Mint.com Alternative - My New Personal Finance Tool - Thoughts?


#21

These are all things I’m working through now. This is being built from the ground up with security in mind. Following best practices for modern encryption algorithms and high secure one way hashing algorithms. If you have guidance in this area I’d love to hear it!


#22

The screenshots look great, the benefits are well portrayed. I also think its awesome that you’ve taken the time and effort to build this out.
I think any actual security aspects you’ve already worked through, or will do so soon enough. This is the easy part.

It’s more so the perception of privacy and security that may be a bigger problem to solve. For instance:

  • All the security in the world can’t prevent hackers. However, highlighting the steps taken to keep the information secure on the site will help.
  • Are you using Yodlee or similar for integration with banks etc or storing the data locally (and encrypted as you mentioned)? If its the former, highlight that.
  • Personally, I use Personal Capital for my investments and Mint.com for tracking my spending - because I don’t want a single institution to have all my data - especially if they get hacked. Privacy is a concern (I’m slowly turning into a luddite but you get the picture).
  • What’s in it for you? As that’ll tell me what you’ll do (or not do) with my data. With Personal Capital, I know the catch and its easy for me to ignore their prompts to speak with an adviser.

Again, I think there’s an obvious need for your product. My main feedback from 18 yrs of building applications for other people is that its easy to build (as you can control it) but tougher to get people to adopt and start using it. Overcome that and you’ll be golden.

Good luck!


#23

I added my email to your list for when the product is ready and have gotten 4 automated emails saying the same thing in the first hour. I would recommend looking into that.

Looks like a good product you are building!


#24

OUCH! Thanks for the heads up! I’ll look into it. I just used Wix for the simple landing page… haven’t been too impressed with them yet. This makes my opinion even lower.

Thanks again.

–Colby


#25

Well done for scratching your own itch, highly commendable.

A few traps for young players to watch out for:

As Steve mentioned the insurance thing is important, are you licensed/qualified to be providing personalised “real-time advice”? If not then you’ll need appropriate disclaimers to save you from people blaming you if they follow your suggestions and don’t like the outcomes.

The legal thing is important to get right for a couple of reasons. First off you want to be able to distance your own finances from what happens with the product, so run it through a company or similar to prevent you personally getting sued or whatever.

Secondly Exact is a pretty common usage word. A quick trademark search returned nearly 1,000 registered US trademarks containing the word. Chances are pretty good some of them will be software or finance related. Any of those could be a patent/trademark troll that decides to opportunistically sue you for infringing their trademark, or hit you with a cease and desist to stop using “their” name. They mightn’t be in the right, but chances are you couldn’t afford to defend the action either way. If that happens now it would be inconvenient, if it happens in 12-18 months time when you’ve paid out a bunch of money to build your brand and advertise then it would really ruin your day.

You’ll have some privacy and data protection obligations to meet, these will vary by the markets you operate in. For example as soon as you sign up European folks like Divnomics and Lars-Christian you would become subject to the European GDPR regulations that come into effect next May, exposing yourself to fines of up to 4% of your global turnover each time you suffer a data protection breach. Today that might be the price of a happy meal, but in a couple of years time when your product is wildly successful it could be quite a big number.

In summary: seek professional advice on the legals front.

Position your product for what it stands for, what it does, not as a clone of some other product that you have personally found wanting.

Tell your target audience why they should entrust you with their (very) sensitive internet banking/brokerage login details. If the likes of LinkedIn, Target and Yahoo can’t keep their customer’s details safe from hackers or opportunists then why are you any better?

Finally figure out why you’re doing this long term. If it is really “100% free” and you’re not intending to sell your list to financial advisors “You own your email, not us. You have our anti-spam email promise.” or include advertising (the thing you hated about a competing product), then how are you planning to cover your AWS hosting costs + insurance + not to mention the value of your own time and effort?


#26

Hey workingoptional, thanks for checking out the site and for your thoughts. I am using Yodlee for the integrations – account aggregation, bill pay, and their new(er) money movement api. This should offset a lot of the security risk but I get that there are still issues. Especially with perception.

When I started this, I never intended to make money with it, but given the costs associated with Yodlee, and even more so with AWS, I need to figure out a way to have some cash coming in. My plan right now is to still give the tool away for free, but to show personalized offers to users when it makes sense. I’ve attached a screen shot here with what I’m thinking. If the offer is personalized to me, and makes sense, I’m fine with it. Where Mint kills me is when the offers that are irrelevant. Clearly this requires partnerships with other financial institutions, etc… something that takes time, so for now I just want to focus on creating an awesome product and figure out the money piece later.

What are your thoughts on business model? Yodlee can run $10k per mo to $10k per year depending on usage. AWS averages out to about 0.30/user/per year.


#27

Hey Slow_Dad, I can’t thank you enough for the advice on the legal side. This is something I’ve been putting off. I do hold my Series 65 license and I am a Registered Investment Advisor registered in MA and NH. My thought is to make Exact Finance (if the name sticks) an RIA like Personal Capital has done.

It pains me to answer your last question, but I’m slowly realizing that its not cheap to build this given the requirements on third-party tech. My thought right now is to curate personalize offers for users when it makes sense to do so. I just posted an example above of a user with an auto loan with an interest rate that exceeds what is currently available in the market. For me, I wouldn’t mind getting this offer, if I truly qualified for it and it saved me money. Its the non-personalized Mint offers that I can’t stand (e.g., open a high-yield savings account).

What do you think? I really don’t want to charge a monthly fee.

–Colby


#28

There are a few different ways to interpret this:

  1. affiliate commissions for plugging credit cards/personal loans/mortgages to punters, similar to a comparison shopping website

  2. referral kick backs to a third party service provider, like a mortgage broker or bank or financial planning outfit

  3. a genuine tailored pre-qualified individual recommendation based on the information you have access to.

No. 3 sounds closest to what you’re describing, but it would be a huge job to keep it up to date given the ever changing mix of products, qualification criteria, and so on. Your hard won credibility would be reliant on this being done well, as it would be a key differentiator. Gets into murky territory though, again you would be providing personalised advice without having done all the “know your client” stuff to ensure it was relevant/appropriate.

No. 2 would still potentially add value to your users, farming them off to professional advisors in return for a kick back or trailing commission. However that is essentially what Personal Capital do.

No 1 isn’t much different to Mint.com.


#29

3.) is what I’m trying for. In terms of user information I’ll have a bunch – age, income, address (for tax reasons and product availability), how the user files taxes (single, married, etc.), employee benefits available (and employer matching information), monthly expenses (stated and via API), existing balance, interest rate, min payment information across all linked accounts, and the user’s stated goals. I think that’s enough client info to generate pretty specific recommendations. Like you said tho, keeping up with a changing mix of products and underwriting criteria will be tough.


#30

@sitwhoadie I think Yodlee is well-known enough that you should mention it on your landing page - it’ll appease some concerns and add credibility.

I also agree that you need to make money - if it wasn’t apparent, I’d be more hesitant to give you my info.

I think there’s nothing wrong in offering specific recommendations and getting compensated for them in some way. You may have to start with one model (say affiliate for the products you would recommend anyway) and gravitate towards a different one based on how well it works. There’s only so many ways to make money.

My only recommendation at this point is to call it a MVP and launch it. Start marketing it, get feedback and then keep iterating with enhancements and new features. Whatever you do, don’t wait for the product to be ‘perfect’ before launching it.


#31

The website is pretty clear and easy to scan. And the product looks good and has an extensive set of features. Future projections is pretty cool.

I’m really impressed you took on building the recommendation algorithms with so many variables. Those take a lot of work to design.

On the topic of security, if you decide to seek out an even higher level of security, look into the model used by apps like 1password. The encryption and decryption is only done on the user’s computer by the user so you’re only storing their encrypted data, not the keys to decrypt it. The user keeps that key and if they lose it, there’s nothing you (or a hacker) can do to retrieve the key or their data. It’s a tradeoff: the user gets more security but also more responsibility.

Why don’t you want to charge a monthly fee? What you’ve built is quite valuable.


#32

I’ll check those out. Thanks for the lead.

I think all business models are on the table for now – I’m going to launch it free and see what happens. The coding continues…


#33

Thanks for the advice. I’m talking with Yodlee tomorrow and will ask if I can use their name on my site. Currently, I only have access to their Dev environment so I’m not yet a paying customer.

The plan is to launch at the end of August to the people that sign-up for the beta. Get feedback, refine, repeat.


#34

Hey slow_dad, where did you conduct the trademark search? Using the USPO search tool?


#35

yes


#36

Personal capital blows mint out of the water, hoping you’re comparing yourself against the MANY sites that already do this.


#37

My offering has a few features - what do you mean by “this”? I see the personal finance advice component of my offering being the differentiator. Account aggregation, bill pay, etc. are necessitates for any PFM app.

For what I need out of a tool, I agree with you – Personal Capital is much better than Mint.


#38

How’d your conversation with Yodlee go? How open and receptive were they to you as a startup using their toolset?


#39

The conversation went well. Yes, they are very open to us as a startup. I’m still assessing other vendors - Quovo, Plaid - and will be making a decision in a week or so. All have offerings and pricing models that make it easy for a small company to get started.