Happy 2024! 2023 was filled to the brim for me. Second year at Meadow, in which we hired the rest of the first engineering team. We built and launched Meadow’s second product, Meadow Pay, and continued to support Meadow Price, our first product that’s now adopted by almost 50 universities.
2023 was also a logistically intensive year for our family, with our kids going to two different schools and continuing afternoon and weekend activities. Work travel to NYC also picked up.
2023 was the most productive year of my career. After raising our seed round in late 2022, in 2023 we finished hiring the first engineering team. Almost like clockwork, the perfect person showed up at the perfect time again and again, which I’m extremely thankful for. We started the year with 2 engineers and ended the year with 4. Company-wide, we grew from 7 to 11 Meadouins.
In 2023, the biggest execution risk we faced at Meadow was our ability to build Meadow Pay, a student-facing payments product that relies on a complex integration with the school’s SIS. So many potential investors had raised the proverbial eyebrow: can you actually build a payments product that gets its data from decades old on-prem systems? Can you get universities to trust you enough to give you this access? Will it work? Can you get students to pay their school bill on your product?
We now have answers to those questions: yes, yes, yes, and yes. We successfully launched Pay at two universities, where we started with a small cohort of students and expanded to the entire student body. Meadow Pay is now the leading way to pay for school at both instuitutions.
At the same time, Meadow Price expanded to nearly 50 universities by the end of 2023. I’m now convinced that over time Price will become the category-leading NPC in higher education. To get a sense of its growth, Price went from 7k tuition estimates delivered to students by the end of 2022 to over 100k by the end of 2023.
2023 was the year to do more with less. At times my job was to do whatever we needed to make progress, so some days it felt like I was bouncing between devops engineer, DBA, sales engineer, integration specialist, hiring manager and tech lead. I was also heavily involved in the rollout of Pay, meeting weekly with the CIOs of our partner universities.
We got much better at selling to higher-ed in 2023. On the IT side, we laid down the right processes and software controls in place to improve our security posture and increase our partners’ confidence in us. A highlight here was rolling out Okta as our IdP and Jamf as our MDM.
One thing I noticed in 2023 is that there’s something about the education space that I find very compelling. I love meeting with universities, talking about their students, and building software for them. I don’t think I’ve felt this happy about any other industry before.
With so much going on at work, 2023 was also a balancing act between family and work obligations. Our two kiddos are now attending two different schools, with Emily and I handling dropoffs and pickups, in addition to their usual extracurriculars.
On any given morning I’d wake up around 7, feed the kids breakfast and handle the morning routine and school dropoff until around 9:30, when I’d immediately jump online and start answering Slack messages and taking calls. Not a lot of slack in the system, but my mornings with the kids were always the best part of my day.
This year I also started volunteering as a Sunday school teacher for my daughter’s sacramental prep class. Out of all the things I mentioned in this post, this is by far the most difficult thing I’ve done all year. What teachers call “behavior management” in a classroom of 15 first graders is a completely different ball game. I have so much new respect for teachers, especially primary teachers. They should be paid way more than they’re getting paid now.
For our 10 year anniversary, Emily and I went to Paris with my dad and the kids. It’s a special trip because we had originally wanted to go to Paris for our honeymoon back in 2013.
Another important note in the topic of balance: I’m getting better at taking PTO and generally resting when it’s time to rest. Growing up, my parents ran small businesses first in retail and later in hospitality. They didn’t really take time off to go on vacation, which is something I’ve been slowly getting better at as an adult.
Despite the busyness of this year, I managed to read more books and write on this blog more than any other year. In my book recap post I talked about book clubs and Goodreads as habits that contributed to more reading. These are two habits I want to continue in 2024.
In the second half of 2023 I made major strides towards improving my sleep with Withing’s sleep tracking mat, which goes under your mattress. I get a sleep score every night, which I try to keep above 80 on average.
The other major change in my habits is my burgeoning watch life. Before, as I’d go about my day, everything I did came with a “smartphone tax”. After every task, I’d lose at least a few minutes, usually more, to my iPhone.
This also came with a big mindset change for me. For as long as I can remember I used to be a diehard mobile-first Apple fan. These days, that which I used to see as the next iteration of the “bicycle of the mind” I now look at with suspicion. I hope anyone reading this has a better relationship with their mobile computing device, but for me it it used to be nothing short of a loss of personal agency.
This year I also quit Twitter, Reddit and largely minimized my use of Instagram. You can find now on Mastodon now, my preferred social network.
In the past couple of months, I’ve also experimented with waking up earlier. My Apple Watch haptic alarm goes off at 5:15am, and I’m hoping to keep moving that up another half hour in the coming months. In the morning hours, I’ve been reading, writing and exercising, although I usually only have time for two of the three. Starting my day this way makes the rest of the day more peaceful.
For the last couple of years I haven’t been much into resolutions. The things that need to change are so obvious that I just work on them until they get better. At work I’m looking forward to continuing to mature Meadow in 2024 and going out for another round of funding.
I also want to get back to the basic joy of programming. I put nearly every work minute into Meadow in 2023, and in 2024, especially with my expanded morning time, I want to get back into coding just for fun. In particular, I want to devote some time exploring LLMs in 2024.
In 2024 I will need to be even better at balance. I like that I’ve started to take better care of myself, since this seems to be a hard requirement for achieving balance. The next frontier for my health is to improve my VO2 max (the Health app always reminde me of this). Wishing you all a happy new year!