Female Founder Stories: Jessica Mah, Founder of inDinero (YC S10)

by Y Combinator2/8/2015

inDinero handles accounting and taxes for growing businesses. Instead of needing to hire a bookkeeper and use complicated accounting software, startups (from 2-100 people) are using inDinero as the one-stop-shop for their back office.

Q: What did you do before you started inDinero?
I studied computer science in college and had never had a “real” job before. I didn’t know anything about accounting and taxes before starting inDinero. I started my first business in middle school and grew it to 6-figure revenues before selling off the assets for nearly nothing. My grades were horrible and I actually dropped out of high school to enroll at Simon’s Rock, an early college based in Massachusetts. From there, I transferred to U.C. Berkeley to study computer science.

Q: How did you start inDinero?
I always knew I wanted to start a company one day. I decided to apply to YC after Drew Houston (Dropbox) came to give a talk at U.C. Berkeley to the EE/CS students. On graduation day, I packed up my dorm room and moved straight down to Mountain View to start the summer at YC. We had a very rough prototype and launched a month later.

Q: How did you meet your cofounder?
Andy was my classmate from U.C. Berkeley. We met in discrete mathematics class and worked on side projects and coursework together for two years before starting the company. We are still super close.

Q: What was your YC experience like?
YC was awesome. I think half the value I got from YC came from other graduates. They put me in touch with investors and reporters. They sent me job candidates, gave me advice, and helped me build out my network. My most helpful mentors to this day were introduced through YC alums. We’d have late night dinners with other founders going through challenging times, and we’d talk about how amazing life would be once we overcame our problems. I remember looking forward to YC’s Tuesday dinners and hearing about all the progress the other companies had made that week.

Q: What is the atmosphere like at YC during those 3 months with Demo Day approaching?
The three months before Demo Day were exciting and chaotic. It was a critical time for the company, and I remember everyone working their absolute hardest. I made some of my best friendships during that time, too.

Q: Was being female either an advantage or disadvantage in working on your startup?
Being a woman is a massive advantage. Investors and reporters want to talk to you because you’re an outlier in the tech industry.

Q: Why do you think there are fewer startups with female founders than male ones?
This is a tough one. I think the tides are shifting and we’re about to see a huge jump in female-run startups. The biggest challenge is finding female founders who also have CS backgrounds. There just aren’t that many, and we need to get more women into programming at an early age. I remember being sent to computer camp at age 10. Early immersion makes a big difference.

Q: What do you wish someone had told you when you were 15?
I wish someone told me not to ever get arrogant or cocky with early success. I got caught up in the early press that both my company and I received. Needless to say, the hype did not last for long and I learned a very valuable lesson.

Q: Any other advice?
Startups are hard. Read a lot of books. Meet with CEOs who are further along in building their companies than you are. Write your goals down and review them on a regular basis. And most importantly, try to enjoy the journey. It is going to be a very long and treacherous one.


  • Y Combinator

    Y Combinator created a new model for funding early stage startups. Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($150k) in a large number of startups (recently 200). The startups move to Silicon