one I hired and I've known her for a long time.

So I will say hiring is like the hardest thing ever. It is so time consuming and you know, it's really hard to get the right fit, but I had worked with her for two years in corporate. So I already knew her strengths and I knew that we could get along. We were actually in the same team. So we did work together.

So we already sort of tried and tested some of that, which is so, so important because, you know, it's very hard to assess from an interview, talking to someone for half an hour, a couple of times that you can actually work together. And even with that, we had some struggles at the beginning because Um, she had never worked in a startup and the time frame or time scale that she had to do things was very different to what I was expecting.

And the way to think about something was very different. But she is amazing now. Like, it probably took about six months to really kind of find like that groove. And that's, that's what I'm proud of. With knowing each other as well. So imagine if you didn't know each other. So she's the first one I hired.

And then the second one that I hired is another dev, but he's way better than me. So like the whole point is to get a, you know, a dev that's like way better and I can learn from him as well. So the way we divide up the work right now is that she's content community partnerships. He's just dev. And so he does a full stack, but more front end stuff.

We're both sort of more front end, but. We have to do backend as well, just part of it, but he focuses more on the mobile app and I'm focusing more on our web, our desktop web products. And obviously the two kind of overlap a bit and they share this, they share the same database. That's kind of how we split up the work at the moment.

Uh, I do design as well and all that, the business admin stuff. So, or do

Marie: you do most of the design because you have that sort of branding background too? Because like your product, it looks delightful,

Marie Ng: right? Oh, thank you. Yeah, I do all of the design. I actually don't have a background in design. So when I was doing the branding advertising stuff, it was more from a research perspective.

So we would work with large brands, like You know, Coca Cola, L'Oreal, Amex, like really big brands and we would analyze how well their advertising was performing. So I was not creating the ads. I was analyzing the ads. So there's a lot of like numbers and like writing PowerPoint reports and stuff like that.

Um, so I never did design properly, but I just, I just like, I like design and I, I guess I just look at stuff and I, I don't have any formal stuff. I can just look at it and go, I think that looks nice. It's not pixel perfect. I don't like go, Oh, that's one pixel that I just kind of put it together. And like, I'm sure it could be better, but we're kind of just like, Oh no, that needs to be like a little bit more to the left.

And then I look and I go, yeah, that looks good. I'm so glad you said the product feels fun because that's kind of one of our things is like, we like to have fun and we want our product to be fun. We take our job very seriously. But we want this to feel and we want to have, you know, feel like we're having fun.

And, um, I think that's what differentiates it from other productivity tools as well. Like we have a very distinct vibe for the products. And I guess even like one, one small example is when you complete a task, you get confetti. Each task itself is quite big. That's by design. Like, cause we want it to feel not overwhelming and we want to feel playful.

And that's why. Like, you can only see a certain number of tasks on a, on a screen at any one time. And we've had other people go, can you fit more stuff on there? I'm like, no, no, we're not doing that because it changes the feel straight away. Absolutely.

Benjamin: Yeah. Yeah. I think that was a big part of, you know, Marie's own and ours, um, joy, the, the joy that I think notion allowed us to bring to, to the work being done, that it isn't just a list that we're checking things off, but we can actually, the list might be a visual tool.

You know, graph of information. It might be a gallery of images and you can look at your information in different ways. And I, I really love how much you do that work in public. There's a lot of these, I think when you were designing, say the mobile app, there was all these little touches where I remember hitting this page where you could like click the llama a bunch of times and, and.

There was these little badges that popped up all over. I think it's that it's that sense of delight that like keeps people like, you know, there's a little, that little bit of fun is always really important for especially for people with like ADHD. It's that it's something to keep them motivated. That's outside of just the doing the work thing.

There's something that goes alongside it that keeps it. Keeps you engaged in some kind of

Marie Ng: different way. Yeah, that's that's definitely the goal. But it's also it also helps me because sometimes I'll say to the team, like, I need a little side project to work on. So that mobile page that you're talking about with the toggle and little colorful badges coming up, that was from that.

I was like, I need. I need something different. Like I want to work on a project that's contained. We'll be very quick to do, um, you know, just like a couple of days, uh, even less sometimes, but we don't want to waste it. So we always go, okay, well, what's something that we can do that we need for our product anyway, and that's why we created, so what you're talking about is a, it's a page to sign up for our newsletter.

On any mobile updates. And I was like, well, why don't we make the page really, you know, cool and fun and stuff. And that way I'll get my fix. Like I'll get, you know, I'll satisfy my thing where I get super restless. If I don't have that, I'm like, I need something. And, but I want to make sure we can reuse it and it makes sense for the business, but it still ticks my boxes, which is a short project.

It can be really fun. It's really contained. It's not going to mess up anything. And it's really easy for me to go away and just do it. I didn't need the other guys to kind of. Be involved as much and I take my boxes and it also takes the business boxes and everybody's happy

[00:33:57] Life as a founder with ADHD

Benjamin: That's so cool. I was gonna actually segue into asking you about what your life is like as a founder with ADHD Marie as another founder with ADHD we talk about this all the time We have very different Protocols and communication methodologies that we've workshopped over many years working together that kind of, you know, we talk a lot about the best way to get Marie's attention or how do we, you know, how do we How do we get Marie doing the work that she really wants to do because when she's doing the work that she really wants to do, it's, it's going to be amazing, right?

But there's also this thing of like, of sometimes I need Marie to focus on something that she doesn't want to do. And in that case, it can, there can be challenges, challenges in terms of, yeah. So I'm curious if you specifically working with your, your coworkers, do you have any things or systems that you've developed or ways of working with them now that they're on board that kind of work around or work in tandem with, you know, your flavor of executive dysfunction as it pertains to ADHD?

Marie Ng: Yeah. I think the biggest help to me is that we're. Like we're very open in our team about any mental health sort of, you know, challenges. And I think we, like we've spent a lot of time together as well. Like we're a remote team, but we chat, I wouldn't say we have that many meetings, but we have like, um, you know, Monday meeting, uh, to start the week, a Friday meeting to kind of wrap up the week.

And we talk about, You know, what went well, what might not have gone well. And we try and sort of set a tone where anybody can call out anybody else. And I think this makes a really big difference when there is open communication. I'm sure it can be better, but it's, it's, we have a good foundation and we tell each other stuff like we don't want it to linger.

That's the main thing. It's like, you got something on your mind. I just say it. And. I think part of this comes down to hiring too, because you, you've got to hire people with low, uh, low ego, right? Like highly driven, low ego. That's what I go for is like highly driven. They want to do the work. They're really excited about the work they can learn quickly, but low ego in that, you know, doesn't matter if someone says, Hey, could you do that different or whatever, or the way you did that as like kind of affecting me, they have to be able to take that and I have to be able to take that as well, and we have a really good.

I think we have that really good at the moment, but, you know, I, I think they have a good understanding of ADHD now that they've worked on the product so long and, you know, I'll just tell them sometimes like, Hey guys, I got to do like the, like the other day I was like, I need to do this accounting thing.

I think it'll just take half an hour. And of course it took like. Two and a half hours. Cause I just can't judge the time, but I said to the other girl I work with, like, can you do a body doubling thing with me where we would just get on a zoom call together and we're just, we're both doing our own work, but I can see her on the screen and she can see me and.

We don't bother each other, but I'm like, can you just be there? Cause I just need, and at the start I'll go, I'm going to do this accounting thing now. Okay. In this next half hour or whatever. And then we'll check in with you after that. But she knows, like she gets zero, she has nothing from it. She goes.

Because I asked her like, does this help you too? And she's like, I don't need it. And I'm like, okay. But she goes, I don't mind doing it because I'm working anyway. But I'm like, Oh, cool. Cause I really need it. Like it helps me so much. And so I'll just put her in the corner of my screen. I can see her there.

And then I'll just try and do my work. Occasionally she'll look over, if she thinks I'm distracted, she'll be like, she'll, she'll unmute her thing. And she'll go, Hey, what are you doing? And I'm like, and she's like, you can do it. Like, it's just kind of a, I mean, she knows my weaknesses. Like I'll just tell her, like, I'm struggling with this and I really, it's the most boring admin task.

It's not that I can't do it. Like, it's not that I don't know how to do it, but I'm just kind of struggling motivating myself to do it. Cause it's so boring. And so she, she gets it because I think if someone didn't get it, they would just It's, it's a hundred times worse when they go, why can't you just do it?

It's like the worst thing

Marie: you they're just quietly frustrated behind the scenes, right?

Marie Ng: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I think the fact that, um, she also, cause she's dealing with a lot of the customer support requests, like she can see it, she can see the trouble that like people are sharing, like they've got the same trouble.

So I think just the, the understanding of how, whether it's ADHD or not, just the understanding of how someone else works and what they find difficult. Whether you find that difficult as well or not, like what they find difficult is the best thing because then you can try and help that person as a team.

It's a team thing, right? Like if someone is struggling in one area, you just help them. Like that's the, that's what the team's for. Even though it's not your exact job, like the whole team benefits when the team's performing well. So I think we try, I think we're, we're, we're pretty good at that.

Benjamin: Yeah, for me, at least one of the measures of a healthy team environment is having the space and the safety to Ask for help and encouraging that that you you've got to ask for what you need Yeah, because I think a lot of people will tend to be I think I don't know if this is true or not But my anecdotal evidence is that I think ADHD ADHD errs also have a tendency Tendency to be people pleasers.

And so there may be a case and, and, and I think it might boil down to that. They're there, they always are thinking like I'm a calamity. And so there's just like this expectation that they're going to disappoint everyone around them. So they get kind of afraid to say, Hey, I'm going to, I'm going to struggle with this.

Could you just like observe me and, and it will really help me that that ability to ask for help and just acknowledge it is really, really powerful.

Marie Ng: Yeah. Yeah. A hundred percent agree. Um, I think there's a little bit of shame that comes from it too, at least for me, you know, like, cause it seems like something that's so simple and to other people it might seem simple, but the fact that like they know that it's ADHD related and then I have other skills that I can do really well, but then this is my particular thing that I struggle with.

The safety thing that you mentioned, I think it's called psychological safety. Like you want to create psychological safety within the team. And it's, it's easier said than done. And it's, it's not something you can just state, right? You can't just go, our team has psychological safety. It's something you have to do and experience.

And, you know, I think a lot of big organizations say we have psychological safety, but there isn't. And it's even worse because now they're saying one thing and doing another. Having actually having that in the team, um, helps because you're not, it's not shameful because it's like, well, that's just not my strength and it's okay.

I acknowledge it's not my strength and you know, it's not my strength. Um, and then, yeah, and then you can help each other.

Marie: I'd love to ask if there's, um, cause you said it's been about 10 years that you've been diagnosed with ADHD. So before Llama Life, did you have experience in jobs where you were like, ah, clearly I'm not fitting into this corporate world or whatever jobs, I mean, like, I know I've gotten in trouble for being late endless times.

I've, I can definitely see ways looking back that ADHD was clearly a culprit. So I'm just kind of curious, were the warning signs there all along? And what kind of were they?

Marie Ng: Yeah, it's so funny as you're saying this. I can kind of see it in your eyes as well. Like, yeah, we have the same thing where it's, um, well, first of all, let's just say the corporate experience was a struggle, but it was also good in many ways.

Cause I learned in hindsight, like I learned a lot and I do use some of those skills now. It was very hard to see at the time, but looking back, of course, it's, You can see it. Um, but yes, I had a lot of challenges with corporate. Uh, I was very, very late getting my first job because I just couldn't figure out what I wanted.

It was very hard to stick with a job. And when I did get my first job, it was out of necessity because I, with ADHD, like there's a little bit of like impulsiveness and also, you know, You need excitement to kind of get going, at least I do. And so I ended up, my first job came about because I said, so I'm in Melbourne, Australia, and I, I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, but I said, I'm just going to go to London.

Hey guys, I'm just going to London and I'm going to find a job there. So, The stakes are higher and that's kind of the stakes are higher. It was impulsive and it was exciting. And if I didn't get a job, I'd be completely like screwed and would have to come back to Australia and I'd feel really embarrassed about it.

So I kind of put myself in this situation where I was like, okay, I got to get this. I'm not leaving London until I get a job. And I perform really well, like in those situations. So I ended up getting a job in like 13 days and it was a really good job. And I had to interview like five or six times and do presentations and tests and stuff is a sort of mid junior, mid sort of level job.

But I got that job and that kind of led me through my whole career. Like that was the starting point for that branding advertising career, but it was really hard where. You know, I'd get, I'd be late all the time. I didn't mean to, but I just was late all the time. It happens a lot. And I kept getting told like I'm disruptive because I would get out of my seat all the time.

I just couldn't help it. I had to get up, walk around, talk to people. I'm an introvert, but I still had to, I just had to get up. I don't know, make a coffee, go to the bathroom, whatever. And my boss was sitting. Opposite me in an open plan office. So it's very obvious. Right. And so she's, she's like pulling me aside going, you get up way too often.

And I was like, I don't know what to say. Like, I'm still getting my work done. Right. And, but I suppose it was very distracting for her as well. What else did I do? Oh yeah. There's something called time sheets in like a large corporate. So we were working on client service side. Maybe you, yeah, maybe you experienced this as well, but when you, when you have clients, like you have to, you basically had to.

Breakdown, like where I was spending my time and then the client would get billed for that. And I was always, this is the most boring thing for me in the world. And I was always behind on my time sheets, like six months behind, which is really bad because it means that we're billing, yeah, it's just really bad.

Right. Because you don't accurately billing. And then suddenly there's a big bill because I've suddenly put in all my time sheets. And so I got called up on that all the time. You know, they used to run reports on who's behind and like, oh, I'd always be there. My boss would. It's always the same story.

They're like, you're doing really well. Like you're great at your job, but you're not doing well at these smaller, boring, you're not doing well, these admin tasks. And it kind of made me after a while feel like, you know, maybe I can design a job that is a better, is better suited to me, which is entrepreneurship.

Maybe I can, I would have more control over my environment and what I want to do, when I want to do it, how I want to do it. I'm not feeling it today or maybe I can outsource it. Um, and it turns out like entrepreneurship is just the perfect job. Like that's why I couldn't find a job. It's because I had to create my own own job and, Exactly how I want it and need, how I need it.

I should say how I need it to be no more timesheets, definitely no more timesheets. Um, but I think it's the control thing too. Like you can, this stuff I don't want to do, but eventually I can outsource it. And I don't have to ask anyone if I want to do that. It's my decision. You're able to create the structure that an environment that you need versus trying to fit into somebody else's or some company, another company's environment and structure.

Because one thing people don't talk about that much is that like, I could do it. I could fit somewhere else, but it's so draining. So I would work during the day. I'd be constantly trying to fit into this other thing and somebody else's rules and what I need to do. And then I'd come home and I just crash.

Like I just completely wrecked no more. My energy was just like, no, I'm done. I can't do anything now. And that's a really bad state to live in. Like you're constantly. You're either like really on and like trying to fit in and then nothing. And I really wanted more balance to, to how I'm feeling.

Marie: Yeah. It feels like that, that creates a real separation, like work and that's the draining thing and then home life and it creates this, this separation.

But when you're more able to manage your energy in general, it's sort of like, Oh, work and business, they kind of intermingle, but not in a way that feels really, you know, like You start to feel resentful of work in this bucket over here. And that's the thing that drains my energy. It sounds like also, I imagine for you doing some of that business administrative stuff, it's probably a little easier because it's part of a bigger passion project for you, right?

So if you have to do something, it's like, okay, it's still part of my baby, this thing that I'm growing versus having to do that stuff in a structure that you don't fit into,

Marie Ng: right? Yeah, yeah, exactly. Um, it's easier to see. That it's a, you know, a means to, a means to an end and it's, it goes toward something that, yeah, I, I, I'm very passionate about.

And somebody asked me this the other day, they're like, what, you know, would you, cause I see a lot of indie hackers doing this. They're working on lots of different projects, right? They've got, you know, five or six different things on the go. And, you know, they're like, would you ever want to work on anything else?

Like started another project? And I'm like, not really, because. Like, I really like my One Project, it's, it's um, it's so personal to me, it's, it's more that the problem is very personal, and so if it wasn't Llama Life, it would still be trying to solve the same problem. So the problem to me is like, how do I, how do I manage my focus and attention better?

You know, how do I kind of get through my day, you know, two people might have the same to do list to get through, but one person might finish the day, like. You might both get through the list, but one person might feel the day really calm and accomplished. The other person might be like, I got through, but I'm so tired and stressed and it was so hectic and up and down.

And I'm always like, well, how do I get through my day like nicely, you know? And so that's what calmly and like effectively, and that's what That's the problem I'm trying to solve currently with Llama Life, but if Llama Life's not working, like, I don't know, I'm talking like way in the future, I'd still be on the same problem.

It's just, and then that's what, I think that's maybe the difference because I see a lot of other folks working on stuff that like, it's not a personal problem to them. It's just like maybe an idea they had and the idea might be a good idea, but the thing is, and I learned this with my other businesses, like startups.

Or, you know, side projects will fail. It's only two, there's only two reasons why it fails, like two main reasons and it's money or motivation. Everything can be put into those two buckets. It's either money. You don't have enough money. You need to stop or your motivation fails for whatever reason. And maybe it's cause you're not, it's not a personal problem or, but everything falls into those two buckets.

That I've seen. I've solved the money thing with the fundraising. The motivation thing is not a problem for me with this problem. So it's Because it's kind of your life's work,

Marie: right? It's

Marie Ng: Yeah, in a way, like it feels, it feels like it is. Like I kind of feel like this is what I was supposed to do. Cause I've done the, my corporate career, but I feel like this is the thing that it's kind of scary though, in a way, because I feel like it defines me a bit and that's not good.

Right. I think I heard on one of your other podcasts actually about this thing where like your identity is so wrapped up in the work that you're doing. I don't know. It's good and bad, or it's sort of, it's good because like, that is me. Like Llama Life is me. For whatever reason, like, I need to be able to, like, if that doesn't work, like, I need to be able to not put all my self, self's worth, like, in that.

It's very hard to do. I think you, you're sort of nodding because I think you guys have obviously have your own business. and notion mastery, et cetera.

Marie: I mean, I think you just kind of nailed it with saying that even if it's not Lama life, these ideas are still always there and it's still something that is a part of you.

So it's like not wrapping up your identity in the output. Like I'm not this course. I am not this business. I'm not this, but I'm these ideas. And so it does seem like you kind of have Some awareness that like, even if Llama Life didn't exist, you're still in the curiosity around how do I solve for this problem,

Marie Ng: right?

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Actually, that's a really good way to think about it. I'm just thinking about, um, your business as well. Cause you, you love designing systems, right? That's sort of like the systems part or solving a problem for somebody else's business using Notion, but it's, If Notion went away, like, then you still have the foundation and the, the problem of like, We will solve, we will figure out a system for your business that's tailored and works for your business and you.

Right now it happens to be Notion as the tool, but it could be something else if it had to be. Is that, is that right? Yep,

Benjamin: that's pretty close. Yeah, I would definitely agree. I'm, I've always considered myself a technologist. first and foremost and a, and a problem solver type person. So I don't really, you know, when businesses come to me and they go, we need notion.

My first question is usually what, what do you need notion for? And, you know, they can sometimes not speak on why it is. They want notion. You just shipped your first mobile app and you were Talking about like, Oh, we haven't gotten approved yet. And I was like, Oh, don't worry. Like that's, that's how like Apple works.

They take forever on that first review and so on and forth, so forth. Cause I made a bunch of mobile apps back in one of my previous companies. And that was the same thing back then as people would go, we need a mobile app. And it was usually just because they needed a mobile app. That was, that was the reason that they were wanting to build one that we needed one.

There was no actual like, Oh, here's the, here's the business strategy. Here's the goal. And so, yeah, like a lot of times we get distracted and I need a productivity app to help me be productive. And it's usually there's some kind of, Underlying thing that's driving that desire that you could solve that problem in a lot of different ways, which is why there's so many productivity apps, I

Marie Ng: guess, you know, you know, luckily for us, we were probably like late in doing the mobile app, I would say, but it was definitely demand for it in the sense that like that was the number one request.

Every day we get emails, like most of the emails are like responding to that welcome email or like, Hey guys, when are you going to do the mobile app? So we, we did ask, you know, why, because. Originally, it was like, it still is, it has a desktop web version, so you can use it while you're working and have it on the side of your screen.

That still fits a lot of our audience, like their use case. But we were asking the folks that were asking for the mobile app, like, what are you going to use it for? You know, don't you, aren't you using this to work? screenshots of the desktop tool and the stuff that they were putting in. It was not work related.

It was stuff like. Um, morning routine kind of stuff, like get up. Uh, so the thing with Lama life is that each task has a timer, but it's flexible. It doesn't have to be 25 minutes. Like, you know, how there's like the Pomodoro timer, it's got to be 25 minutes. We are the opposite of that, where. I can't do 25 minutes.

It's too long for me. So I was like, I need like, sometimes I'll do one minute because I just want to get into the, get into the flow. Right. And then maybe five minutes and work my way up. And so we can do very short timers for, for each task. And so they would, they showed us these screenshots. They're like, wake up one minute, drink water one minute.

Um, get like heat up breakfast, two minutes, eat breakfast, five minutes. And we're like, Oh wow. Like. Okay, cool. So granular, really granular, but, but you know what? Like everyone's different. So we're like, okay, cool. Um, that's how you want to use it. Makes sense. And you're not going to be doing that, those tasks at your computer, a hundred percent can see why you need this.

And it wasn't just one person. There's so many people. So we're like, okay, yeah, we need to do the mobile app. And now we're in this point where we did the iOS app, but people like where's Android and we're like, oh, no, it never ends. It never ends. And, um, luckily we use react native because, um, the web is, the web is in react and that's what I learned.

So like, okay, someone else offered to build us a mobile app in some other language. And I'm like, I think they could do it, but I'm like, no, because I won't be able to contribute or edit it in future. And I need to be able to do that because. Like there's just some small stuff that I just need to get in there and it's so much faster if I just get in there and do it.

So the way I work with my other dev at the moment, he's amazing. He's like amazing. He's so fast. He knows like the way I work too. So he'll get it like 80 percent there and he's like, okay, over to you now. And I'll go in and I'll do the design and I'll just tweak stuff. Like, okay. I just feel like this, the flow needs to be a little different.

I'll just get in there and tinker like the last 20%, but he knows that. So we have this thing where like, we'll do a handoff. Um, and it's, it's works really great for us. Yeah. To your point, never ending. Like now we need to do the Android app and make sure that's good. And then we got Apple watch is the other request and only one vision pro request so far, which we're not doing, but, uh, yeah, I was going to

Marie: ask at one point, you know, you had any reservations or concerns around going all in on one product, but it's like, when you're building a software, you know, it's There are so many micro projects that are probably almost never ending.

So it seems like you have enough to kind of keep you excited and motivated.

Marie Ng: And yeah, yeah. It's all more learning, you know, like each platform's different. I mean, maybe Ben, you've, you've experienced this. Mobile for me was like a lot harder than the web. Just more quirks, I suppose. And more to consider, because What if someone soft closes the app?

What if they hard close the app? What about notifications? What about, like, this is for iOS, but what about, like, uh, dynamic island or live activities? Um, and then timers and time are really hard. And then time zone, we haven't gotten to the time zone thing yet. We sort of said we're not doing that because, um, we're not, we're not focusing on time zones yet.

And calendars and alarms and things like that. We're just, we're a relative timer. So whenever you start a timer, that's when it starts. When people have been saying to us, can you integrate calendar and stuff? And we're like, that brings in time zones. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, but yeah, mobile has been a lot more challenging.

There's a lot more, they're not edge cases. I don't think there's stuff that are totally legit, but there's more things to consider. More states that somebody could be in. And that's been, yeah, more challenging. Yeah,

Benjamin: there's a lot more, uh, I think uniformity in the user experience in most mobile platforms.

And so there's that consideration with, uh, if you're using something like React Native or, or another, you know, wrapping software like Electron or something that if you deviate too much from the, the general, you know, platform norms that people can, if you're a primarily a mobile user, then you might not know like, Oh, this button, this is the same as this type of interface on, you know, iOS standard.

So it's tricky because then once you go to Android, now it's, you have to You have to think about, well, how do most people use the app on Android when it's got like a task bar on the bottom or versus the top or something like that? So there's lots of different, like little idiosyncrasies of each platform that you have to accommodate for, or the way that you register for notifications is slightly different on both platforms.

And then, you know, that kind of stuff. So, yeah, it gets pretty tricky. Pretty, uh, confusing. Can I ask what your, um, what your back end is written in? Is it also JavaScript

Marie Ng: or? Yeah, it's Node. Um, yeah, Node. js. Express. Yeah,

Benjamin: you've got, you've got a, a nice, you know, uniformity of, of language across the

Marie Ng: whole platform.

I think this is one of the hardest things when I was learning to code is not the code itself. It was, how does a code fit in everywhere else? It's like. Yeah, the backend, what frameworks to use for that, and also even just how to like deploy something, you know, like how does the ecosystem like around everything work?

Like how do I, you know, how do I host something, set up a DNS and like get it out? And set up my, you know, my edit, my coding editor and stuff like, how does it all fit together? That was like harder than the actual coding, I think, for me. Yeah, the architectural work. Yeah, yeah. The decision

Marie: fatigue that comes along with like all the different thousands of decisions at the beginning that you have to make as the founders that kind of

Marie Ng: set you up.

Yeah, yeah. That was one of the hardest things for me was the, the, like the database was kind of hard too. So we use Firebase real time, the Firebase real time database. It's really front end friendly, really, like it's, have you heard of something called Jamstack? Jamstack, it's like JavaScript APIs and I don't know what, what the other one stands for, but it's really good for front, like we've, so we're very front end heavy.

And so we, we do have the backend, but it's, we use backend services that are designed for like front end engineers. So Firebase is, is, you know, really great like that.

Benjamin: You can abstract away some of the, you don't have to design a custom API, you can kind of make calls directly to a database kind of friendly, like if you're, if you're creating a record, there'll be an end point that you could hit right at the database layer without having to write like an intermediary API or something like that.


Marie Ng: But it's really hard to make those decisions when you don't know about it. A hundred percent. And so I kind of look back now. What's the consequence of that decision? Yeah, yeah. Tech debt. Like we do have some tech debt, like that'll have to be sorted out at some point, but not, not right now. We don't need to do it now.

We're not, it's not big enough to do that right now, but, um, yeah, I'm sort of every now and again, I look back and I'm going, I can't believe I made, like, I actually made that like decision. It was pretty good. Like sort of that luck serendipitous thing. It was like, actually, it's not bad. Like the setup's pretty good.

Um, but then I also see now that there's a lot of, you know, you There's some flaws, and we'll have to fix those, but, um, And there's also, you know, like, code, like, Ben, maybe you've seen this, like, you, you have code that you've written, like, three years ago. Because when you're in your coding editor, it'll tell you like, Marie, you wrote this three years ago.

And sometimes I look at that and I'm like, Oh my God. Like that's so like, I should change, I should fix that. Or I should, I could do that better now. And then I'm like, no, don't touch it. It's fine. Good enough for now, right? Yeah. Because a couple of times I've gone to fix it and then it broke something else.

And I'm like, Hmm. And there was one part in the code that I actually tried to fix twice, maybe like a year apart. And I totally forgot. And it broke again. And so this time I wrote myself a comment. I'm like, do you not try and fix this? If you read this again, do you not try and fix this? You have tried twice and you can't fix this.

Like don't spend, you wasted like so much time on it. There's stuff like that. And I look back and I'm always like, like, Oh, this is so bad in some places. But you know, the customer doesn't care about that stuff. And the customer experience is fine. Like the user experience. It's fine. It's not slow. It's not delayed.

Like to them, it's all, it's great. And so this is kind of just, um, you know, this is like just me being like, Oh, I want it to be perfect. You know, and that's really hard for me. I like it being perfect, but I have to kind of, I think I've got better at this. Like I kinda, I'm like, there's literally no time to do that.

And that's the constraint that we have being a small team. It's like, we don't. Like I don't like it, but there's no time to do that. We have to do all this other stuff. So I'm kind of glad that I have that constraint, but it's constraints are really good sometimes to push you along, you know,

Benjamin: I'll say too, from my personal personal perspective that I've been writing code of various types for, 15, 20 years now.

And I can go back and look at something I wrote 15 years ago and go, who wrote that? That is amazing. Damn. I was smart. I can look at similar code that I wrote 10 years ago and say like, wow, that was terrible. There's such a better way to do that now. So there's actually no like looking back in history, like there's no guarantee that you're going to look back and say like, that was good or bad because you you'll always write something that could be improved or was really.

perfectly elegant at the time, and you wrote it in the way that made sense to you at the time. And, you know, so the more you, the more code you write, the more you realize, like, Um, like my friend Mattia always said, all code is broken. Like all software is broken. You're always going to write something that is broken and there's no, there's no way to write a unbreakable routine or function.

You know, there's always going to be something wrong with it. So like letting go of those things and just saying like, it works.

Marie Ng: Yeah. Yeah. That's the main goal, right? The main goal. Like if it's, if it works, like it's good. Um, also like short, shorter code versus longer codes. Like sometimes. I used to try and get it like more efficient.

And then after a while I'm like, you know what? I can't even read it. I can't read what I just, it takes me longer to read the short code because it's like, it's not as clear what's happening sometimes. And like, this is the thing, like, uh, me and me and my other dev, we talk about this sometimes is that it doesn't matter if it's longer, like as long as someone, the most junior person in the team has to be able to read that.

And that's me. So like, sometimes I'm like, I don't understand what you've written here. And. Um, you know, and so we're like, okay, well maybe we'll just add a few extra lines and that's fine, like completely fine. It still does the same thing, but as long as we can both read it. We often

Benjamin: forget that most code in some way is compiled and so the code that gets run is not the code that you write and so you can write the exact same code with a variable that says n or you could write what actually n is and then it's more readable and it's gonna, you know, the, the, the compilers are going to optimize your code for, so you want to optimize for being able to read and, and I think that's like a lot of, a lot of people make the argument, don't try to be clever in your code or, you know, Do the what they call code golf where you're trying to get the same result with the fewest swings.

So like that kind of thing. Um, it's tricky because you want to be you want to be fancy. Sometimes it's fun to to play around with it a little bit. But yeah, if you're working with the team, that's where it becomes really important to not be clever. Just make it work as as well as it can. You know,

[01:05:18] What are you excited about? What's coming up next?

Benjamin: what's your like

Marie: next edge to grow like you've obviously been learning a ton over the years, whether it's on the code side or even like, uh, you know, raising thing.

seed money and all that. It's like, what's the next thing that's maybe around the corner, like something that's lighting you up or something that you want to learn more about next?

Marie Ng: Yeah. So from the life side, I think one of the things I'm working on is, I guess, to be more in touch with how I'm feeling, like sort of emotions.

And I really think a lot of entrepreneurship startups to running your own business, like it's, I feel like so much of it is like a mental game, you know, like, You know, I was talking about the reasons for business fail failings, like money or motivation. And, you know, in the motivation bucket, I think part of that's like meant it's a mental game.

And I know that I have good days and bad days. And it's, it's always to do is like mentally how I'm feeling or emotionally how I'm feeling. So I'm really trying to work on, I don't have any courses that I'm looking at. I I'm, I'm very much like. Want to solve it myself kind of thing. That's good and bad.

Like, I think sometimes I should just, you know, if someone, someone else has already figured it out, they should probably just tell me and I can try. But like, often I like to just try and figure it out myself, but I'm working on that to be more aware of how I'm feeling and not fighting it and just kind of acknowledging it and maybe stopping, like if I'm in a problem I can't solve or just feeling frustrated, like just stopping, that's very hard for me, I just kind of keep wanting to.

Go keep going. So I'm working on that for, from a life sort of personal perspective, um, from a business perspective, our goal is to be, you know, the number one brand when, you know, that people think about when they're trying to, to improve their focus, their attention, managing that. Um, and help people get through their day, like in a calm, productive way.

I think mobile is a huge part of that. Uh, from a distribution perspective, it just makes a lot of sense. Like even if they, even if people end up using the desktop product, I think from a distribution perspective, people just. Go to the app store a lot. And when we had just the desktop product, people would say to us like, Oh, I can't find you in the app store.

Like that's where they went first. They didn't go to just Google on the web. They just went to the app store. So, you know, our goal is to get featured by Apple. Um, and I'm sure we're going to get featured because I just feel like the app store is, they're constantly looking for products to highlight. Like new products.

Uh, so far we've had, I think it's like 88 reviews globally and 4. 9 star average. Which is just, it's so great. Like it's the best feeling for me ever that other people can see the value in it. But Apple will feature products if they're, you know, they have to obviously tick a few boxes, like have good ratings and stuff and be new.

And I think we're different enough from other productivity apps to go, Hey, there's something have to check this out. You know, there's. A fun lummer and it's, it looks different and cute and stuff. So that's kind of like our, our team goal is like, we want to get featured and we think it's going to happen this year.

Uh, and hopefully that gives it a little bit of a, of a boost as well, you know, from a distribution perspective.

[01:08:35] Why Llama?

Benjamin: I have one last question that we didn't really touch on, um, why llama?

Marie Ng: Oh, yeah, good question. Yeah, this is so funny. So, all right, so, um, all right, so it goes back to, it goes back to a trip that I took pre COVID.

I went to Peru, I think it was 2018, I want to say, It was, uh, like a soul searching trip. I went with my best friend, we went to do like Machu Picchu and like a lot of hiking and stuff and just trying to, yeah, just reconnect with ourselves. And as part of that trip, we went to visit this small village, there's about 30 people, and um, these people were like, just, they were so nice.

They had no modern conveniences. They didn't have like running water, uh, they didn't have internet or anything like that, but they had a lot of llamas and they were basically using the llamas, like the, the wool or whatever on their backs to create, um, things to sell. Like they would sell bracelets and, you know, sweaters and stuff.

It was their livelihood. And I just remember, like we had lunch with them and I just remember that, like, these people are so happy, content and calm. Right. And that's, that feeling stuck with me over, you know, the next couple of years. So when I was trying to find a name for the product, I was like, Oh, we're trying to find like a name that to me sort of means something like, yeah, calm and relaxing and just.

content and not stressed, basically. They weren't stressed. Like these folks just had a nice, peaceful kind of life. And so I was like, Oh, Lama, you know, that, that, that trip. So it was called Lama to begin with, not Lama life. And then I couldn't like get the domain lama. com. And so I was like, Oh, what else could this be?

And, um, people started calling it Lama life, like our community started calling it, like they used to say, Oh, I want to live the Lama life. Like they would make these comments. Right. And. They were also, um, people were sending us drawings as well. Like it's so weird. Like, yeah, that's what I mean by there's something different about this product.

Like people sending us drawings of, um, living the llama life and they would draw like some llama. And I'm like, Oh, maybe llama life is a better name because the word life kind of makes you think I'm aspiring to a lifestyle, like a lifestyle of being calm and productive versus just an animal. Um, yeah, so then it changed to LlamaLife and I couldn't get LlamaLife.

com, I had to get LlamaLife. co and I've tried to get the com and this person won't sell it to me. I'll keep emailing them every now and again, but it's LlamaLife. co and I don't think it matters so much once the app, you know, the app gets more traction, but. That's why it's called Llama Life.

Benjamin: Awesome.

That's such a good story. So where can people find out more about you and sign up for Llama Life?

Marie Ng: Um, so you can go to the App Store. It's on iOS at the moment. We are working on Android, so that will be here soon. Um, so yeah, just in the App Store, or they can go to LlamaLife. co, or find me on Twitter. So I'm on Twitter as Llama Life.

At three hour coffee, spelled out three hour coffee. Awesome. Thanks so much for chatting

Benjamin: with us. Thanks so much for

Marie Ng: sharing your story. Cool. Thank you for having me. It was really fun.

Creators and Guests

Benjamin Borowski
Benjamin Borowski
Notion warlock at, Systems at, volunteer firefighter, hacker, DJ
Marie Poulin
Marie Poulin
Taming work/life chaos with Notion • Leading • Online Courses • ADHD • Permaculture
Livin' the Llama Life with Marie Ng
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