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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.
Earlier today we reported on Strands’ launch of their new social aggregation service. After creating a diversion at the Strands offices, I was able to grab 10 beta keys. If you’d like one, send in a request – the first 10 get them so be quick.
Don’t take one unless you actually plan to use it!
Strands is announcing the launch of a new private beta today. The new service seems similar to Valley-darling FriendFeed but takes the good part of FF one step further. Strands is offering a service that not only aggregates your friends social profiles, but also offers "tastes". The "tastes" are recommendations for other content based on the content you like from your friends. I’ve written many times about how important discovery is for Web sites and blogs and now Strands is pushing discovery into individuals lifestreams.
Strands is also focusing on Data Portability with this new service. They note, "Without inventing new or proprietary technologies, we will identify and encapsulate taste-related data and enable the users who own it to take it with them. We will leverage into existing efforts including OpenID, OAuth, and APML-style representations for our relative preferences of all types and not just our attention preferences. Users will be able to take their taste profiles with them to other websites that are prepared to be taste profile consumers."
There’s a desktop application (shown below) that displays your friends activities in real-time. The application also records what you are doing and sends the information to your friends streams. So if you are listening to the Beatles in iTunes, it will let your friends know which song you are currently listening too. Better be careful before you pull up that naughty Web site you like to visit every day!
Last month we interviewed Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarria from Strands about their business and their acquisition of Expensr. Today Strands is announcing another acquisition — this time it’s NetworthIQ. NetworthIQ will become part of the moneyStrands application which is currently in private beta. No financial details were provided regarding the acquisition.
Gabriel defines moneyStrands as, "moneyStrands is an online money management solution that allows users to aggregate their online financial information in one place, providing them with an instant snapshot of all their finances. It provides users with the best personalized recommendations possible, helping them find new ways to save money and invest."
Mark Hendrickson believes that the acquisitions were made more for the human capital than the actual technology.
Earlier today Strands announced the acquisition of Expensr and the creation of moneyStrands. I had the opportunity to sit down with Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarria, VP Communications to learn more about what Strands offers and about why they acquired Expensr. Our chat transcript is below.
Allen: Can we start with a brief bio about yourself?
Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarria: I am VP Communications at Strands, my background is in communications and business development, founder of a digital manufacturing company (Saktec Robotics). Strands was founded by Francisco J Martin, a European Scientific entrepreneur. PhD in Computer Science, his interests are Sequence analysis and distributed systems. He is the founder and former CEO of Isoco, Intelligent Software Components.
Allen: What is Strands and where did the idea come from?
Gabriel: Strands is a developer of social recommendation technologies to help people discover new products and services. That is our mission and where we dedicate all of our resources. The idea of a need for a new of generation of recommender systems came from Francisco playing with iTunes at the end of 2003, and from 2 facts:
- already then, it was difficult to decide what to buy, there was already too much content to choose from. Francisco realized that the need for help to discover things we might like, would only increase, not only in the media space but in general.
- Francisco saw iTunes playcounts… and realized that existing recommender systems do not recommend based on actual behavior and how it evolves, but based on purchases, ratings, or expert decisions, which don’t reflect people’s real tastes. So, there was a need for a recommender system that would understand people’s evolving tastes, and would recommend based on understanding.
We devote of our time and energy to making web personalization more universal. In this regard, we strongly believe data portability and taste sharing will be very important for personalization… and we are working on that space. Identifying and summarizing people’s preferences, encapsulating them and allowing people to take their tastes with them from one place to another is one of our goals. Some of our thoughts are covered in this article.
Allen: Can you briefly describe each of the services that make up Strands?
Gabriel: Strands applies its recommendation technologies to 3 areas:
1.- business solutions: Strands helps people find content in our client’s sites: http://bizsolutions.strands.com/ It does not make any sense that online retailers show the same content to you that to me… when we have different tastes which we -in most occasions – have already expressed.
2.- social media: we will soon launch services to help people discover things they might like, based on their online behavior, and will also help them make sense of all their dispersed social media activities. We announce yesterday a cool music player for mobile devices, with discovery, community and taste sharing.
3.- personal finance: We just announced moneyStrands. moneyStrands is an online money management solution that allows users to aggregate their online financial information in one place, providing them with an instant snapshot of all their finances. It provides users with the best personalized recommendations possible, helping them find new ways to save money and invest.
Allen: What’s the team like at Strands?
Gabriel: The team is made up of 150 people.
- Strong technology team focused on the recommender engine. They’ll take any excuse to correlate items. If they have any reason to believe that two items go together, that’s useful information.
- 3 teams for each of the 3 areas (b2b with its sales team, social media, personal finance)
- strong mobile team
- 60% of the team in the US; 40% Europe
Allen: Have you raised funding? If so, how much and from who?
Strands has raised $55M in funding, $49M of which were raised in 2007. The 2 largest investors are: one of the world’s largest retail banks, BBVA; and the owner of a media group, Antonio Asensio. Also a VC firm (Debaeque) and the team.
Allen: How are you marketing the services?
Gabriel: B2B: The solution has been designed to require very little integration and set-up time, so clients can start providing personalized recommendations in just a question of hours. We have a sales team dedicated to that. Social media and personal finance: we are now in product development mode.
Allen: How are you monetizing Strands?
Gabriel: Most of 2007 $12M sales came from licensing the technology. We license the technology as a service to small and large players. Advertising is a very small fraction.
Allen: Who are your competitors?
Gabriel: There are lots of companies trying to solve the overload problem, which is great for the user!! In fact, one of these days we should publish some of our research reports with a list of all the players… Obviously there are different levels of development, but we do see there is more funding coming to this area. Some of the funded companies are here: http://blog.strands.com/2008/04/02/loomia-raises-5/
Allen: Why did you decide to acquire Expensr? What made the service attractive?
Gabriel: Expensr brings an good understanding of the online personal finance space, and has created a loyal following among young professionals, without any marketing… just viral growth. They have been pioneers in the online personal finance space.
Allen: What’s the Web market like in Spain? What’s hot in the area?
Gabriel: I guess the biggest difference between Europe and the US is the use of the mobile web. I don’t have the last numbers, but while mobile penetration here in the US is aprox 70%, in most of the European countries is above 100%, in some cases it gets to 115%. In Spain and Europe in general, the mobile is part of the online experience, although nothing compared to Asia:). As for the hottest web property, I guess it is Facebook, sorry not to have a more original response!
Thanks for your time Gabriel!