How to Build a Life You Love by Quitting Everything Else with Lynne Tye of Key Values

Episode #086

After spending years pursuing a career in science, Lynne Tye (@lynnetye) shocked her family and colleagues by dropping out of grad school. Thus began a months-long journey of discovery and experimentation that eventually saw her managing 150 people at a high-profile tech startup. But when Lynne realized the fast-paced startup lifestyle was not for her, she quit that, too, and began her search all over again. In this episode, Lynne shares the story behind how she took her career into her own hands, learned to code, and started a business doing what she loves.

  1. 23

    I'm really impressed that a key part of Lynne's story is quitting. I'm not implying she is a "quitter", but one of the mantras of indie hackers and entrepreneurs is to stick with it. It sounds like Lynne worked hard when it came time for that, but also was quick to leave something when she realized it was not what she wanted. It's an impressive trait, but also fascinating that it's a big part of her story and a big part of leading her to start Key Values. All of this might be stating the obvious after you listen to the interview, but I wanted to comment that it was helpful to hear.

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      Back in my research days, "being good at quitting" was something I heard people talk about a lot. It's easy to devote years of your life to a project w/o it ever panning out, and knowing when to quit an experiment seemed to be a quality that most successful scientists had. Entrepreneurship is incredibly similar, yet we rarely hear founders talk about quitting in the same way.

      What's really important to understand is that giving up and quitting are two very different things. You can't give up when the going gets tough, but if something (or someone) no longer serves you, you should quit. Quit bad habits. Quit toxic relationships. Quit jobs you hate. If you ask me, people in general should quit more often and quit much earlier – there's no glory in staying unhappy the longest! (And you know what, I'd be proud to be known as someone who is not just a "quitter," but a good quitter. 😉)

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        Thx @lynnetye, invaluable perspective. Thx for sharing your story. I've already recommended keyvalues.com to our company 👍

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          👣👣👣 (those are happy feet)

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        I totally agree with you Lynne.
        "Giving up quitting" is just another thing then what you are talking about. I am actually 3 years in a leading position, where I got somehow from Senior Product Manager to a Trouble Shooter Position as Head of Software Production. So now I am doing exactly what was the reason to left previous position. I fight now over 1.5 years to change some points but I see, that in this constellation it is just impossible. So it's time to move. ( btw, if somebody is looking for a Remote CTO or similar ;- have a look and pint me https://www.linkedin.com/in/stefanwuthrich/ )

        Other point is, quality of quitting. Probably in US this is a bit different, as companies also kick you out without big feelings. But for me quality of quitting, at least in key roles, is to go out "organized and painless" for both sides.

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      Or maybe a better way to put it is that she did not quit moving forward toward the things she wanted to.

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      "Fail fast" doesn't apply only to products :)

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      This comment was deleted 2 years ago.

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    Thanks @lynnetye for this amazing episode!!
    I showed Key Values to a coworker and he said "that site is super simple, I could do that in a weekend", to which I replied "well, she made 300k last year" - his face was priceless lol
    Of course, that is the usual answer of many engineers. But I know that you have put tons of hard work behind it, mostly in sales and keeping up the quality of the content. It's great because you play to your strengths and enjoy your work! I loved the episode not only for your experiences that gave me so many ideas, but also for the contagious energy that you give. Kudos and keep rocking 🙌

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      100%. This reminds me of this comment that Court made on HN a few weeks ago.

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        I loved that Keyvalues stayed at the top of that HN thread!
        I knew your site from the original Show HN but didn't know that you had made it that far, and that led me to discover this great eposide.

        I find your story very inspiring. More people should know about it, that's why I put your post on the landing page of my AskHN newsletter as example of great discoveries from HN.
        At the company I work at we are not currently hiring, but once we decide to grow more I will definitely put HR in contact with you to list us in Keyvalues :)

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          Thanks for sharing it in your AskHN newsletter! That's awesome that you do that. How does one subscribe to it?

          And yes! It'd be awesome to find a way to work together once your company starts hiring software developers. 🙌 Thanks for the kind words, support, and good vibes, Oriol! ❤️

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            You can subscribe here: https://askhndigest.com/
            I launched not long ago so my userbase is still very small, but every new potential subscriber will see Keyvalues in the landing page so I hope it can bring you some traffic in the near future!

            And I'll let you know regarding being featured in Keyvalues when the timing is right, you got a fan here ^_^

  3. 4

    My Main Takeaways:

    • Lynne is a first time founder with Key Values, she’s been working on it for about 2 years and is already making more money than she was as a developer.

    • Courtland was obsessed with startups and coding in college, he would be coding at parties.

    • Key Values is a company that helps people find companies based on their values.

    • Get to know the real you: Lynne studied neuroscience at college, and she wanted to be a professor. But deep down she didn’t really want to do this, she was just following her older sister who was a professor-at-MIT’s footsteps.

    • Put your ego aside and make it work: Lynne dropped out of Grad School, had no plans and only a small amount of money, so she became a taxi driver for a bit.

    • Lynne met lots of people while she worked as a taxi driver.

    • Lynne went backpacking across South-East Asia for a few months for soul-searching.

    • Go out, meet people, get noticed: When she came back from her travels in South-East Asia she got a job as a Manager at Homejoy, a cleaning company tech startup (paying ~$65,000 a year). She got this job through people that saw her at an event she had attended.

    • Lynne ended up leaving Homejoy after disagreeing with the direction of the company.

    • Homejoy eventually failed.

    • After quitting working at Homejoy, Lynne went to Machu Picchu to do more back-packing and soul-searching.

    • Lynne learned to code through a dev bootcamp, but she quit after realising it wasn’t worth it. So she decided to learn to code from Courtland. She went to his house every day and he taught her.

    • Leverage your network: Lynne went from not knowing how to code, to getting various work-from-home contract developer gigs. To do this, she reached out to her network and let everybody know she was available for developer gigs. Her first few contracts were through her network.

    • Get paid to learn: When getting started with contract developer gigs, she started charging $30/hour “to get paid to learn and build a portfolio”.

    • Never be afraid to ask for more: Lynne started charging $100 an hour by accident. She mentioned in passing that she had previously charged $100 an hour ONCE to a recruiter, and the recruiter negotiated this rate for her. Ever since that contract, ALL her future contracts were at least $100/hour.

    • Work on open-source: Courtland would get contract gigs by creating cool open-source projects that people would end up finding him through, and asking him if he could build it for their company.

    • Lynne always had a strong affinity for startups, she was never interested in working at the Google’s and Facebook's of the world.

    • Don’t work at startups for a high salary.

    • Your idea doesn’t need to be 100% new

    • Lead with value: When trying to sell someone on something, lead with the value you will bring to that person.

    • In the beginning you will have to grind, hustle, and persist. Get through all the “No’s”.

    • Lynne launched Key Values on Hacker News, Indie Hackers, and Product Hunt. But then she experienced the “Trough of Sorrow” (Search it online).

    • Key Value’s marketing channels: Content Marketing, Side-project Marketing (side project: Culture Queries).

    • Lynne didn’t know that it was possible to Bootstrap until she saw content on Indie Hackers.

    • Lynne was hesitant to go to Y Combinator because she didn’t believe in external investors investing in her business after her bad experience working at a startup that eventually failed (Homejoy).

    • Lynne didn’t enjoy Y Combinator much, she didn’t find it very productive for herself. She felt overwhelmed with the amount of advice being given. She described her time there as a “thrashing”.

    • Lynne left Y Combinator before demo-day, because she didn’t want to get funding, and she had enough money saved to work on Key Values with no income for 2 years.

    • The goal of Y Combinator is to go to demo-day and fund raise.

    • Charge from the beginning: Lynne says that it’s really hard to charge people for something that they’ve been getting for free.

    • Price testing: Throw out numbers, and if people say yes too quickly to a number, raise it.

    • Say a bigger number, you can always decrease it

    • Leverage discounting: If you give them a discount, ask for something non-monetary in exchange, like a case study or review or something.

    • Worth-of-mouth: Engineers recommend Key Values to their employers.

    • Ask for help!!!: Lynne is very good at asking for help, it’s like she has a lot of mini co-founders who are great in their respective fields giving her excellent advice, despite the fact she’s really a solo-founder. Courtland says asking for help is his weakness, but he has been inspired by Lynne to ask for help more often.

    • Reach out and surround yourself with excellent people.

    • Fight for your freedom: Lynne went from doing as she was told (Getting A+’s in school), to doing what she WANTS to do, HOW she wants to do it.

    • Advice for beginners: Be good at asking for SPECIFIC advice.

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    I am totally a lurker, but this episode pushed me to create an Indie Hackers account specifically to say thank you, Lynne, for sharing your story, and for all of the advice you managed to fit into the one episode. Stories like yours are so motivating for someone like me who has learned to code later than most and who is in the process of starting their first on-the-side application.

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      YES!!! Lurk no more! I lurked for soooo long and definitely wish I hadn't. You should share what you're working on in the IH community and get feedback, even if it's just from one or two people. And if you @me when you do post, I promise to comment. 🙌

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        Haha thanks for the push! I am currently in the process of getting my thoughts on paper so I can start doing some research to see if anyone else is feeling the same pain points as I am. I'll be sure to reach out when I have something coherent to share :D

  5. 3

    This was a brilliant episode. I really enjoyed this.

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    Great episode @lynnetye and @csallen. Can’t believe what a boss you were getting contract work after only a few months. #respect

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    Been following the KeyValues story for a while and was very excited for this episode. It's filled with tons of knowledge and interesting experiences. Loved the synergy between Courtland and Lynne. Easily my favorite podcast episode.

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    Loved everything about this one (including the fact you decided to run long with the episode). Lynne's energy and passion are inspiring. Both you guys are awesome. I hope you do a catch-up episode together in a year or so.

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      That'd be fun! If @csallen is down, I'd love to do a catch up in a year. 😜

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    One of my favorite episodes. Would love more lifestyle business case studies like this one

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    "Let's start a bakery together!"
    I love the excitement, I can relate.

    Biggest take away: it energized me to do more sales calls, more exploratory conversations.

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      SO MUCH YES TO DOING MORE SALES!!! If there were only one takeaway from my longggg ass conversation w/ Court, I would be thrilled for it to be that one. Talk to the people who will use your product and definitely talk to the people who will be (or already are) paying you for it. 🙌

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    I think I will have to listen to this episode multiple times over long period of my time because I relate to a lot of things that she broke through which I couldn't yet and they contains lots of wisdom and good examples. I'm sending big applause to her journey.

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      So glad that my story is so relatable! Thanks for listening and welcome to IH (saw that you joined recently 🤗).

  12. 2

    incredibly helpful story! thanks for sharing!

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      You are most welcome! Thanks for listening 🤗

  13. 2

    Great interview, thank you for sharing! I listened to it at 1.5x-2x, which I think is the appropriate speed to ensure full immersion in SF startup culture (you guys made me feel like I was hanging out in SOMA all over again - I forgot what it was like to not associate the word "python" with reptiles)

    The part about talking to everyone before building: so important, and worth repeating over and over. Forgot on which site/forum I read this, but one successful (bootstrapped) founder's advice to technical folks was: cut off your fingers. Just because you can code it, doesn't mean you should (at least not yet). Talk to everyone first. Meet them. In that sense, NOT knowing how to code becomes an "advantage" early on.

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      I've definitely felt like not being the strongest developer has worked to my advantage (not always though... 😂).

      Also, I'm impressed you could listen to it at 1.5x-2x the speed. People constantly complain that I talk too fast, as if I'm talking at 1.5x-2x the speed haha

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    Really inspiring, thanks for sharing your story.

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    This was the best podcast IMO hands down. Great chemistry, guest, topic everything.

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    I am really impressed by this podcast. @lynnetye basically fullfilled my dream. I created a job board in the past. But it didn't took off. Mainly because i missed the most crucial part: Understanding the customer. I built a career-changer job board, tooked me 8 month, career-changer loved it...then i called companies to get jobs..turns out they didn't thought this was valuable."Career changer are desperate" paying to list your job was pointless. That was my learning. Really valuable stuff in this podcast. Thank you!

  17. 2

    I love the energy in this podcast, it was really fun to listen to. It was also great to listen to someone who is in the same position as I am right now that wants to start a business and started to learn to code on their own. I also think Key Values is a great business idea. Lots of good information, thanks again!

  18. 2

    My favourite podcast so far (I've listened to 90% of all IH podcasts, I believe). Lots of inspiration and energy. Great story too.

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      This means so much!!! ❤️

      What are your other favorite episodes? I got really behind at some point and have at least two dozen to catch up on myself. 🙈 (Sorry Court if you happen to see this!)

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        #075 with Joel Hooks.
        #065 with Nat Eliason
        #034 with Mike Carson
        #028 with Wes Bos
        #025 with Mubashar Iqbal
        #020 with Scott Keyes
        #012 with Tyler Tringas
        #002 with Chris Chen (where I heard about IH)

        I'm not a developer but I enjoyed #078 with Evan You

        Going down the list made me realise I should re-listen to some of these episodes

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          THAT'S BECAUSE JOEL HOOKS IS THE SHIT 😍 Mike Carson's was also super inspiring to me. I remember listening to it on a run and having to walk for a bit because I had to pay closer attention.

          Thanks for compiling this list. 🙌 There are a few I haven't listened to yet and will soon.

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    I remember the first time I saw key values in hacker news I was like "damn this is really an EXCELLENT name", the only time I recall having this impression was with whatsapp.

    The name, the logo and the design is great. Nice getting to know that key values is running smoothly. Congrats!

  20. 2

    Awesome, inspiring episode!

    I wonder if @lynnetye would be willing to share how she does her initial sales emails that get people on the phone? What's the right way to approach so that people share their time and explain their real problems?

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      The day I launched Key Values (September 5th, 2017) was like flipping a switch: I went from doing all outbound outreach to getting all inbound. I'd say 99% of my customers were inbound leads. It's a lot easier to get people on the phone when they were the ones to reach out to you first.

      If I got to go back in time though, back when I was doing outbound, I'd spend longer customizing my outbound emails and only send them to the people who were feeling the pain points firsthand. In my case, that'd mean doing more research about each company (i.e. how many roles are they hiring for? what other recruiting platforms are they using?) and reaching out to the internal tech recruiters or engineering managers who are in the trenches doing the sourcing/recruiting/hiring. My emails would be concise, have a clear CTA (i.e. "schedule 15 minutes with me here"), and clearly outline the value props based on my research about where that company is.

  21. 1

    This is such an inspiring story. Like Lynne, I"ve gone through a tech accelerator and realized that's not the kind of company I wanted to build. It's taken some time to work out how I really want to live, which is pretty close to what Lynne's doing. So thank you @lynnetye!

  22. 1

    Hello @lynnetye Thank you for amazing interview.. congrats on KeyValues .. is KeyValues for Designers coming soon? :) got many designers friends who would love it...

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    I think this is my favourite podcast yet - I'm about 5-in :)

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    @csallen, thanks for this interview. I'd like to suggest that for those interviews where it's relevant you spend some time asking people for the specifics of the technology they learned or used in their product. For instance, in this podcast there are lots of questions about "how did you decide to learn to code?", "how did you learn to code?", "how long did it take you to learn to code?", "how scary is it to learn to code?", etc., but it's never clear what "learn to code" actually means in Lynne's case. A friend of mine who is considering learning to code listened to this podcast and asked me what I thought Lynne actually needed to know to make keyvalues.com, and (without wappalyzer) I really didn't know how to answer. What back end tech did she use? What front-end tech? Those are very relevant to understanding what it means to learn to code and create this website.

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      Good points, will do!

  25. 1

    Fascinating, I had no idea keyvalues actually made any money. What I don't get is why the filters on their website is an OR rather than an AND filter.

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      Because I don't have enough companies for AND logic to provide a good user experience. Some day I will though!

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        Lol. I manage a directory (not jobs) and have the exact same reason for not doing AND.

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          It just makes sense!

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        What about selecting several values and sorting companies based on how many they match?

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          ... that's what it does.

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            Ohhh whoa, thanks for making me feel stupid. I see it now, didn't hover on the individual companies haha. 👍

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              Sorry! I didn't mean for the ellipses to make you feel stupid. It means it's not obvious to everyone and I should improve the design. It's another todo on my (very, very long) list... 🙈

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