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Earlier this week we learned that online money management service Mint was acquired by Intuit for $170 million. Several comments came from Mint users who were leaving the service because they did not want to become part of Intuit.
Another online money management service has opened the doors to former Mint users. MoneyStrands has posted a blog entry discussing the conversion from Mint to MoneyStrands. From the entry, “Upon the announcement of Mint’s pending acquisition by Intuit, we had a number of inquiries from people disappointed in the news and wanting to learn more about alternatives to Mint. It seems a growing number of former Quicken users who have steered away from the tool looking for a free alternative all of a sudden feel that they are being forced to return.”
We’ve seen this type of targeting before, most recently when Jimdo targeted former Geocities users. The MoneyStrands post provides an overview of the service and a checklist including the steps to move from Mint to MoneyStrands.
As the online financial management space continues to heat up, two of the major players have announced redesigns of their financial management portals. Boston-based Geezeo was first up launching their redesign last month. Today Mint has announced their redesign which was needed based on the new features the company has added over the past year. Just like our redesign, it’s important to consider when it’s better to redesign than to just keep adding features on to the current site.
Mint has also started to add more content to the site including how-to guides on reducing credit card debt and paying off student loans. Both Geezeo and Mint have great personal finance blogs. This content is very search engine friendly and should help Mint to drive more visitors to the site and potentially to the Mint service.
Mint currently self-reports over 400,000 customers (no word on active customers).
Geezeo’s new design is in beta and here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:
Mint’s new design is available today to all of their customers:
Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU) has launched their new online product called Quicken Online. Immediately one starts to think of the "new" players in this area which include: SpendView, Mint, Geezeo and Wesabe. There’s certainly room for multiple players in this market, especially as each offers something a bit different. But Intuit can outspend all of them on marketing and will most likely be able to grab the mainstream segment relatively easy.
Quicken Online has a different business model than the competition – free trial then $2.99/month. Most of the competitors are either using some form of advertising or, in Mint’s case, savings proposals based on the data you upload.
If you’ve been reading CenterNetworks for a while, you know that I have issues with all of these sites that require you to give them all of your financial passwords so they can access your system. Wesabe is the only one who offers an upload option so you can decide how much to trust them. Quicken Online faces the same issues as the others as you are required to give them all of your logins and passwords for your financial institutions. Unlike the others, Intuit has a 10 billion dollar market cap and has been creating Quicken for 25 years. Does that change my opinion on it? Perhaps a pinch but still not enough as I’d like. Especially when at the end of the video below they joke that they purchased a verisign security system to make customers feel better. Oh snap, the Verisign logo is gone now – but it’s in the video – what does that mean?
Outside of the data security issues, the application looks like a standard Web application. Think of the most basic Quicken version, and you have it. I would have preferred that they separated it from the rest of the Quicken Web site and given it a fresh look and feel. Right now it feels jammed into the old Quicken site. This is an area that the competition will need to capitalize on. Especially because from what I’ve seen the competition is using "socialness" and most of them are using heavier trending to help you spend less and save more.
To try to hit the early adopter tech set, they created an iPhone app. Actually it’s not iPhone specific, it’s just a mobile version of the site. They do note that this version is only available on the iPhone and not the Blackberry or other mobile devices.
Here are a couple screenshots showing the text functions and the iPhone mobile site:
Yesterday Uncov went after Pownce, claiming that they are a fail and that "even Michael Arrington" can’t help them now after checking out an Alexa chart. In July I wrote that you "should never bring Alexa to a fight". It was true five years ago, it was true in July and it’s true today. Using charts (of any kind) in this Web 2.0 world is silly. Pownce/Twitter both have APIs – even using the tool offsite wouldn’t register on Alexa. This is why I’ve called for new metrics for years now.
Mike picked up the Uncov-bait, and wondered in the story title whether Pownce is headed for the Techcrunch deadpool.
I don’t know founder Leah Culver but I was wondering after reading both posts what some other startups might look like using Alexa. Uncov suggests that "you can look at virtually any Web 2.0 company and see a nearly-identical traffic graph". I would generally agree with that statement. Certainly Pownce has been overshadowed by Twitter based on API and those infected with Twitterdiction. I would suggest that Pownce is more on the lines of Tumblr than Twitter – in fact a marriage between Tumblr and Pownce might be sweet and long-lasting.
I selected Mint as my comparison site for this demo. It’s been written about a variety of times on Techcrunch, Mint won the Techcrunch award and they are now an advertiser on Techcrunch. Mint also has 5.45M funding, Pownce appears to have no funding. Using Uncov’s theory, I believe it’s a good comparison.
Here’s the Alexa comparison chart for both Mint and Pownce. I’ve animated it (5 sec) to show six months and seven days respectively. It’s easy to see that Pownce is ranked higher and slowly trending higher than Mint. So if based on an Alexa chart, Pownce is a fail, is Mint a fail as well?
Yesterday I had a chance to sit down with Wesabe co-founder Marc Hedlund. Marc was in town for today’s portfolio summit at Union Square Ventures. Let’s dispense with the formalities first: Wesabe was not named after the Japanese root vegetable, that’s Wasabi. Marc said the name comes from the spanish language as is a combination of "we" and "you". It’s sexy.
I always look forward to meeting startups and developers for our conversations but this one I was really looking forward to. I have written several times about the other two big startups in the financial space: Mint and Geezeo and being a former accountant, the personal financial space has a tremendous amount of room for growth. My biggest issue with the other two is around security. Geezeo has more features than Mint but I have the same security concerns with both. Unfortunately Mint has some interesting corporate goals and has ignored most of my questions but I am still open to a discussion with them as well.
Now let’s focus on Wesabe. We began by discussing marketing plans and Marc noted that the majority of traffic to Wesabe comes from Google which is stronger over time than a blog post on a top blog because Googlers actually need his product each time vs. a small handful from a blog post. Wesabe has a very strong community.
The founders spent two years interviewing over 1500 people about their spending habits and what they would be looking for in an online tool. Their goal was to build something robust because, "If it’s the same as Quicken, why not just use Quicken?" Wesabe is an online financial management tool. It uses tagging to help organize your charges.
Most of our time together was discussing security. Where Wesabe differs from Mint/Geezeo is that Wesabe allows you to "decide how much to trust Wesabe". What this means is that you have a choice to either plug in your logins or you can upload the exported files from your bank Web site. I like this a lot. Their application for logins also works very differently than the others. It’s a desktop app (or Firefox addon) in which you put your logins into it and after logging in, Wesabe exports the files and then it works the same as if you upload the files yourself. All login info is stored on your desktop pc and not on the remote servers. They have a data bill of rights for their customers.
We spoke about whether they use a middleman to get the data. Wesabe doesn’t; they build their own from the ground up. Both mint and Geezeo use data middlemen. Yodelee is one of the middlemen and Marc noted that when they met with Yodelee, their policy is to retain the user’s data even when the customer deletes the data off the Web site and there are very high data charges associated with Yodelee. I am sure there are benefits for using the data middleman as well.
Wesabe has an open API to allow others to build on what they have created. They are working on adding monetization currently and Marc believes that advertising won’t be one of the options because he wants you to save your money, not spend it on whatever is being advertised. Their business model will never be at odds with their customer focus of helping customers reach their financial goals. You can even speak directly to the CEO every day.
Wesabe began development in December 2005 and launched in November 2006. I asked if it was in Beta and Marc slightly raised his voice and said, "No way we would be in beta, this is your financial data we are working with!" We then spoke about the new beta software on Virgin America and how scary it is to be on a beta airplane but I will save that for another post :)
Lastly we spoke about the community aspect of Wesabe. Wesabe aggregates data from it’s customers anonymously to provide tips and recommendations for it’s members. I wish I had pulled out my camera when Marc explained how this works but it’s pretty interesting. Let’s say that 10 Wesabe customers show charges for a new pizzeria and then the next month there are no charges from that pizzeria, it might be safe to say that the customers didn’t enjoy the experience. Wesabe can help alert others in the same area to previous customer’s reactions. And the same is true in reverse.
All in all, I am most impressed with Wesabe’s ability to allow me to choose how much I want to trust them. All three services mentioned could be the big winner over time and there is plenty of room for all three to do very well. What’s great is each of them is taking a different approach to their product which should provide a good option for each type of person.
Thanks for spending some time with me Marc!
One of the noted strenghts of Mint, the new online money management tool, is to help you create goals with regards to money. Today, Theron Parlin, CTO of Geezeo believes he found what Mint’s corporate goals are. Geezeo and Mint aren’t direct competitors as Geezeo offers a wider variety of services including investment tracking.
Theron has posted on his blog displaying the image below and calling it, "douche baggery". He then continues:
"The founder of Mint and one of his developers decided they wanted to show us at Geezeo that not only do they have terrible taste in hats, but that pettiness and foul language towards a competing company is part of the silicon valley way. I don’t blame them for being upset, after all, with a smaller team and less resources we’ve been able to beat them to the punch in every aspect of what we do. Well, let’s be fair, I wouldn’t create a goal on Mint’s site because they don’t have goals. Come to think of it, they don’t have groups either, or support for investment accounts, or mortgages, or auto loans. "
Mint has received a variety of press since their launch and the big win at Techcrunch40, both positive and negative. On the positive side is TechCrunch authoring a bunch of posts about the service. On the negative side, there are posts including, "Mint thinks I am cheating on my wife".
My feeling about these apps remains the same, I am not comfortable sharing my ultra-sensitive logins with a brand new startup. While both apps talk about their superior security, will they be there for me when someone breaks into my account? And how will say WaMu respond when they find out that I have been accessing my WaMu account using a third-party service. Unfortunately Aaron completely ignored my questions on the TC comments thread about the above and about insurance for liability. I have also read a variety of reports that the savings that Mint recommends are not possible for that person either due to implied savings that Mint doesn’t recognize, location, etc.
Here are my live notes from the Session 5 – Productivity and Web Applications. This post will be considered live until I note it has concluded.
- A new look at your email – effortless integration of your email
- Helps you to expose a hidden social network
- Best way to find an important email
- Fastest way to find an attachment
- seems pretty interesting – i guess it looks like gmail threading but it does it over time
- ties into calendar
- pretty cute presentation
- available for microsoft outlook now
- wrap-up – view threaded conversations, find attachments, use a social network from your email and search email and people
Merges emails from anywhere into one place
They call it a cockpit for inbox
Orgoo lets you record a video message
Not a packaged demo – nice!
Integrates all buddy lists into one from all services
Opens in tabs
You can create a chat room with participants from multiple networks and embed as well
Search chat, im, and email all together in one search
Very impressive I must say
- Build a web app with no knowledge for anyone who has the knowledge level of knowing excel
- Ok, this looks WAY more complicated than they sold it as
- you spend your life working for your money but do you know where your money goes?
- completely free
- completely anonymous
- another one who wants my ((*%)@%) bank account info – who the f are they for me to trust them – trust is earned my friend
- updated daily
- 4 patents they filed for
- all your transactions from all sources in one place
- claims that they are the first to show you spam offers to save you money – geezeo does this now i believe
- mint is so easy to use you will actually use it – from the founder
I am sorry but I couldn’t catch up to review Kerpoof. It’s a cute kids tool. Would be better if it was educational.
Expert Panel Discussion
Esther – before I would fund anything, I would want to know more about their track records. Based on what I saw it would be Xobni. She is an investor in Wesabe but she would use Mint.
Guy – I would absolutely meet with Kerpoof. Xobni is a horrible name.
Roelof – Three of them stand out in my mind. Very impressed with Mint as they execute incredibly well. Impressed with Xobni – I worry about their need for a client.
Mike – I like everyone of these except xobni cuz im a mac guy. Mint did a good job with guerilla marketing.
What are your business models:
Mint – lead generation
Kerpoof – subscriber fees
Xobni – vertical solutions