Making Personal Finance Effortless, Profitable, and Free

This is part 2 of Mint’s story written by Aaron Patzer, founder and CEO of Mint.com. Read part the first part here.

By trade, I’m an inventor of sorts – or at least I like to think so ;-) . So in March 2006 I quit my day job as a software architect and came up with a (now patent-pending) way to categorize financial transactions with amazing precision (often 95%+ accuracy), just given a text description.

Automatic categorization — that’s our secret sauce. It let’s you see where your money goes. See how much you spend on DVDs, shoes, clothes, or Thai food – without having to put work into the system. That’s great, it’s an essential feature, but how was a startup going to compete selling boxed software against Intuit and Microsoft? I realized we didn’t want to compete with Intuit or Microsoft… we wanted to make a product for everyone else out there.

For starters, it seemed odd to think about “software-in-a-box” locked to single desktop. I mean really, who does that anymore? Easy decision, Mint would be web-based, available anytime and anywhere you make financial decisions.

Okay, what about price? Quicken charges $30-70 depending on the version; and they’re very clever about up-selling – the average purchase price is $54.

But wait a minute; personal finance software ought to help you have more money…somehow it seems wrong to charge for it.

Free is always the best price for consumers – especially if you’re supposed to be helping them do more with their money. So, we decided Mint would be completely free.

Then we realized Mint could go beyond free – it could actually make users money by…more to come.