Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Mint Guy Aaron Patzer Speaks!

OK, we’ll admit it–we just like the steady and non-hypey persona of Aaron Patzer, whom BoomTown has officially and forever dubbed “Mint Guy.”

mintlogo

While he is not exactly minty fresh–in fact, the founder and CEO of Mint is much more circumspect and cool than any 26-year-old I have met recently–Patzer does stand out in a sea of over-touting Web 2.0 entrepreneurs as someone who might actually have created a business with some substance to it.

Rather than offering dopey widgets that let you throw food at each other or yet another version of a social network or the umpteenth music download-share-compare whatever, Mint feels different.

The free Web-based service is aimed at a younger demographic interested in finding a way to manage money better, in learning about their spending habits, in being alerted to unusual activity and even in saving some cash by finding better rates on things like bank accounts and credit cards.

It might sound crazy in these frothy Web times, but the Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up certainly has the potential to be actually useful and relevant to consumers and has a doesn’t-make-me-scoff-out-loud business plan that focuses on lead generation for sponsors.

Mint now claims 100,000 users since its launch last fall and is expanding its features to allow users to track investments, student loans and mortgages soon too.

Mint has not escaped the bubble, of course, having received about $5 million in funding from Shasta Ventures, First Round Capital and a number of prominent angel investors, such as Ron Conway and former Yahoo exec Geoff Ralston. That’s a lot of money for a company with a lot of possible pitfalls.

While there are a few Web competitors, such as Wesabe, the biggest challenge is that Patzer is taking aim at desktop software packages like Intuit’s Quicken and Microsoft’s Money. The pluses of those solutions is that users feel more secure when financial data lives locally than they might loading it up to the Web.

More significantly, giants like Intuit are moving services online too, as with the recent Quicken Online, which makes for a mighty foe to Mint.

Still, Intuit has been woefully slow online and Patzer is obviously nimbler. And he counters that he is using heavy-duty encryption, as well as a number of methods to keep data anonymous, which make the information safe.

Well, we’ll see how it all turns out, as everyone is going to have to battle security concerns and convince people to trust them with important financial information on the Internet. But, it is clear that it is an interesting space to watch.

And, better still, it is–thank you, thank you–not a food fight.

Here is the video I shot with “Mint Guy” Patzer during lunch this past week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Mint was showing off its service a bit:


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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo