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October 15, 2010 / TechFemme

Jessica Mah Does Many Seemingly Impossible Things, Including Making Me Not Hate Accounting

Jessica Mah, co-founder and CEO of inDinero, a web-based financial dashboard that monitors business’ finances automatically, is what most CEOs are not.  Yes, she’s female and that’s unique about her.  But that’s just the beginning.  She has been programming since she was 9.  She graduated high school at 15.  She’s  21 now. This is her 2nd startup – as a teenager, she founded, a website that helped match students with internships.

I had the privilege of speaking with Jessica on the phone and if I didn’t already know her age, I would have guessed she was at least a decade older than she really is.  She’s so well-spoken and confident but not in that canned, for-the-press way.  She’s impressive and articulate in that way that you know you’re talking to someone smart who just gets it – in business and in life.

TechFemme:  You’ve been programming since you were 9 years old.  How did you get started?

Jessica Mah: I was exposed to it by my parents and teachers.  That’s where it starts – in elementary and middle school.  By the time you get to college, the support from women in tech groups is good but it didn’t influence me like my parents and teachers when I was younger.

TF:  What programming language did you learn first?

JM: C and C++, which was hard – you learn so many things in C that you just don’t care about.  I think they teach Java and Python now, which is better.

TF: Agreed! I learned programming in C also and I hated it.  It didn’t seem relevant and I didn’t know what to do with it.  So what is inDinero built in?

JM: We decided to use Ruby on Rails to build it.  We hadn’t used it before but we heard good things about it and thought it would be fun to learn.

TF: Let me get this right.  You decided to build a brand new product in a language you had no prior experience with?

JM: Yeah, we thought it would be fun.  And it was.

Silence while I was pretending to write but was really just sitting there, amazed.

TF:  Where did the idea for inDinero come from?

JM: When I had my other business, there wasn’t any application that helps businesses manage money easily.  They were all hard to use.  Accounting software is difficult and no one wants to do accounting.

TF: So what makes inDinero better than or different from its competitors?

JM: Most of our main competitors are trying to be QuickBooks killers.  They’re all accounting packages.  But no one wants to do accounting. We’re a simple solution software to manage a business’ finances.

TF: What would you recommend as a first step to someone trying to start a tech startup?

JM: Actually build it.  No incorporating, fund-raising, hiring.  Build it first.

TF: You recently graduated from Y-Combinator – Congrats! – What was the most valuable part of your time there?

JM: The connections definitely.

The most wonderful of Jessica’s many shining qualities is that she’s genuinely passionate about inDinero.  The excitement in her voice is unmistakable when describing inDinero’s product roadmap – mobile apps, syncing with other accounting software, improved forecasting to help businesses keep on plan, benchmarking capabilities against similar businesses, etc.  When I told her I’m going to try it for my businesses, she said that she would love my feedback, confirming that she’s determined to make inDinero even more great, through iteration and customer feedback. Which is what you do, if you’re a startup that’s shooting for success.

Although our conversation was generally informal and I felt more like I was talking to a really awesome friend than the Co-Founder/CEO of a company that just got $1M in funding, I got the sense that Jessica Mah can do anything she wants to.

Bonus: She kinda made me feel that way about myself too.

Note: Jessica’s Blog is worth following.  She shares great advice and insight as she lets us follow her tech startup journey.  Click here for one of the best coding for beginners’ posts on the web.

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