Aaron Patzer is the CEO and founder of Mint.com, a personal finance site that launched two years ago at TechCrunch40. Last night the news broke that Mint is being acquired for $170 million by Intuit. Patzer has written two previous guest posts for TechCrunch.
Today, exactly two years after launching at TechCrunch40, I’m excited to announce that Mint.com has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by Intuit for about $170m. Intuit, a $10b company (NASDAQ: INTU) is perhaps best known as the maker of Quicken, QuickBooks, and TurboTax.
This is a great opportunity to bring Mint’s technology and easy-to-use personal financial management system to potentially tens of millions of consumers, an eventually small businesses and banking customers as well.
What’s perhaps even more amazing about this opportunity is that we made it to this point just three years after the company started: one year to build, and two years in operation. I doubt this could have happened anywhere but Silicon Valley.
Mint was built in the Silicon Valley way. It started in my apartment, with Matt Snider and Poornima Vijayashanker. We interviewed the first real “professional,” our VP of Engineering, David Michaels in our kitchen.
Our technology was all open source, and essentially all free: MySQL at the bottom, Hibernate to avoid the need to hire a DBA, Tomcat on Apache, Yahoo’s YUI served as the base for our AJAXy goodness.
We didn’t have money for a lawyer, but no fewer than three offered to help us incorporate and accrue $25k in legal fees for a little bit of the company. We shared office space in a type of incubator, renting by the cube to avoid a long-term lease.
We didn’t have money for advertising, so we started a blog. We didn’t have money for writers, so most of our original blog content then was guest posts from other personal finance blogs, plus a couple of columns on people’s worst financial disasters.
To build demand, we started asking for email addresses for our alpha 9 months in advance of launch. Then when we had too many people sign up, we asked people to put a little badge that said “I want Mint” on their blogs to get priority access. We got free advertising and 600 link backs which raised our SEO juice.
When it came time to launch, we choose TechCrunch 40 – why pay $20k for DEMO?
We decided not to do SEM – it’s too easy and too additive. Instead, we relied on press. It’s where I spent 20% of my time. I’m spending it right now while writing this.
The net result has been millions of visitors and 1.5m users essentially for free. Mint is not inherently viral like a social network – but all good things are viral by word of mouth.
And so here we are two years later. We’ve attracted over 1.5 million users, found over $300 million in savings, managed $50 billion in assets, and helped people track nearly $200 billion in purchases. Most importantly, we’ve helped a lot of people better understand and do more with their money. Thousands of people have told us that Mint.com has helped them pay off debt, control their spending, manage job loss, and even resolve money disputes with their significant other.
Expect all of this goodness to increase after the acquisition closes. And yes, expect Mint.com and Quicken Online to remain free.
So that’s the Mint story. $0 to $170m in three years flat. While everyone else was doing social media, music, video or the startup de jour, we tried to ground ourselves in what any business should be doing: solve a real problem for people. Make something that is faster, more efficient, cheaper (in this case free), and innovate on technology or business model to make a healthy revenue stream doing it.
Without the free (for a while) lawyers, free advertising (winning TechCrunch sent us sky high right from the start), and most importantly, people who come to Silicon Valley, we couldn’t have done it in this time frame, if at all.
Here’s to the Mint team, from New Zealand, from France, Tunisia, Armenia, Ukraine, Russia, Canada, Greece, and all over the U.S. I’m proud of you all today, and I’m very happy to live in this Valley.