Office Hours: I'm the founder of Saga, an app for families to save memories in their voices (just featured in NYT!). I previously worked in product at Udacity and Goodreads and in marketing at Optimizely.Featured

Hi everyone! Iโ€™m Amelia Lin, founder of Saga Voice Journal (, a venture-backed startup building an app for families to save memories in their voices...and we just got featured in the New York Times Sunday paper this morning! :D Prior to founding Saga Voice Journal, I was a product manager at Udacity, worked in product at Goodreads, and was an early team member in marketing at Optimizely. I started Saga to save my own mom and dadโ€™s stories.I have a bachelorโ€™s degree in physics from Harvard and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Ask me anything about the founder journey, building for families, the future of audio, building product, and more!(P.S. We're hiring!
Thanks so much for joining us @itsamelia!Elphas โ€“ please ask @itsamelia your questions before Friday, April 30th. @itsamelia may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพโž•
Hi Amelia, when did you know it was the right time to leave your full time job to pursue Saga and how did you find the courage to do so?
Iโ€™m curious about this as well. And congratulations on developing an incredible product. I have lost both of my parents in the last few years and the thing I regret most is not capturing their voices via audio in a way that my kids could access for years to come.
Wow. Thank you for sharing this @AllisonGB that is incredibly moving and means so much to me. I started Saga for my own mom and dad so that really resonates with me.
I don't think I did know it was the right time, to be honest! I had considered it, and I made a list of all the reasons why I would or wouldn't do it. Then I went through all the reasons why I was scared to do it, and forced myself to really evaluate whether they were as scary as I thought they were, and realized they were not. For example, the idea of giving up a salary was scary. But then I looked at my savings and calculated out my personal runway, and I realized I did have control and could make a plan. This was sort of a conversation in my head over the course of about 6 months.Once I'd gone through my list of pros and cons, I was pretty convinced I should do it, and that my concerns had been addressed. I'm definitely someone where when I make up my mind that a decision is right, I'm convinced. So, even though I'd considered it for months, once I came to the decision I made the leap within days. I'm not saying that's what I recommend to others - honestly, probably it would have been much more prudent to stay working on Saga part time for as long as I could, and I would probably give that advice to my past self now! I don't know that I *needed* to pull the trigger as quickly as I did. But, that is how I made the decision at the time.
Hi @itsamelia thank you for joining us this week! Really appreciate it :-)I am genuinely curious what prompted you to start Saga and what's the market like?
Thank you @iynna! Saga comes from a super personal place for me - I started it for my own mom and dad. They used to share these absolutely incredible stories about their lives in China with my and my sister when we were growing up, and I always wanted them saved for my own kids one day. :) But when I searched for what was already out there, I didn't find something already in the market that seemed to satisfy quite what I wanted - a way to save and share memories for posterity that was easy, fun, and that my family could use even while apart.
Thanks for sharing your experience! What is one "lesson learned" moment in your journey that you're willing to share for others that may be thinking about their own entrepreneurial dreams?
Thanks for doing the AMA! How did you decide to go from physics to developing apps, and what was the greatest value of business school for you in becoming a founder?
Ha! Yes, if you'd told me when I was a freshman in physics that I was going to end up going to business school or making apps, I would have thought you were crazy. :)Honestly, I've just always liked making things, and I followed my curiosity and passion. The thing I loved about working in research labs when I studied physics was the same thing that drew me to startups - I like working on, and building, new things. So while that jump career-wise from physics into tech startups sounds a bit odd, it's actually the same thing that excited me about both. But what I love about working at startups is how quickly something can become real - in research it can be 20 years before your work becomes something real people could use. But at Saga, we might have an idea in the morning and it could be live by the afternoon. That's incredible to me. So I have a bit of an odd path, but I've always followed where my curiosity and passion leads me, and so far I've not regretted it.What I had hoped I'd get out of business school at Harvard, and what I got out of business school, were different! I had hoped I would get some good tactical hands on best practices that I could bring back to any startup I was working at, and I also wanted to meet a wide range of people and perspectives to learn from them. I didn't get as much tactical as I would have liked - the MBA program, at the time I was there, focused more on strategy and discussion, so I sort of customized my curriculum to better match my goals there. I did meet an amazing group of people who came from backgrounds entirely different from mine who I know I can tap anytime for perspectives - that part did happen. And I got some things that I wasn't expecting: The network, especially when I needed to navigate fundraising for our team, was incredibly valuable as a first time founder.
Hi Amelia! Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm curious, how quickly did you build your MVP after coming up with your idea for Saga Voice Journal? And once you had the MVP, how quickly did you launch your beta? I have an idea for a product, but I'm not sure what a realistic timeline looks like. Thank you!
Very quickly. Within 2 weeks I was booking calls with people to try and interview them about their personal stories and record them. I'm a believer in the idea that you can test a helluva lot about an idea before you ever write any code, and you should if you can, because you can experiment much faster that way too. The beta was essentially immediate. There was no code written and there basically wasn't for the next 6 months.I think people talk themselves into "it'll take me 6 months to build a product to try out my startup idea" - but it's a false limitation. There are many ways to start validating ideas and you don't have to be technical. Go try and describe the product to someone. Put up a fake landing page with an email signup for a waitlist. Run some ads, see if people click through. See if someone will pre-pay for it and actually give you cash. Fake the product Wizard-of-Oz style. Just get started learning. :)
Thank you, @itsamelia! I love this concept and am excited to check out the Saga app as well. Can you talk about your user research process? How did you validate the need for Saga? How did the user research transform or influence the original concept, if at all?
Thank you so much Olivia!! You can download it here (currently iOS only): this question. We did a lot of testing at the beginning even before we wrote any code, and the actual product has transformed hugely, though the mission has not.Saga started out as a service, for example, not an app - the idea was that we'd create books about the lives of family members. We started by literally calling people, and interviewing them, ourselves over the phone. It was extremely manual, but we learned a lot this way and could iterate very quickly! For example, we learned that people would ask us for the voice recordings, not just the transcripts, of the interviews - and that was one of our first clues into voice being compelling. We also tested all sorts of different imaginary pricing, with the litmus test being that we wanted to prove to ourselves whether we could get to a product that was good enough that people would pay for it. When strangers started paying for Saga, inviting others, and telling friends and family about it, that was when we knew we were on to something.
I'd love to know what you anticipate in terms of trends in audio in the next 5-10-25 years.
I think we're definitely seeing a renaissance in voice audio, not least driven by the fact that wireless earbuds are fast becoming ubiquitous, not to mention podcasting and advances in transcription technology.For a long time, we've been stuck with some pretty primitive ways of communicating, and sharing, voice audio. For private conversations, it's been the phone call, which hasn't changed much for decades. For public broadcasts, it's been radio. Think about the 10 million ways we have to save photos and videos. Think of all the ways we have to save and share music. Now go search for "save voicemail" ( How bizarre is it that in 2021, we're trying to figure out how to save voicemails on our phones? How can that be the best we can do? It's like somehow voice audio got skipped over like the middle child.The ubiquity of hardware like smartphones + wireless earbuds, and tech advances like automated transcription, is part of what's driving the trends we're seeing now, it's why innovation around voice audio is exploding. Now, voice audio can be captured and shared anywhere more easily than ever before. Now, data that was unstructured can be transcribed, and made into useful and searchable data, in ways that were not possible before. Now, the idea of listening to voice audio routinely from our phones is normal, because of podcasts.In these next few year's we will be seeing voice audio approached as its own media form in its own right, no longer overlooked - we're already seeing that ecosystem explode now in social audio. There will be new ways to live, play, work in voice audio. And many new opportunities to do the things we've always done as humans, but in more complete ways. We have a million ways to save and share family photos. But what about the stories, the memories behind them? That's what we're tackling at Saga.
@itsamelia thanks for sharing your experience. From a marketing perspective, how have you found a way to convince consumers to use Saga, given the VC belief that it's harder to sell a "vitamin" product than a "painkiller"?
Great question. We find that there are life events that add urgency to why people start using Saga, like birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, births, and also in some sad but true cases, a member of the family who has a limited life expectancy. All of those things bring Saga out of "just another social app" to "this is something I really need for my family now" - the loss aversion you feel of memories potentially being lost forever is strong, and is part of why I created Saga for my own parents, too.
This app would be very helpful to indigenous people that pass their culture by telling stories to newer generations. I am curious about the validation process and also on the demographics decision.
Thank you so much @lcavalcanti! Honestly a lot of it was pretty selfish :) I started Saga for my own mom and dad. As a daughter of Chinese immigrants I absolutely wanted to make sure their personal stories, and journeys, and culture, would be saved for my own kids one day. That really was my motivation behind the why, and the demographics decision to build for families, because I wanted to build for my own.We did a lot of trial and error for sure, to validate. Essentially we iterated without code until we got to the point where we were seeing strangers pay us - that was the benchmark we had for ourselves that we were providing something that was valuable enough to people to be real. A little more on that in this thread:
@itsamelia Hi Amelia, congratulations on your start up! I am also a PM and would love to know your experiences of being a none technical founder and your process of finding your first engineer.
Hey there @ershovamaria! I'm a big believer that you can do a lot of work to validate an idea without having to write any code (see: so, I encourage you to not be afraid of being a non-technical founder. :)Re first engineer - at the beginning, it was coworkers, friends and people I knew who were helping me out of their free time because they believed in me, and the mission of Saga, and we'd built things together before. The goodwill and relationships I'd built up over the years working at previous companies all ended up really coming back then. When we raised, we were then able to bring on a full time team.
Hi Amelia, wow this sounds like an interesting way to start a startup without being an engineer. I agree validation can be done pretty well without coding! I will keep this in mind and good luck to you !
Good luck to you as well! I'd love to hear what you're working on :) or future ideas when you get there
I just want to say, thank you. We keep photos of our loved ones, but we forget their voices. My family had the opportunity to take videos of my grandfather telling his stories before he passed and those are cherished memories. So please know you are making a huge impact on people's lives. Thank you <3
Thank you so much @AmberSass that's really kind of you!! I'm honored to hear that. Thank you so much for these words.
Thank you everyone who sent me questions, I had so much fun answering these!! Just posted a part 2 to this AMA: