The Indie Hackers Podcast #86 How to Build a Life You Love by Quitting Everything Else with Lynne Tye of Key Values

Full podcast here.

  • Key Values is two years old. Key Values did 80k in sales last quarter. On track to do $300k-350k revenue this year. No employees. No office. Only a few hundred a month in expenses.

  • Key Values is a site that helps engineers find jobs based on their values. You can filter for things like work/life balance, contributions to open source, no meeting etc. 

  • How does Key Values make money? It’s free for engineers. Companies that want to be listed on Key Values pay a flat fee for the year. 

  • In college, I was laser-focused on being a professor. My entire family is academics. 

  • The path to being a professor was my identity for so long. I wasn’t into it anymore. I was unhappy. I figured the source of my misery: I wasn’t doing something that I loved.

  • Life is way too short to do something you don’t love. If you are miserable every day doing your work, get the fuck out. Quit. Do something else. 

  • I realized I don’t have to do this. No one is making me do this. This isn’t a life that has to live. I dropped out of grad school and had no plan. 

  • She drove for Side Car to make money. And produced EDM concerts. Then backpacked in Asia to do some soul searching. Then she moved back to SF and started working at Home Joy.

  • I loved HomeJoy until I didn’t. I didn’t know what to do after I quit. I traveled more and then decided to learn how to code. 

  • Less than a year after learning how to code Lynne was charging $100 an hour. 

  • The power of code: Went from poor grad student making 30k to making $100 an hour to work from home on whatever projects are interesting. 

  • It’s definitely not stupid to tell everyone you know what you are doing. This helps generate leads. 

  • Why did you start a company? After learning how to code it was the first time in my life making real money. I was addicted to watching the dollar amount grow in my bank account. Then I had an existential crisis. I felt super inspired. I had all this energy and nowhere to put it. 

  • Consulting was a gateway drug to entrepreneurship. You get a taste of the freedom in creating your own little world and setting your own rules.

  • The pain points Key Values solve: Companies make you jump through hoops before you even know about their values. They make you write a cover letter, apply, do a phone screen, you wait a week, you do a site visit, you answer some coding questions, you never even sit down and talk to the people you’ll be working with. I wished there was a resource where I could learn more about what the day to day was like before even committing to a conversation with the company. 

  • Companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire talent: After HomeJoy, I didn’t want to sell to consumers again. It is brutal to not sell to businesses. 

  • At the beginning, I was begging companies to let me add their company to Key Values, for free. They said no. A lot. It was a lot of work. If people are struggling to get started, my answer would be grind. I would email, call, and show up at their office.

  • I launched on Hacker News. I always knew Hacker News would be a distribution channel. I designed Key Values with the Hacker News in mind. There were a lot of questions in the Ask threads wanting to know how to find out more about companies before they joined. 

  • I used side project marketing to get attention for Key Values. It was called Culture Queries. It suggests good questions to ask their interviewers. 

  • Lynne wouldn’t have started Key Values without Indie Hackers: I was convinced the only way to start a company is by pitching investors, hiring a team, and then being under a lot of pressure to grow really fast [The lessons from working at Home Joy]. Indie Hackers showed her there were people everywhere creating smaller, more profitable businesses. 

  • It is important to ask yourself what you want to do? What is your goal? If someone doesn’t share the same goal as you, their advice doesn’t help. 

  • Lynne did YC but didn’t want to raise money. Why were you so confident that you didn’t need to raise money? The math. I don’t have a lot of expenses. I had money saved. I thought I could charge companies soon. Worst-case scenario I would have gone the bank loan / credit card route. 

  • I think the best way to make decisions is doing what energizes me. 

  • Lynne charges $1800 for 6 months or $3000 for a year: My goal was $300k. I figured I could find 100 companies to pay $3,000 easier than finding thousands of customers at a lower price. 100 customers is way less daunting than 1,000 customers.

  • How I think about Key Values: I don’t care about scaling. I found a way to help people and make friends and also get compensated for it. 

  • There is no time to waste doing shit you are not excited about. 

  • What Lynne learned by successfully completing an Ironman race: I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I had injuries and a problem with my knee. And then when I did it I looked back at something I thought was impossible and thought: Let’s do it again! I apply this to Key Values. Nothing is impossible. It is not impossible for me to make $1 million or $10 million a year. It is definitely possible. It is just a question if you want to do that.