Lifehacker Story is Live + Progress - $100k App Challenge #7

Lifehacker, Bank Account, EIN, Dashboarding, VAs, and more

Alright, alright. It’s been some time since the last update, but this one is quite juicy and worth the wait. Enjoy.

Lifehacker Update

For a while, I wasn’t sure if the Lifehacker story I mentioned a couple of weeks ago was actually going to happen. Luckily, the reporter reached out to me and the story was indeed published! You can read it here.

While I was emailing the reporter, I threw together the crappiest Webflow landing page for Mealfarm so she could link it in the article. The “Request Access” button redirects to a Typeform that collects some basic information about users. I’m a huge fan of Typeform because of all the integrations you can use. For example, you can set it up so that you get a Slack message every time somebody fills out a form. You can also pass hidden URL parameters (i.e. source=website&userID=123). I use Typeforms all throughout Hashtag Expert and my other apps for feedback, customer support, and bug reporting. Highly recommend checking it out.

So far, I’ve received 31 email signups from the landing page. This was the traffic bounce from the article as well:

So nothing huge, but still kinda cool to see.

WHERE’S MY EIN

I’m still waiting to get my EIN number from Stripe Atlas so that I can open up a bank account. Normally, these come within a few days but because I had such a long freaking company name, Stripe had to fax the form over to the government instead of filling it out digitally. That means it could take months to get the EIN because there are IRS delays from Covid. That’s been a pain in the ass. So maybe there are downsides to having a really long company name—only one way to learn!

While I’m waiting for the EIN, I opened a personal checking account at my bank and am using that as the Mealfarm account. You need to separate out all transactions for each business, so as long as I make a fresh account that is only for Mealfarm, it should be fine. I connected that account to a new Quickbooks instance and boom we’re ready to go. I funded the account with $5000, and am not planning to add more for the duration of the challenge.

The Struggle - Distractions

It’s been almost two weeks since the last post. One issue I’m running into is I feel an obligation to put out really high-quality content. There are now over 200 subscribers to this Substack, including a lot of people whose opinions I really care about. I don’t want to disappoint you all. I’ve been aiming for roughly 1 post per week and I’ve only been writing when I feel like it. The other piece is that in order to have something to write about, I need to work on Mealfarm a lot and the truth is that I haven’t done a ton of work for it recently.

I wouldn’t say it’s a lack of motivation. It’s more that I’ve been tied up worrying about the iOS 14 IDFA issues. If you’ve checked my business dashboard, you’ll see that I’m spending $100k+ a month on ads. I was really panicking about the IDFA changes as they were bound to drastically affect my business. I had absolutely no clue what the fuck was going to happen on iOS 14 release day. I wanted to have my contingency plan ready to go. Now, with the announcement that Apple is delaying the changes, I feel more relaxed.

I’ve also been doing a lot of work on my existing company. I hired and onboarded a product manager via TopTal who will help run the day-to-day development of my 3 other apps. Eventually, I’ll start writing about that company as I have quite a bit to say.

Back to Mealfarm

So, I finished the dashboard for inputting recipes. It became quite complex. Then, I was in this weird spot of not really knowing what to do next. On the one hand, I wanted to start building the backend for the app. On the other hand, I wanted to work on the designs a bit. I was also considering inputting a couple dozen recipes myself so I could test out the system. Being cluelessly pulled in all these directions, I decided to do what I always do when I feel disorganized and overwhelmed—journal. Here’s an important conversation I had with myself:

Anyways, with Mealfarm, what the fuck is the plan. I’m in this weird space. I need to create recipes to test my backend. The user/auth part of the backend isn’t important right now. What I need is my DB to be loaded with recipes so that I can prototype and test the algorithm that will serve meals. That is the core logic of the app. Then I can build out all the other shit really easily. Is that right?


But what I need is like 100 recipes. I can’t really test it properly if I only have 20 recipes. I need about 100 recipes of various different kinds. The recipes right now really don’t even matter. So I shouldn’t waste time curating the recipes just yet. The recipes can be shit right now. It’s possible that the logic of the dashboard or how recipes are stored will change once I start prototyping this algorithm. The data might not be formatted properly.

Ok, so I can make a loom demonstrating how to add a recipe via the dashboard, then make a job listing on upwork under a new account from Mealfarm.

This is how I brainstorm and turn disorganized thoughts into concrete, logical plans.

I Love Loom

So I made a 13-minute Loom demonstrating how to add a recipe via the dashboard. Instead of hiring a virtual assistant, I ended up working with this woman named Mirna who does customer support and some other admin type stuff for my other company, Shakd. I created a separate Upwork account and invited her to the job. I decided to this because after adding some recipes myself, I realized it’s kind of complicated and someone who is a bit more technical would probably do a better job. I’m paying her $18 an hour. Here’s the Loom I recorded for her:

I also realized that sending instructions via Loom is incredibly efficient. I could’ve spent 45 minutes to an hour writing and explaining exactly how to input recipes into the dashboard. Instead, I recorded a simple, unscripted screencast and sent it to her. So much easier. I plan on doing that in the future for all kinds of requirements, maybe even for designs as well.

Over the next few days, she will be adding recipes to the database. I think the logic I laid out in the journaling holds. Basically, I’m trying to figure out the most important aspect of the app first. I could spend some hours building a bulletproof user authentication system, or designing a bad-ass website, but none of that matters now. First, let me figure out the core functionality of the app, get that working, and then build the simpler things. Once my database is properly loaded with all of the sample recipes, I can start prototyping the algorithm that recommends food based on nutrition requirements. It’s very possible that while I’m doing that, I’ll run into a bunch of issues. The data won’t be stored properly or I’ll actually need 500 recipes or whatever. By figuring that piece out first, I think it will save me time down the road.

At least with this sample data, I can toy around and test different methods of choosing meals until I find one that works well. Then, I can start building a backend layer on top of it and figure out how the algorithm fits into the broader application. Finally, once I have an established system for choosing meals, I can meticulously curate a list of recipes for v1 of the app.

More Dashboarding

There seems to be quite a bit of interest in the public dashboard I made for my existing apps. Here are the analytics for that since I moved it over to my personal site zach.so.

I’m quickly becoming obsessed with the idea of building public-facing dashboards. As this challenge continues, I’m trying to think of more things I could make public. Now that I have a bank account created for Mealfarm, I’m working on a dashboard that shows you all my transactions from the bank. Right now there isn’t much to see, but this should get more interesting over time. These are all my expenses so far:

Nothing too crazy. I need to toy around with the Plaid API to see how I can pull this data properly. Then, I want to also expose the Google Drive I’m using to organize everything. Instead of just linking files here and there, I want to have a central repository where you can explore everything, see how I organize things, and just download whatever the hell you want.

Maybe I could even start logging time when I’m working on Mealfarm so you could see literally how many hours I’m working on it and what I’m specifically working on. Then as I work up to the $100,000 in profit hopefully, you can see exactly how many hours of work it took to get there. This all gets me really excited. I just love data so much.


Anyways, this post has gotten pretty long. I’m just thinking out loud at this point. Hope you enjoyed it. If you made it this far, shoot me an email or DM with the text “potato” and your favorite part of the post. Don’t forget to Subscribe so you don’t miss my future posts. I think the next one will very interesting.