An Interview with CEO Aaron Patzer from Mint.com
Mint CEO Aaron Patzer of Mint.com who thinks of himself as an inventor first, an engineer second and an entrepreneur third. Prior to founding Mint, he was an architect and technical lead for the San Jose division of Nascentric.
Patzer also worked for IBM developing patents for Playstation 3. Patzer holds Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University and a bachelors degree in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering from Duke University. Patzer has currently 10 patents filed or pending under his name.
CEO’s Personal Need Led to Business Venture
Like many entrepreneurs Patzer’s venture began with a personal need. In 2005, while using Quicken to catch up on his personal budgeting, Patzer realized that he was “in for an afternoon of tedious accounting-type work.” He found himself mulling over statements, filling in gaps in entries, and categorizing dozens of purchases. “All this effort just to get to the answer of one, seemingly simple question: How much did I spend this month?” Patzer says “And on what? After a couple of hours, when I couldn’t get that answer, I wondered if there wasn’t a better way.”
Instead of finishing his Quicken update that day, Patzer began thinking about building what would become Mint.com. “I paid my first two employees from my savings, and once I closed my first round of seed funding from First Round Capital, I hired the best people I could find in business development, marketing, engineering and product design. Knowing we were building a great product that would help millions of people kept me going.”
Mint’s Rapid Success Story
Patzer explains his company’s rapid success with the team’s premise that money is for living. “We have created the simplest and most effective way to manage money. We had a great story to tell, and an active press campaign to make sure we were delivering our message far and wide. As the need for personal finance management became more important across the country we provided an easy way to manage finances.”
Mint has risen to a leadership position in the personal finance space. Patzer admits that Mint’s weakness, however, was not having the resources to do all he wanted to. This has changed since Intuit acquired the company last November.
He was asked how Mint makes money. “Mint makes money when its users make money,” Patzer replied. “If a user acts on one of Mint’s personalized savings recommendations, they sometimes earn a nominal fee. But you can always count on Mint to give unbiased advice on the ‘Ways to Save’ page, as recommendations are ranked by algorithms, based on each user’s individual spending.”
Challenges Facing a Young CEO
Young CEO Patzer has much to be proud of. In a matter of a few years he launched a market leading product and was acquired by a major software company, every young entrepreneurs dream. But with it comes responsibility and challenges. Prioritizing development is one of them. “We are committed to top quality,” he says, “and there is endless opportunity in this space.”
The recent Intuit puts additional demands on Patzer. “We’ve merged with a former competitor and now oversee a broader set of products, with multiple code bases, and varied histories.. Mint is currently providing over 2 million users with an “easy and intelligent way to manage their money. When marketing Mint to a wider audience Patzer admits that “some people are still not comfortable uploading their financial information online.”
But Patzer emphasize that “it is even more important than ever that people understand their money and spending habits.” He states that the company tracks nearly $200 billion in transactions and $50 billion in assets. Mint has identified more than $300 million in potential savings for users. “People should manage their finances regardless of the economic situation, but with the instability, more people are turning to personal finance management tools like Mint and Quicken. Literally every time the market crashed, we’d see a record traffic day.”
The Future of Mint
Patzer was asked about the future of Mint. Some experts may argue that Patzer sold out too soon. But in line with Patzer’s vision “Intuit will help Mint scale faster. Mint had about 30 employees and with the added resources and larger team that Intuit offers, we will be able to develop the product faster and eventually expand into international markets.”
In the coming months, Mint will launch an Android application. Additionally, the site plans to launch a “Goals” page, assisting users to plan for the future while understanding how everyday spending affects long term goals. Patzer has his work cut out for him but he left the interview with some final inspiration for emerging entrepreneurs “Solve a problem. When I founded Mint there were a ton of startups in the social networking space. I found something that was a real problem for me, and I knew for millions of others and I solved it.”