Thursday, October 1, 2009

Data Mining the Demographic

Last week we reported on Intuit's acquisition of personal finance site Now Mint Founder Aaron Patzer is lifting the curtain on a few fantastic new features--for businesses.

The most significant: Mint is now aggregating data from its 1.5 million users and mining it for personal spending trends. To demonstrate the concept, Mint launched its Trends page three weeks ago with some teaser data, like graphs about the decline of the newspaper industry and the most frugal cities in America.


Right now, access to the aggregate data, which is anonymized, is closed to the public. "Eventually, we'll do this for researchers," says Patzer (pictured below), who hopes to create a streamlined for-pay service allowing businesses to mine the spending habits of the Mint demographic. For now, he says, Mint is open to running custom trends research on a case-by-case basis; if you're interested, you can contact him at data[at] to get started.

Patzer's roadmap for the Quicken Desktop product, which will come under his control as Patzer assumes the helm of Intuit's personal finance division, is another boon for small business folks. "Right now, we have four code bases," he says, "Mint, Quicken Online, and Quicken Desktop for Mac and PC. We're trying to get down to one." Coalescing four products into one will mean a drastic re-write, which Patzer says will likely be done in Adobe Air, a light, always-connected desktop environment that runs on Macs, PCs and Linux machines alike.

What's the big deal? Combining those four products will mean losing some long-tail niche features used by hardcore Quicken fans. Since those fans are probably personal financial advisers or part-time tax accountants, Patzer hopes to create a new Quicken version for advanced users. "There's definitely potential for a financial adviser product down the line," he says.

One decision that remains is whether Mint will stay with its backend service provider, Yodlee. Yodlee was recently lambasted by Michael Arrington at TechCrunch for not taking equity in Mint, which he said would switch to Intuit's backend and abandon the $2 million-per-year deal. Both Mint and Yodlee say Arrington is wrong. "It would be highly unusual to ask for equity from any of our customers," said Yodlee SVP Joe Polverari. "And with startups, we'd rather have the money."

Patzer says that the backend switch isn't a foregone conclusion, since it would mean Mint users lose some features. He says the site isn't going to switch to Intuit's backend until it has proven itself comparable to Yodlee, which is considered an industry leader. "When that happens, we'll consider switching," he says. What about his plan to get all the Quicken and Mint products down to one code base? "We may actually leave Quicken running on Intuit and Mint on Yodlee, so we can compare performance between the two," he adds.

The Intuit-Mint deal is expected to close on October 24.

Posted via web from sdn's posterous

1 comment:

  1. Mint CAN NEVER switch its backend to Intuit....I kind of roughly know the coverage between Yodlee and Intuit and the quality of data that each of these can provide!