If you are a software entrepreneur, or really any tech startup, you may be interested in this analysis of the failure of Wesabe, a consumer finance web application that was once a competitor to Mint.
It is an older post, but the founder details many of the challenges they faced and refutes some of the assumptions people have made. For example, many said Mint was better designed which was a huge factor. He agrees design is important, but argues, “Design matters a huge amount, without question, and Mint’s design was exceptional, but if other, stronger forms of lock-in are in place first, design alone can’t win a market, nor can it keep a market.”
He says two major factors cause their demise: First, they didn’t work with Yodlee in the beginning, a service that pulls the consumers data from their bank accounts.
“Second, Mint focused on making the user do almost no work at all, by automatically editing and categorizing their data, reducing the number of fields in their signup form, and giving them immediate gratification as soon as they possibly could; we completely sucked at all of that. Instead, I prioritized trying to build tools that would eventually help people change their financial behavior for the better, which I believed required people to more closely work with and understand their data. My goals may have been (okay, were) noble, but in the end we didn’t help the people I wanted to since the product failed. I was focused on trying to make the usability of editing data as easy and functional as it could be; Mint was focused on making it so you never had to do that at all. Their approach completely kicked our approach’s ass. (To be defensive for just a moment, their data accuracy – how well they automatically edited – was really low, and anyone who looked deeply into their data at Mint, especially in the beginning, was shocked at how inaccurate it was. The point, though, is hardly anyone seems to have looked.)”