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Interview with the Mint.com about their Money Management App for Android

May 21, 2010 - Written By Mike Corbett

1) Tell Android Fans a Little about Mint/Mint.com

Mint.com is a leading online personal finance software service from Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU), providing more than 3 million users a fresh, easy and intelligent way to manage their money. And it’s free. Launched in September 2007, Mint.com’s innovation is in applying advanced technology to deliver breakthrough ease-of-use. Using patent-pending technology and proprietary algorithms, Mint.com allows users to see all their financial accounts in one place, makes it easy to set and keep to budgets, and helps identify money saving ideas. Mint.com is so effective that more than 90 percent of users say they have changed their financial habits as a result of using the service.

Specifically for the Android, Mint.com users can now access a complete snapshot of their financial picture and manage their finances anytime, anywhere.

2) What got you started developing Android Applications?

I started developing for Android in 2009, when it was clear that supporting the platform was important for our users. Once we got the app to a place that worked across devices in a way that met our high Mint.com standards, we launched it to the Android Market.

3) How did you come up with the idea to develop mint?

Mint was the brainchild of founder Aaron Patzer (now VP and GM of Intuit Personal Finance Group).

Back in 2005, Aaron Patzer was using desktop software to catch up on his personal budgeting, he realized that he was in for an afternoon of tedious accounting-type work: poring over statements, filling in gaps in entries, and categorizing dozens of purchases. All this effort just to get to the answer of one, seemingly simple question: How much did he spend this month? And on what? After a couple of hours, when he couldn’t get that answer (and he holds Masters degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from Princeton and Duke), he started to wonder if there wasn’t a better way. So instead of finishing, he began thinking about building what would become Mint.com. At the beginning, he worked alone in a room 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. He paid his first two employees from his savings, and once he closed my first round of seed funding from First Round Capital, he hired the best people he could find in Biz Dev, Marketing, Engineering and Product design. And now we have over 3 million users and are continuing to grow.

4) Mint is getting recognition, are you surprised by the popularity?

Mint.com is a great free and easy tool for people to manage their finances.  When I initially heard about Mint before it launched 3 years ago, I thought it was a brilliant idea that millions of people would use (myself included).  I think we executed well, and lived up to my expectations.  We still have a long way to go, though.

5) Have you had any trouble with people not trusting info with mint?

When we launched, we knew trust would be a key issue — especially when we were a startup before we tied to the Intuit brand. We’ve taken all the steps to assure people their information is safe: Mint is a read-only site (meaning no money is moved on the site). Mint also has bank-level data security. In addition, our pixel-perfect design helps people feel safe with us. And they are.

Beyond that, most fraud occurs offline- so Mint is an added safeguard – alerting users to unusual spending behavior, etc.

Also, we’ve added device-level security with our mobile apps. The Android application is password-protected and if an Android phone is lost or stolen, users can immediately disable access from the Mint.com website.

6) How did you come up with the name mint?

The name Mint.com was thought up by founder Aaron Patzer and one of his first engineers. Mint.com is short for money intelligence. Important to the company’s success, the name means something, is spelled unambiguously so people can find it. It’s the place where money is made; it’s refreshing and clean.

7) What do you think sets mint apart from other banking/finance apps on the market?

The Mint mobile applications are connected to the site’s robust features, giving on-the-go access to the key features of the site. The application allows users to view real-time account balances, check recent transactions; compare their spending against their monthly budgets, and edit transaction details. Mint.com connects to more than 16,000 financial institutions so people have a one-spot place to see ALL of their finances – in the palm of their hand.

8) There are lots of money management apps on the market, what sets mint apart? What makes mint special/different?

What sets Mint apart is a combination of our ability to connect to 16,000 financial institutions and our detailed focus on product design.

9) Tell us why you Android users would want to pick mint over other google finance, or other such apps in the market?

Mint.com’s android application has very android-specific features including:

· OS Search: Easily search for and find recent transactions, anytime, anywhere.

· Mint.com widget: Access a snapshot of overall cash flow in real-time.

· Android Live folders: Get financial updates on the phone’s home screen without launching the Mint.com application.

Like mentioned before, users will also have access to the key features that have made the Mint.com site and its iPhone application a favorite (along with the above Android-specific features). These features let consumers see real-time account balances, check recent transactions; compare their spending against their monthly budgets, and edit transaction details.

10) What new features can you share with android users that will be coming to mint?

We create new features based on customer demand and if there is a specific feature people would like to see, they can provide feedback and expressing opinions through the Facebook fan page, Twitter, and through a recent integration with GetSatisfaction that takes customer support and feedback to a new level.

Already, as a result from user feedback, Mint has improved:

– Issues with refreshing accounts
– Category updating
– Viewing in landscape mode
– Working with hardware keyboards, including Shape Writer
– Widget viewing in 4×1 area

11) Have you been working on a new version for Android 2.2?
Since we just released our app, we’re currently focused on responding to user issues and feedback in the 1.0 version.  We definitely do have a long list of cool features we’re thinking about for 2.0 version, which we hope to begin working on soon.

12) Are you thinking of doing other apps in the future?

Mint.com relies heavily by customer feedback and if the need and the resources are there, it will become a priority for the Mint.com team. So far the biggest users base has been iPhone and Android, but we are evaluating other platforms as we speak.

13) What do find is the easiest thing about developing for android compared to other Mobile OS’s?

The Android platform was really good to work with overall. The way the platform is set up is logically how things work, so it made it easy when developing. I also appreciated the community support if I ran into an android development problem.  The process of getting the app into the Marketplace was really easy, which enables us to respond to quickly to user feedback.

14) What can be the most frustrating part of developing on the android OS & How does all the different versions of Android OS affect you development of apps??

Prior to creating an app for the Android platform, I had talked to several other developers who had experience with Android and it helped me prepare as to what I should expect when developing on this platform. Overall my experience was good, there are just so many Android devices to test on that it made the development process a little longer.  The interface design tool has room for improvement, too.

15) What would you like to see in future Android OS versions or Changes?

As mentioned, the interface design tool could be greatly improved.

16) What is your opinion on the Android Market? positive and negative?

Overall I had a great experience developing on this platform.  Since apps can be pushed to the Marketplace so quickly, it really tightens the feedback loop between developers and users.  This is a win for everybody, since we can evolve the app quickly and please our users.  That’s a relationship we highly value.

17) What kind of Android Phone do you use personally?
My favorite Android phone is the Nexus One

18) What new phone from Android has you the most excited?
I played with my friend’s Droid Incredible, and that was a slick device.