Personal finance startup Mint.com is growing fast: Founder and CEO Aaron Patzer tells Bloomberg the company more than doubled its revenue in Q1 over the prior quarter. But to grow sales tenfold this year, the company will need more revenue streams than just referring customers to financial services.
One idea: Selling anonymous financial information, Patzer tells Bloomberg.
“If Mint has a record of everything people have spent in the past and the record of what they want to spend in the future, that’s a pretty damn good position to be in,” Patzer, 28, said in a May 6 interview. Mint doesn’t track the identities of its users, so there’s no danger of personal data being revealed, he said.
As consumers cope with the recession by cutting spending, new information could help Wall Street traders, ad agencies and buyout firms find pockets of growth. Mint.com, with detailed spending information from about 1.1 million users, aims to open a window into the sales of specific companies and industries.
That means competing with larger players like MasterCard. And there’s risk that people will shy away from Mint if they’re worried about privacy. But that’s probably overblown.
Earlier this year, we calculated that Mint could finish the year with more than $10 million of sales. Patzer didn’t provide any updated financial details to Bloomberg.
Update: Mint founder Patzer clarifies that this is not selling your transaction details, which it refuses to do. But it’s about “using anonymous aggregate data to create spending indices,” which Mint has been doing since it launched. Now, it’s thinking about licensing its “consumer discretionary spending ‘index’ to whomever would like to know whether spending is going up or down in a given category, geography, or nationally.”
Here’s Patzer’s whole comment, via email:
As you know, we have a long standing policy that our user’s data is theirs, and is not for sale. We’ve actually been offered significant dollars on a number of occasions for access to Mint’s transaction level data, from people who are interested in knowing, for example, the correlation between a Whole Foods shopper and say frequency of premium coffee purchases. Despite being able to even that kind of analysis in a way that is entirely anonymous and preserves all user privacy, we have not, and do not plan to allow that kind of transaction level access to our data.
Instead, what Bloomberg reported on is using anonymous aggregate data to create spending indices. This is not new news. We have been doing this since we launched, first in our SpendSpace feature which shows users, for example, how much they spend on “Coffee” vs. the average Mint user in their area. We have also used the data in press such as “The Economy According to Mint” http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/01/30/the-economy-according-to-mint/ and a WSJ article by Jane Kim on bank fees.
Often, the media and traders alike use backward looking government data on consumer spending. Mint, by contrast, has near real-time information that people can use to see where the economy is heading. Just as Dow Jones licenses their index to the world, we’ve been thinking about licensing our consumer discretionary spending “index” to whomever would like to know whether spending is going up or down in a given category, geography, or nationally.
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