Week 1: Ask for forgiveness, not permission

During the lecture, Prof. Colin told us to “ask for forgiveness, not permission”, and it struck a chord with me right away.

I had a similar experience during the time at our startup. We wanted to build a service that consolidated transactional data from Vietnamese institutions like banks. To be more concise, it was an financial aggregator.

With stability and security being top priorities, banks naturally refrain from changes. So it’s understandable that most banks don’t provide APIs for third parties to legitimately access bank data. For many banks we talked to, they refused as they didn’t see the need (yet). For a few others, they were enthusiastic to hop on the open API bandwagon (kudos to their startup-like mindset) but unfortunately, their infrastructure was too outdated to open themselves up.

One such case became our case study: a particular bank was in the process of upgrading its core banking system, and agreed to sign the deal when they finished it. That was two years ago. At the time of this writing it appears they’re still working on it.

So we said to ourselves: enough of permission asking, and after reviewing the local laws as well as similar established financial aggregators out there, we decided to just do it™.

And we’re glad we had that decision. The service now supports more than 20 Vietnamese banks and other transactional sources such as Uber and Lazada. Various banks start to contact us and show interest in the service, which they used to be highly skeptical about. We did reach the point of seeking forgiveness, but that’s a story for another time.

Looking back, I never knew we were seeking forgiveness instead of permission. When Prof. Colin said the words, I realized we were actually doing it all along. And thankfully, it’s actually OK to “just do it.”

That might explain why I’m still single.