The online personal finance service Mint is getting a fresh coat of paint today. It's a good update, clean and attractive. I've been a fan and occasional user of this app since it launched a year ago, so I took this opportunity to talk with Mint CEO Aaron Patzer about what's happened to the product and the company in the last 12 months.
Mint, as you may recall, was the audience winner of the TechCrunch50 event in 2007. That honor carried with it a $50,000 prize, which Mint didn't really need; Mint was already well-funded when it showed up at TechCrunch. (Patzer says the money is sitting in a high-yield savings account, earning interest.) The award did generate press coverage for the company, though, which has helped it grow. Patzer says Mint now has about 400,000 users.
That's small number for a consumer service, but it makes Mint the largest online personal finance service so far. While traditional software giant Intuit has more users of its Quicken software, Mint has more users than the Web version of Quicken (review), or any of the other online personal finance tools like Wesabe and Buxfer, Patzer says.
Patzer believes Mint's No. 1 position is an indicator that he's hit on the right formula for the category. "Mint delivers organized finances without a lot of work," he says. You can set it up in a few minutes and do what you need to do in it in five minutes a week, and "put your finances on autopilot." I concur: Mint provides useful insight and requires very little maintenance.
Mint's different design has made it popular with a different set of users than what Quicken has. Mint's users are younger than Quicken's, and 40 percent of its new users are women. Quicken and Microsoft Money are still "85 percent men," Patzer said.
But Mint's user base is, "1/100th its potential size," Patzer says. Patzer has the Quicken app in his sights. The old-school app is vulnerable, he says. "For many years, they viewed success in the wrong metric." He believes Intuit focused on getting users to spend time in the app, and thus layered in more and more features over the years. Mint, by contrast, is being built to get users out of it as quickly as possible. Plus, he says, Intuit abuses its customers with "sunset policies" on Quicken that force paid upgrades onto users.
Quicken, even the online version, never made "the transition to free," which appears to surprise Patzer. "They have all this information," he said. "They should have been able to help people." … Read more