Tag Archives: VC money

Federated Media raises huge round of funding – $50M

 In a period full with launch of new ad networks and deals about such Federated Media has raised a huge amount of money – $50 million in a C round led by Oak Investment Partners and Omidyar Network as a returning investor from their first round. The rumor has it the company has turned down a $100M buy out offer some time ago and apparently they have chosen to go through the investors’ road. The pre-money valuation for this road is rumored to be in the $200M range, which off $22M in revenues the company is brining in per year is not that overvalued at all. The company claims to be reaching a collective audience of over 50M people in US per month, which is an impressive number, yet those eye bolls are under the control of the web publishers and they may leave, together with their visitors, any time they do not like what are being paid for bringing them in. The company’s current investment comes on top of $7.5M previously taken. Federated Media claims profitability reached in September 2007.

Oak Investment Partners is actually buying out a minority stake for their $50M and this is not really a typical funding deal as it turns out.

“Federated Media has a proven, profitable business model with some of the industry’s most knowledgeable people at the helm,” said Fred Harman, general partner at Oak, who will be joining the FM board of directors. “The company has shown clear leadership in the emerging conversational media ecosystem. FM represents some of the best publisher and advertiser content on the Web, and with productive industry relationships, the company is poised to do amazing things going forward.”

With expertise in custom, integrated conversational marketing campaigns, FM has developed deep and long-term relationships with leading brand marketers and advertising agencies. Over the last three years, the company has expanded beyond its technology roots into verticals including parenting, business & marketing, media & entertainment, video gaming, graphics arts, automotive and more.

“We’ve been an early and avid supporter of Federated’s model,” said Casey Jones, vice president of marketing at Dell. “We look forward to continuing our work with the company as it expands its business.”

FM’s full portfolio of digital media brands includes web favorites such as Boing Boing, Ars Technica, Ask A Ninja, Digg, Dooce, Confessions of a Pioneer Woman and NOTCOT, as well as social networking applications including Graffiti Wall (in Facebook, Hi5, MySpace and other social networks), Watercooler (in Facebook, Bebo and others) and many more. FM is expanding its portfolio and has just this year brought on diverse sites such as Silicon Alley Insider, Destructoid and Buzzine. FM also manages sponsorship programs for a roster of events such as the twice-annual Conversational Marketing Summit and Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival.

“FM and Oak are a great match,” said Chris Albinson, co-founder and managing director of Panorama Capital, an early investor and board member at FM. “Oak will add great value to FM’s board, and we look forward to working with Fred and his team.”

FM generates revenue for its partner sites and event organizers through integrated sponsorships, advertising and other marketing services for global brands and their advertising agencies. Recent examples of premium brand-building programs include BMW’s 1-Series drawing contest, which invited Facebook members to custom paint BMW models using Graffiti’s digital illustrating tools, and the co-publishing and promotion partnership with American Express around their OPEN Forum blog for small business owners.

“We’re proud to bring Oak on board as major investor,” said John Battelle, founder and CEO of Federated Media. “The Oak team understands the media business and has relationships within the media and Internet industries that will benefit FM with insights from Silicon Valley as well.

More about Federated Media (FM)

Founded in 2005, FM represents more than 125 conversational media entrepreneurs who run more than 150 of the world’s most respected websites, blogs, and social networking applications. The company became profitable in the third quarter of 2007.

Federated Media (FM) is an advertisement serving company that works with many of the top blogs on the web. It acts as a middle man that connects medium sized websites/companies with large and small advertisers. FM is essentially an ad aggregator for companies that are too small to have direct relationships with big advertisers yet big enough to demand higher rates than available on services such as Google’s Adsense. It can distribute ads to numerous blogs helping advertisers and ad publishers avoid an overwhelming amount of business relationships.

FM does banner as well as text advertising on a CPM (cost per impression) basis. Pricing varies per blog property and can reach upwards of $30 per thousand impressions.

Founder is John Battelle

John Battelle is an entrepreneur, journalist, professor, and author who has founded or co-founded businesses, magazines and websites. Formerly a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, Battelle, 42, is also a founder and Executive Producer of the Web 2.0 conferences and “band manager” with BoingBoing.net. Previously, Battelle was founder, Chairman, and CEO of Standard Media International (SMI), publisher of The Industry Standard and TheStandard.com. Prior to founding The Standard, Battelle was a co-founding editor of Wired magazine and Wired Ventures. Before Wired, Battelle worked at the Los Angeles Times and MacWeek, a unit of Ziff Davis. John is currently CEO and Chairman of Federated Media.

In 2005-6, Battelle wrote The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture (Penguin/Portfolio), an international bestseller published in 26 languages. He maintains Searchblog, a daily site covering the intersection of media, technology and the internet at www.battellemedia.com.

Battelle was a founding Board member of the Online Publishers Association and sits on the board of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, as well as the Board of his children’s school.

Battelle has been named a “Global Leader for Tomorrow” and “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He was a finalist in the “Entrepreneur of the Year” competition by Ernst & Young and has recently been named an “Innovator,” one of ten best marketers in the business, by Advertising Age and one the the “Most Important People on The Web” by PCWorld. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Investors include Omidyar Network, New York Times, Mitchell Kapor, Andrew Anker, Mike Homer, Tim O’Reilly, JP Morgan and Oak Investment Partners, which has given the money for their last and biggest round to date.

More about Oak Investment Partners

Oak Investment Partners is a multi-stage venture capital firm with a total of $8.4 billion in committed capital. The primary investment focus is on high growth opportunities in Internet/new media, communications, information technology, financial services information technology, healthcare services and consumer retail. Over a 28-year history, Oak has achieved a strong track record as a stage-independent investor funding more than 450 companies at key points in their lifecycle. Oak has been involved in the formation of companies, funded spinouts of operating divisions and technology assets, and provided growth equity to mid- and late-stage private businesses and to public companies through PIPE investments.

The space is very crowded and among other competitors Technorati is one of the companies holding greater chance for turning its fairly popular online brand into an ad network for blogs

More

http://federatedmedia.net/
http://www.federatedmedia.net/press/2008/04/federated_media_receives_inves.php
http://www.oakvc.com/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/federatedmedia
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/04/15/federated-medias-50-million-c-round-confirmed%e2%80%94no-plans-to-buy-up-blog-partners/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/21/federated-medias-battelle-slams-rival-hints-at-investing-in-publishers/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/21/federated-medias-battelle-slams-rival-hints-at-investing-in-publishers/
http://www.crunchbase.com/person/john-battelle
http://web2innovations.com/money/2008/03/02/technorati-is-rumored-to-be-in-preparation-of-blogger-ad-network/

Jivox, yet another video ad network, has raised $2.7M

The funding was led by Opus Capital and also includes investments from individual investors including Jivox founder Diaz Nesamoney. The funds will be used to continue development of the Jivox online video advertising platform, as well as to expand the company’s sales and marketing efforts. No other names of private investors are publicly disclosed.

Jivox is a web-based video advertising service enabling businesses to better communicate their products and services to a micro-targeted audience in a more customized, relevant way than most traditional mass advertising methods, and internet banners and search engines. Jivox is headquartered in San Mateo, California with offices in Bangalore and Delhi in India.

Jivox in a way looks similar to SpotRunner with their pre-made ads for the TV and cable networks, but is being said to be way cheaper than them.

There’s absolutely no cost associated with creating your ads with Jivox AdSlate. Once you create the ad you like to air, then you set your daily, weekly or monthly ad budget. There are no minimums on the budget you set. Just purchase the amount of highly targeted ad inventory as your budget allows rather than the large block purchases required for most video advertising today. You can change your budget at any time.

Jivox AdSlate will optimize your advertising spend by negotiating the lowest cost possible to air your ads with Jivox Video Network Partner sites and maximize your exposure. Jivox will automatically match your ads with the audience that is most likely to respond favorably to your campaign. The cost of airing your ads is typically between $10-$40 range for each 1000 views (CPM).

“To date, video advertising has only been accessible to the large brand advertisers due to the high costs of production and placement on TV. The explosive growth in online video content is creating an opportunity for mid-sized and local businesses to harness the power of the internet to reach consumers. Jivox is enabling mass adoption of an advertising medium that is much more engaging and effective than search and display advertising due to its visual impact,” said Diaz Nesamoney, founder and CEO of Jivox. “We’re very pleased that Opus Capital and our other investors also see the enormous potential of opening up this market to smaller advertisers.”

“By making online video advertising a possibility for more advertisers, Jivox will accelerate broader adoption of the medium,” said Gill Cogan, general partner, Opus Capital. “As an early investor in Informatica and Celequest, we have had a strong long-term relationship with Diaz, and I’ve seen first-hand how he has been able to turn an idea into a product, and then evolve the product to stay one step ahead of the changing needs of the market. We are looking forward to supporting Diaz and the Jivox team as they build Jivox into a successful business.”

The market

Video advertising is promising to be huge opportunity online and the sector is extremely competitive with new players entering every couple of weeks. Venture capitals also do think the online video advertising holds the chances to be the next big thing on Internet to bring billions of revenues in and are pouring big money into start-ups with the hope they come up to the groundbreaking technology that might shake the sector and make them the huge ROI.   

No matter what standard for video ads the sector might adopt – pre-roll ads, mid-roll adspost-roll ads, watermark ads, viral ads or overlay ads, the undisputed leader remains Google’s YouTube with its huge number of eyeballs. That’s why the smaller players are focusing not on the reach but on different approaches and technologies to more effectively serve, track and measure these video ads. The video ads are in their infancy on Web and there is plenty of room for innovation and growth and all those small start-up companies hold their good chances for success.

Some companies, as we know them, include BlackArrow, BrightRoll, XillianTVPodaddies, VMIX and MeeVee. BrightRoll video ad network itself has raises $5 Million while VMIX, yet another video network company has also raised a whopping amount of money $16.5M to expand its business. Other video advertising players include Revver, VideoEgg’s TheEggNetwork, ScanScout, Adap.tv, AdBrite’s InVideo platform, BroadRamp and Blinkx.

eMarketer predicts online video advertising to nearly double in 2008 to $1.3 billion, but no one’s really nailed a scalable ad platform for video. However, Google’s been quietly testing their own system and there are a bunch of other startups tackling it as well.

More about Jivox

Jivox is an exciting new online video advertising service that gives businesses that want to advertise on the Internet a better, personalized way to communicate their products and services to a micro-targeted audience. If your Internet advertising is not as effective as it used to be, or you are looking for a new way to get your message to your customers via rich visuals and video, Jivox can help.

Jivox helps you create, target and deliver professional video advertising on the Internet – going way beyond the search engine or banner ads – without spending a lot of time and money on producing your ad. Our proprietary technology helps you pinpoint your ads to the exact geographic, behavioral or demographic audiences you need to reach on the web. Here’s how: 

1. Create your own video ad
The Jivox AdSlate self-service video ad maker enables you to use our vast library of stock images, video clips and music to create your own ad or you can take your existing materials (such as a digital picture of your storefront, product shots, head shots, logos, etc.) and insert important information like your contact information, website, special discounts and promotions. See sample ads created with Jivox AdSlate Minutes later, you can be delivering your new ad on our extensive video network. See how it works.

Or, if you have an existing commercial you are using on Cable T.V., you can easily upload and use that to advertise on the Jivox Video Network. Or, let us build your ad for you.

2. Identify your target audience
Jivox delivers tailored, branded advertising to viewers based on their interests, enabling you to maximize your direct response opportunities. The Jivox Video Network delivers your video advertisement to your audience using geographic, demographic, behavioral and contextual intelligence.

Jivox has developed sophisticated algorithms that determine the best web sites and video content in which to serve your ad.

3. Define your budget and timing for your advertising campaign
Even if you have a limited budget, you can start your video ad campaign now with the Jivox Video Network. You can identify specific times of day, days of the week and other important choices or even run Time-of-Day/Day-of-Week ads on an introductory budget. Unlike most other forms of TV and web advertising, with Jivox, you only pay for ads that were actually viewed on a web site. More on Pricing.

The exclusive Jivox Ad Campaign Reports gives you advanced intelligence to optimize your advertising. You can then review the results to make intelligent decisions about how to improve or expand your media choices.

Jivox was founded in 2007 by Diaz Nesamoney, the visionary entrepreneur behind
Informatica (Nasdaq: INFA) and Celequest (acquired in 2007 by Cognos). Jivox aims to
bring the power of online video advertising to the mass market.

Management team

Diaz Nesamoney, Founder & CEO
Diaz Nesamoney founder of Jivox has had two prior successful ventures.  Before founding Jivox, he founded Celequest, raised over $20M in venture capital, and served as its CEO until early 2007, when the company was acquired by Cognos Corporation.  Celequest introduced the market’s first BI appliance, a disruptive innovation that led to its acquisition by Cognos. He was previously co-founder, President and Chief Operating Officer at Informatica (NASDAQ:INFA), which he took from a startup to a publicly traded company in 1999 with a market capitalization of over a billion dollars.  Informatica pioneered data integration software as a category and is now the market leader with over $400M in revenue. Diaz is a trustee of the American India Foundation, a leading international development organization charged with the mission of accelerating social and economic change in India. Diaz holds a Masters degree in Computer Science from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India.

Naren Nachiappan, Managing Director, Jivox India
Naren Nachiappan comes to Jivox from Wind River (NASDAQ:WIND), where as Vice President and General Manager, he was a part of the executive team responsible for reigniting growth and adding over $100 million to the top line in three years. Naren was directly responsible for taking the Device Management business from a concept to a multimillion-dollar revenue rate in under 9 quarters. At Wind River, Naren established the company’s first product development team in Bangalore, India, with a zero percent attrition rate through his three-year tenure. Earlier in his career, as CEO of Proceler and as Senior VP at VenturCom (acquired by Citrix), he was responsible for pioneering several industry innovations such as “the first support for automated application acceleration using hybrid SoCs” which resulted in Proceler’s nomination for the 2001 MPR Analysts choice award, and the first flight-essential certified UNIX for avionics applications on the Boeing 777. Naren graduated cum laude from Harvard University and holds an MBA from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Parth Chandra, Chief Architect
Parth has over 14 years of experience in the software industry in the field of Data Integration and Business Intelligence. Parth has worked most recently at Insights On-Demand, where he was the Chief Architect. Before Insights, he worked at Informatica (NASDAQ:INFA) as a Sr. Software Architect where he was part of the founding team that was responsible for software design and development of their market leading Data Integration products. Prior to Informatica he held software engineering positions at Citicorp Software and Neuron Data where he designed and implemented large scale financial transaction systems and cross platform development environments. Parth holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kanpur and an MBA degree from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore.

More about Opus Capital

Opus Capital Group is an alternative assets firm with more than $1 billion in committed capital under management. Since 1971, Opus Capital’s predecessor funds have invested in more than 350 companies spanning multiple industries.

More
 
http://www.jivox.com/
http://www.jivox.com/Jivox_funding_release_final.pdf
http://www.opuscapital.com/
http://mashable.com/2008/03/10/jivox/
http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt/archives/2007/05/jivox_stealth_m.html
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-self-service-video-ad-provider-jivox-closes-27-million-seed-round/
http://venturebeat.com/2008/03/09/jivox-offers-simple-online-video-ads-for-small-businesses-raises-round/
http://www.redherring.com/Home/23889
http://web2innovations.com/money/2008/03/09/video-advertising-networks-are-hot-brightroll-gets-its-second-round-claims-it-already-served-over-1-billion-video-ads/

Mint keeps on taking money, closes its third round of funding

Mint.com, the site that helps you find better interest rates on bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial products. But here is the interesting part. The site officially launched in September 18, 2007, after nearly two years of development and significant private beta testing, and in just a few weeks, after being announced winner on TechCrunch40, the site took seriously off. In just 18 days, the company said, they had reached more than $2 billion worth of people’s personal financial accounts, and identified more than $40 million in potential savings for those members. In a moment Mint ended up having a new member every five seconds. It turned out that people really will do anything to save a buck. There were more than 50,000 accounts opened up. And logically the investors jumped in. Total funding in no time reached $5.5M for Mint Software.

Today we have read over Internet that Mint is about to announce its third round of funding today – $12.1 million from new investor Benchmark Capital and all previous investors, including Shasta Ventures, Sherpalo Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Hite Capital and First Round Capital. The company has now raised a total of $17 million, most of it since October of 2007. Benchmark’s Bob Kagle is joining the Mint board.

CEO Aaron Patzer says the company is adding 10,000 new users per week, has organized over $10 billion in purchasing activity and has identified around $100 million in savings opportunities for users.

The company makes money via lead generations, and Patzer says users are clicking on presented opportunities 12-15% of the time. That all sound very good and promising but it also raises some concerns and the Mint’s independence different online users are already asking about. Mint is being accused already that they may be selling out trying to get deals with banks to connect to their system.

When’s the last time you went to an ATM that let you take out $1.50, $2.00 or any amount under $20. Then it seems odd that Mint can’t distinguish and break out your ATM fees so you can see how much I spend. I don’t spend $101.50 on ATM fees, I spent $1.50. There are several very obvious things Mint could help with, but don’t.

From the banks perspective they make a lot of money from ATM fees which costs them next nothing providing huge margins. So are they interested in cooperating with a service that makes points out that you are getting fleeced in ATM fees? It is being said there are more examples like this, one gets lousy interest on his/her savings – however somehow the only bank switch recommendations one gets are from CITI bank to … CITI Bank. Never a recommendation to switch to WAMU for example which would save the user $9.50/month in checking, and $20-30/month in ATM fees.

Some users raise the point that Mint might be too much in bed with the banks to be anything other than an overview.

Techcrunch has reported it has a source that told them venture capitalists were clamoring to get a piece of this deal, but the question here is does Mint really need that much money or it is all about the fact that VCs want to be in regardless what Mint’s real needs might be. 

More about Mint

Mint is the freshest, most intelligent way for you to manage your money online. Not only is Mint free, it saves you money. While existing personal finance software packages require hours to set up, a passion for accounting (is that possible?) and hours of weekly maintenance, Mint is virtually effortless.

With Mint, you can be fully up and running in less than five minutes. After that, revolutionary, patent pending Mint technology does the rest, with virtually no more work required. It automatically pulls together your bank, credit union and credit card data, and provides up-to-date and amazingly accurate views of your financial life – from the big picture to specific details, in a friendly and intuitive way.

In addition, Mint goes beyond visibility and analysis; providing personalized money-saving and money-making suggestions. Mint provides users an average of $1,000 in savings opportunities during their first session. Plus, Mint is proactive— alerting you when you are overbudget, have a low balance, need to pay a bill, and more.

Mint is safe and secure: we never know your identity and we provide bank level data security.

How Mint works
Mint is a modern, powerful, easy and secure web-based solution for managing your finances. And it’s free. You register anonymously using any valid email address, and then add the log-in information for the online bank, credit union and credit card accounts you want to consolidate in Mint.

Mint connects to over 3,500 US financial institutions. Your account information is updated each night. Mint automatically categorizes all your purchases, showing you how much you spend on gas, groceries, parking, rent, restaurants, DVD rentals and more, with amazing precision. An advanced alerting system highlights any unusual activity, low balances, unwanted fees and charges, and upcoming bills so you’re in constant contact with your money – effortlessly. 


Mint goes way beyond just reporting. Using a patent-pending search algorithm, Mint constantly searches through thousands of offers from hundreds of providers to find the best deals on everything from bank accounts to credit cards; cable, phone and Internet plans, and more. Mint’s suggestions are “unique to you” as they are based on your individual spending patterns. For example, if you have $20,000 in a bank account that’s earning no interest, Mint might recommend a high interest rate savings account from ING or HSBC. Acting on that suggestion would give you an extra $900 in interest income over a year.

Key Benefits
Mint is an entirely new approach to personal financial management. You don’t work for Mint, it works for you. We think you’ll love Mint because it’s:

Easy to use: You’re up and running in under five minutes. And Mint does virtually all the rest.

Comprehensive: Mint provides detailed visibility into virtually all your financial relationships with a single, secure login.

Visual and Analytical: Mint gives you powerful insights into your finances – making it easier to make good financial decisions

Constantly working to find you savings: Mint typically finds users $1,000 in savings opportunities in their first session – minutes after registering. And Mint keeps looking for new ways for you to save every day — continuously comparing your needs to product, service and bank offerings most relevant to you.

Secure: Mint provides bank level data security and industry leading identity protection. Its security and privacy have been validated by VeriSign and TRUSTe.

Always On: You’re automatically notified of upcoming bills, low balances, and any unusual activity in any of your accounts, through one (m)interface.

Anywhere/anytime access: You can get to Mint anywhere, anytime over the web

And it’s Free!

Breakthrough Technology
Aaron’s personal experience led him to create to two breakthrough technologies which make Mint so useful, intuitive and unique:

Patent-pending categorization technology that automatically identifies and organizes purchases from descriptions in the electronic records at banks and credit card companies.  A proprietary search algorithm which finds savings opportunities unique to each user.  Mint’s technology does everything automatically in a way that other online banking applications and personal finance management software can’t. It provides useful information and smart, specific recommendations for saving or making more money based on each user’s individual purchase history. Today, after nearly two years of development and significant private beta testing, Mint is preparing to announce the public beta of Mint.com. The company has put together an experienced executive and engineering team, and has attracted funding from top tier venture capital firms and angel investors.

Security

Security is crucial when someone is dealing with your financial information and it is no wonder there were many debates surrounding Mint in the public space. We have dug information up ourselves and have found many interesting commentaries made by Mint’s CEO, which we enclose below. Below is what Aaron Patzer, Founder & CEO at Mint.com, has to tell about security.

To all those who are concerned over Mint.com security, a few points:
1) You’re anonymous on Mint.com
2) Our security is independently verified
3) Email & text-message alerts help identify fraud immediately… and being proactive is the best measure.

I’ll make a bold statement: You’re safer on Mint then with online banking. On Mint, you’re completely anonymous. We never ask for a name, address, or SSN – just an email. We know about your finances…but not about you. We’re also independently verified by VeriSign, TRUSTe, and several outside agencies.

We also have serious physical security. Our servers are in a secure, unmarked facility. To get in, you need to pass 3 biometric scanners, 4 locked doors, and several guards. We have our own cage so we’re physically separated from all other companies. Cameras monitor our servers and power supplies 24/7. The servers themselves have additional locks. The hard drives are encrypted. It’s like Mission Impossible (except without the electrified floors…maybe one day).

Perhaps more interestingly, 90% of all fraud actually occurs offline, not online (e.g. someone swipes your card at a restaurant or from your mail). Because Mint sends proactive alerts for low-balance or unusually high spending, you’ll know right away. It’s better than logging into 4-5 different banks every day, or waiting 30 days for a paper statement before finding that something went wrong.

By law you have:
– $0 liability for credit card fraud,
– $50 liability for bank fraud (if you notify your bank within two days)

Again, 90% of all fraud starts offline, for example when someone takes your credit card at a restaurant, or digs through your mail. Sadly, a large portion of fraud is actually committed by friends and family members.

Mint.com helps keep you safe by providing email and text-message alerts for:
– Low balances (e.g. someone is draining your account)
– Unusual spending (e.g. someone buys $1000 in electronics in a day)
– Low available credit

If there are any anomalies, Mint.com shows you right away. The alternative is to a) login to every single credit card, checking, and savings account every day to check for fraud, or b) wait 30 days until a paper statement arrives before noticing an issue.

By taking a proactive approach, Mint.com actually helps protect you from the vast majority of fraud – better than just about any website out there.

Concerning whether using Mint.com violates your bank terms & conditions:

Consider that Quicken and Microsoft Money ask you for the exact same credentials as Mint.com, and have been for the past 10 years. MS Money even uses Yodlee to make it’s connection to banks (same as Mint.com, BofA, and Fidelity).

The problem with those tools is they cost $30-$80, sunset their products every 2-3 years to force an upgrade, require an hour to setup, and take an hour a week to maintain.

Mint is like an extension to online banking: pull all your accounts together in one place, finally see where your money goes, get alerts on anything out of whack, and find savings opportunities worth an average of $1,000/user.

Mint never gives your information to third party advertisers. We have a proprietary database of financial offers, interest rates, and communications (phone, tv, internet, wireless) providers. The matching is done in software, anonymously.

Your information never leaves Mint.com. If or when you click through on a savings opportunity, no information is passed except that the click came from Mint.com.

Mint does make a small referral fee from advertisers on some offers. That’s what keeps Mint free. Whether we have a relationship with a provider in no way affects our ranking algorithm – we find users the best interest rate or lowest price regardless.

What this means in the end is Mint only makes money if we can find ways for the user to save money. And we think that’s pretty revolutionary. The only ads you see are ads that make you money…think about how different that is as a business model.

What the company, by that time, seemed not to be dealing with is the offers it makes are often not competitive with or comparable to what users are getting, mint is just having no way to know that!

For example, I have a Capital One card with 1% back. You see my Capital One account with ? for a cash return, and “offer” me a 1% back card (a *savings* of $250/year!). There needs to be a way to user input the specifics of current accounts and products before you offer to “save” me all that dough!

Mint has told by that time they are tackling the issue within the next month or so, they will be able to accurately capture the rewards earned on just about every credit card. Then, it will be able to accurately reflect the fact you are earning 1% back on your Capital One card. We were unable to dig something up from the public web as to whether this issue has been fixed or not.

Some more drawbacks as we have found them around Web are as follows. You can’t import data to Mint in any way other than through your financial institution, meaning that if you’ve got years’ worth of financial data in Quicken, don’t count on importing it to Mint. That said, Mint can load over a year of your most recent financial data (depending on how long your institution provides it) when you sign up.  On a similar note, Mint doesn’t export data—meaning if you decided to ditch Mint for another money management solution, you’re not going to get a CSV file or any other export of your data.

The most notable and practical drawback to Mint came in the form of strangely named, incomplete transaction descriptions (the imported name was strange—the actual transaction name at the originating financial institution was more descriptive). As a result, I ran into problems setting up renaming rules for transactions in Mint. For example, a transaction that read in my checking account (at the actual US Bank web site) as “Web Authorized Payment AT&T” showed up in Mint as “Web Payment” or something along those lines. I set Mint to automatically rename this transaction to AT&T, but then every Web Authorized Payment in my account was renamed AT&T, although some were gas or water and power bills. Similarly, “Purchase with PIN” shows up in the ledger as “With,” which is not terribly helpful. Next to the all-in-one account integration, automation is Mint’s biggest draw—which means these sort of minor issues need worked out before you can set up renaming rules with complete confidence (especially since you can’t currently undo renaming rules). On the flip side, Mint claims to accurately identify and rename 90% of imported transactions without any need for user import, compared to Quicken’s 40% (their numbers).

Management team

Aaron Patzer
Founder and CEO
Aaron is both the visionary and technical mind behind Mint, the first free, automatic and secure way to manage and save money online. He designed Mint to meet his own needs and those of people like him who value the immediacy of the Web, simplicity and their free time. With 10 patents filed or pending, Aaron brings strong innovation skills to Mint. Prior to founding Mint, Aaron was an architect and technical lead for the San Jose division of Nascentric. Before Nascentric, Aaron worked for IBM and founded two web development and online marketing companies: PWeb and International. Aaron holds an MSEE from Princeton University and a BS in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering from Duke University.

Aaron’s Financial Personality? Über-Frugal but lusting in his heart for expensive cars.

Donna Wells
Chief Marketing Officer
Donna brings over twenty years’ experience in strategic management and marketing to the Mint team, with specific expertise in the financial services industry and online demand generation. She led client acquisition/retention, brand-building and product development for organizations ranging from start-ups to global brands – including Expedia, myCFO, Intuit, Charles Schwab and American Express. Prior to Mint, Donna was Senior Vice President of Marketing at Expedia, where she was responsible for strategic direction of the company’s brand, advertising, direct marketing, customer and partner marketing and market research. At Intuit, as Vice President of Corporate Marketing and acting CMO, she led the company’s corporate marketing functions and general marketing strategy. She also served as Vice President of Intuit’s Small Business and Personal Finance division, responsible for direct marketing, channel marketing and market research for the Quicken, QuickBooks and Small Business Services businesses. Donna joined Intuit from myCFO, Inc., where she was Chief Marketing Officer. She previously held senior positions at Charles Schwab, where she led marketing for segments representing 70% of all Schwab client households, and American Express, where she launched the Gold Rewards and Platinum Corporate Cards. Donna holds a MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a BS in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a past Board member of the Financial Women’s Association of San Francisco and the Marketing 50.

Donna’s spending personality: Unremarkable, except in her weakness for luxury hotels.

David K Michaels
VP Engineering
David has over 10 years experience in building secure, distributed, fault-tolerant systems. David was most recently leading the development of server products for PGP, where he helped design, build and ship three major versions of the company’s  flagship product: PGP Universal. Prior to PGP, he built a high-volume financial information product targeting online retail equity traders. David was on the server team at NetDynamics (acquired by Sun Microsystems), implementing core features for security, scalability, fault-tolerance, distributed load balancing, and performance. He has also worked at GeoCities, where he developed the company’s first capability to insert advertising banners on its pages. He has held several positions with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory working on distributed systems and the WWW. David holds a M.S. in Computer Science with honors from Stanford University and a B.S. in Computer and Information Science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

David’s Financial Personality? Conservative and analytic in all spending categories Dining Out. Major Foodie.

Aaron Forth
VP Product
Aaron brings over ten years’ of product development and product management experience to Mint. Prior to joining Mint, Aaron held several leadership positions at eBay and Half.com (acquired by eBay Inc.). Most recently, as Director of Advertising, Aaron was responsible for product strategy, design and product development. Aaron has a background in multivariate testing used to drive analytically-based decisions around product design, improved user experience and strategic partnerships. Prior to working in advertising, Aaron managed internet marketing and product management teams, focused on search engine marketing, search engine optimization and affiliate marketing. Aaron’s career in software was established at Kana Communications, Inc., a CRM software start-up. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Earth Sciences from University of California, Berkeley.

Aaron’s spending personality: Frugal at heart. Focused on enjoying life in practice.

Anton Commissaris
VP Business Development
Anton is responsible for Mint’s business strategy, revenue and partner development. Anton brings to Mint over 15 years of experience in the software and Internet sectors spanning legal, operations, marketing and business development roles. Prior to Mint, Anton was Vice President of Business Development at Right Hemisphere, the leader in visual product communications and collaboration. Prior to Right Hemisphere, Anton was Director of Business Development at Spotlife (Logitech) a pioneer in Web consumer video solutions. Anton began his career as an attorney working in London and Paris, and then in Palo Alto, California at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the leading law firm for emerging growth high technology companies. He holds law degrees from the University of Auckland and the University of Montpellier, France.

Anton’s Financial Personality? The ultimate deal-seeker and most passionate negotiator. We love having him run Biz Dev.

Mint has been named Best of Show at the 2007 Financial Innovations conference. Mint has also been chosen as the best presenting company at TechCrunch40 and has won a $50,000 cash award. In December 28, 2007 Mint.com has also won the 2008 PC World 25 Most Innovative Products Award.

Competitors and similar companies include BillMonk, Expensr, Wesabe, Zecco, Buxfer, SpendView, Geezeo, sMoneyBox, FreeAgentCentral, Covestor.com, Yodlee, wclipperz.com and passpack.com, among others. Of course, Intuit is the major player in the space.

More

http://www.mint.com
http://www.mint.com/blog
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/05/mint-gets-a-mint/
http://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/21/mintcom-the-financial-planning-startup-with-an-army-of-high-profile-investors/
http://www.mint.com/press/downloads/release_20080108.pdf
http://www.mint.com/press/downloads/release_20071228.pdf
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/16/mints-47-million-a-round/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/mint
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/09/18/mint-wins-techcrunch40-50000-award/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/14/billeo-secures-7-million-in-financing/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/07/mint-rakes-it-in/
http://www.netbanker.com/2007/10/mint_mortgagebot_and_prosper_w.html
http://www.informationweek.com/windows/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=178600217
http://www.crunchbase.com/person/aaron-patzer
http://www.linkedin.com/in/apatzer
http://twitter.com/apatzer
http://digg.com/users/apatzer
http://consumerist.com/commenter/apatzer/
http://www.spock.com/Aaron-Patzer-NBd4i1sF
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/09/18/techcrunch40-session-5-productivity-web-apps/
http://blog.mint.com/blog/personal-finance-interview/personal-finance-interview-with-aaron-patzer-of-mymintcom/
http://blog.mint.com/blog/personal-finance-interview/mint-team-spotlight-sid-bhatt/
http://www.finovate.com/
http://r3fresh.com/2007/10/09/how-secure-is-mintcom/
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/22/fashion/22CYBER.html?ex=1353819600&en=6199204353c38df5&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
http://venturebeat.com/2007/09/18/mint-the-easiest-way-to-manage-your-personal-finances/
http://lifehacker.com/software/screenshot-tour/is-mint-ready-for-your-money-312083.php
http://consumerist.com/consumer/budgets/mintcom-+-a-new-free-personal-finance-management-site-301172.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Shriram
http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,140663-c,technology/article.html
 

Some of the Silicon Valley’s top non-Web innovations VCs spent money on

Forbes has assembled a very interesting list of some of the Silicon Valley’s most interesting and coolest innovations beyond the web start-ups. What is being said as a fact is that venture capitalists have poured over $30B into more than 2500 new ventures in 2007 alone. Some of them have to be non-traditional the media says and outlines some of those non-web start ups. The criteria to make the list were companies with unusual technologies or in surprising niches, which recently received additional rounds of venture financing and ranging from gadgets that only the military could love to ones that could wind up in your neighbor’s car.

Insitu

Insitu is a leading high-tech autonomous systems company. They currently produce and sell an ever growing fleet of Unmanned Aircraft Systems that are low-cost, long-endurance, and have low personnel requirements. These UASs provide a no-runway launch, unprecedented stabilized day and night video for ISR, robotic flight control, and a no-nets capture. Insitu began by creating long endurance Unmanned Aircraft to measure atmospheric conditions and do reconnaissance in remote areas for meteorology, daily weather prediction, and climate modeling. Aerosonde was the first aircraft developed by Insitu, noted for completing the first autonomous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1998. From the Aerosonde, Insitu began to develop its Insight UAS platform, that is still being regularly upgraded and deployed today. In 2001, Insitu began working with Boeing to develop ScanEagle, an ISR-focused Unmanned Aircraft System that is currently used by the US Navy, the US Marines, and the Australian Army.

Insitu closed its Series D round of financing led by Battery Ventures’ Roger Lee in December 2007. The company has plans to release a new autonomous aircraft in 2008.

Incesoft

Founded in 2001, Incesoft Technology Co., Ltd. is the world’s leading provider of web robot technology and intelligent interactive information platform. Incesoft is committed long term to the web robot development and research, providing various information and services for users at the same time giving them better interactive experience. At present Incesoft has made great achievements in the field of Chinese artificial intelligent analysis and information management service. Currently Incesoft has the largest Chinese-language web robot platform (www.xiaoi.com). The robots can be used on IM, WEB and Mobile platform, providing services as information, entertainment and E-commerce etc. about working and living. Meanwhile Incesoft also provides customer service robots for companies and governmental departments.

Until now Incesoft has more than 20 million users.

With many-years robot development experience and strong technological power, Incesoft became Microsoft’s global strategic partner in February 2006 and Incesoft Bot Platform became the official robot access platform for Windows Live Messenger. In addition, Incesoft is Tencent QQ (a popular IM tool in China) and Yahoo Messenger’s strategic partner as well.

Draper Fisher Jurvetson and ePlanet Ventures were among the backers who pledged financing in March 2007.

A4Vision

California-based A4Vision has developed a 3D facial imaging and recognition system that works in conjunction with its established fingerprint identification and verification technology. Clients include high-security outfits such as the U.S. Department of Defense and a Swiss bank. Bioscrypt, a company specializing in access control, acquired A4Vision in March 2007. Investors, including In-Q-Tel, the venture wing of the Central Intelligence Agency and Menlo Ventures, must feel secure.

 Ophthonix

Ophthonix, Inc., a San Diego based vision correction company, is changing forever the way we see the world. Customized iZon® High Resolution Lenses allow wearers to see the world in High-Definition—clearer, sharper and more vividly than ever before. The proprietary and patented process is the first ever vision correction technology that addresses the problems associated with the unique variations in each person’s eyes, allowing for customized eyeglass lenses.

The result is a detailed picture, much like your eye’s fingerprint. The iZon lens, custom-built to help reduce glare in nighttime driving, is the result. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was among investors who put $35.1 million into Ophthonix’s December 2006 Series D round.

Dash Navigation

Dash Navigation has developed the Dash Express, which is an Internet-connected GPS device that offers route choices based on traffic information generated from other Dash Express devices and the Internet.

Superior traffic with the Dash Driver Network™:Select your route based on up-to-the-minute traffic data that is automatically and anonymously exchanged via the most reliable source–other Dash devices. The Dash Express gathers traffic information from the Dash Driver Network and combines it with other sources of traffic data to provide you with the most accurate picture of what’s happening on the routes you’re travelling. And, only Dash provides traffic information for freeways and local roads and side streets. Dash Express provides up to three routing options to your destination that are based on flow rather than incident data, and even has the ability to automatically alert you when traffic conditions change and a faster route is available.

Find virtually anything with Yahoo!® Local search:Connect to Yahoo! Local search to find unlimited points of interest—people, places, products and services—based on your specific needs.

Two-way connectivity gives Dash Express the ability to use Yahoo! Local search and other internet search sources to find almost anything anywhere. Unlike other GPS devices that come loaded with a static database of points of interest, Dash gives you access to unlimited points of interest based on your specific needs.

Send2Car™means no typing required: Its the fastest and easiest way to send an address straight to your device from any computer. Just highlight an address from your Internet browser or Microsoft Outlook and send it directly to the car. You can use Send2Car yourself, or when you’re on the road, have someone else do it for you

MyDash makes it even easier to personalize your Dash Express:MyDash, available at my.dash.net allows you to create and send customized search buttons straight to your device so you always have access to the places you want to go. And you can even take advantage of local knowledge from the Dash network by downloading location lists shared online by other users.

AutoUpdate™ means a GPS that’s always up to date:Dash Express is the only GPS that automatically and wirelessly updates software and traffic using two-way connectivity. You’ll always have the latest and greatest features as we release them. With Dash you are always up to date!

The company secured $25 million in February 2007 from investors, including Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

3DV Systems

3DV Systems is a pioneer and world leader in the three-dimensional video imaging industry. Established in 1997 and headquartered in Yokne’am, Israel, the company has developed a unique proprietary technology which enables video cameras to capture the depth dimension of objects in real time, high speed and very high resolution.

The company has developed a unique patented technology which enables cameras to capture the depth dimension of objects in real time, high speed and very high resolution, using low or no CPU resources. 3DV markets, in a fab-less OEM model, a chipset that can be integrated to create systems and solutions for multiple applications as well as the new ZCamTM (previously Z-Sense) family of 3D cameras.

3DV was founded by Dr. Giora Yahav and Dr. Gabi Iddan, two veteran scientists of Rafael, Israel’s leading defense industry. Leveraging their experience and know-how gained through leading development of electro-optics missile technology, they came up with a ground-breaking concept of measuring distance from objects using the Time-of-Flight principle.

Since the successful completion of the development of our first 3D camera directed at the broadcast studio market, the new ZCamTM (previously Z-Sense), in 2000, 3DV was able to dramatically reduce the size and decrease the cost of its technology thus widening the scope of markets and applications and currently reaching consumer markets. The company’s latest prototype camera, the new ZCamTM (previously Z-Sense), is at the size of a typical webcam, and provides home users revolutionary gesture recognition capabilities in addition to real-time background replacement, enabling them to control video games and personal space through intuitive body gestures and immerse themselves with virtual reality

Kids may be excited about a new way to play. Adults, by contrast, may appreciate how the technology can be applied to reality: video cameras in their cars. The cameras can detect signs of fatigue, alerting the driver, or help to safely deploy airbags based on the exact location of passengers’ head.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Pitango Venture Capital led the $15 million investment round in December 2006.

Hyperactive Technologies 

The company started in the mind of a founder with two simple questions:

“Why is this burger so bad?”
“What can we bring to the table to make this better?”

In answering those questions – and finding a solution for the problem – HyperActive Technologies looked closely at the processes of quick-service restaurants, and has brought a full array of vision, prediction, and task-management technologies to bear in an industry where competition is fierce and quality is the number one differentiator.

HyperActive Bob is the first and only fully-automated Kitchen Management System that’s improving food quality in QSRs across the country. Here are the driving forces behind our technologies:

Vision: advanced real-time vision technologies monitor customer arrivals constantly and without wavering.

Prediction: Powerful processing tools learn from historical and real-time sales, incorporating the results of this analysis into real-time task management.

Action: easy-to-read touch screen monitors tell cooks precisely what to cook, and when to cook it.

The result: HyperActive Technologies provides “sight and insight” for managers that they’ve never had before, and more: 

HyperActive Bob is the Predictive Kitchen Management System that tells cooks what to cook, and when to cook it, assuring that all of your operations perform as smoothly as your best!

Drive-thru Speed of Service Timer is the first of its kind tool to measure the amount of time drive-thru customers spend in line before they reach the order board!

Walk-in Demand Prediction provides Bob’s keen demand prediction for restaurants that may not have vehicle entries.

HyperActive Technolgies is based in Pittsburg and is a privately held company. Last May, the company purchased QTime solutions, a drive-thru timer to help speed up how Hyperactive develops its recommendations. Private angel investors organized by Spencer Trask Ventures presumably had a quick meeting to decide to put $8.5 million into the firm in 2006.

Basically it is becoming clear that not all VC money goes to sites a la Facebook, yet the US economy is not in its best state today to accommodate and absorb some of these great inventions and innovations.

More

http://www.forbes.com/2008/01/24/midas-tech-novel-tech-08midas-cz_ed_0124novel.html
http://www.insitu.com/
http://www.incesoft.com/English/
http://www.xiaoi.com/
http://www.in-q-tel.org/technology-portfolio/a4vision.html
http://www.bioscrypt.com/
http://www.dash.net/
http://www.izonlens.com/about/
http://www.3dvsystems.com/
http://www.3dvsystems.com/gallery/movies/VirtualGame.mpg
http://www.hyperactivetechnologies.com/ 

Mint.com – the financial-planning startup with an army of high-profile investors

First off, Mint.com is a neat, well organized and professional web site to put your finances under control. Explained in layman terms Mint helps you find better interest rates on bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial products. But here is the interesting part. The site officially launched in September 18, 2007, after nearly two years of development and significant private beta testing, and in just a few weeks, after being announced winner on TechCrunch40, the site took seriously off. In just 18 days, the company said, they had reached more than $2 billion worth of people’s personal financial accounts, and identified more than $40 million in potential savings for those members. In a moment Mint ended up having a new member every five seconds. It turned out that people really will do anything to save a buck. There were more than 50,000 accounts opened up. And logically the investors jumped in. Total funding in no time reached $5.5M for Mint Software. Institutional investors include Shasta Ventures and First Round Capital and the company’s angel investors are Josh Kopelman, Rob Hayes, Tod Francis, Ron Conway, Mark Goines, Geoff Ralston, Jeff Clavier, Sy Fahimi and the last but not least Ram Shriram. Some of the angels are top executives from  eBay, Intuit, Google, Yahoo, Charles Schwab, Wilson Sonsini, Reuters, Adteractive, and Weblogic/BEA. Under no doubt it is not every day you can see such a jumpstart for a start-up company.  The company’s founder Aaron Patzer has an interesting story to tell about one of his angels – Ram Shriram (an early Google investor). Ram Shriram actually came in about a month after we closed our round. At the time we only had about $200k open in the round. Unlike most investors (who wait a week, talk to their friends, bring you back for multiple meetings), Ram said “Okay, I’m in” before I was done with the presentation. He then explained that he had no upper limit on what he could invest (good problem to have!), but that his accountants lose track if he doesn’t invest at least $500k. So needless to say, we opened the round up a bit.

Today, just a few months later, Mint claims to have already well over 100,000 registered members (accounts) and is now organizing $6 billion in user transactions, and has identified nearly $90 million in savings opportunities. The company says users are telling them, via their rapid adoption and through survey feedback, that Mint.com is enabling them to do more with their money.

Mint.com’s first customer survey, conducted in December, 2007, shows that 87% of respondents feel they better understand their spending after using Mint. And nearly half of them have changed their spending behavior as a result of what they’ve learned.* the most frequent change being eating and drinking at home more often.

More about Mint

Mint is the freshest, most intelligent way for you to manage your money online. Not only is Mint free, it saves you money. While existing personal finance software packages require hours to set up, a passion for accounting (is that possible?) and hours of weekly maintenance, Mint is virtually effortless.

With Mint, you can be fully up and running in less than five minutes. After that, revolutionary, patent pending Mint technology does the rest, with virtually no more work required. It automatically pulls together your bank, credit union and credit card data, and provides up-to-date and amazingly accurate views of your financial life – from the big picture to specific details, in a friendly and intuitive way.

In addition, Mint goes beyond visibility and analysis; providing personalized money-saving and money-making suggestions. Mint provides users an average of $1,000 in savings opportunities during their first session. Plus, Mint is proactive— alerting you when you are overbudget, have a low balance, need to pay a bill, and more.

Mint is safe and secure: we never know your identity and we provide bank level data security.

How Mint works
Mint is a modern, powerful, easy and secure web-based solution for managing your finances. And it’s free. You register anonymously using any valid email address, and then add the log-in information for the online bank, credit union and credit card accounts you want to consolidate in Mint.

Mint connects to over 3,500 US financial institutions. Your account information is updated each night. Mint automatically categorizes all your purchases, showing you how much you spend on gas, groceries, parking, rent, restaurants, DVD rentals and more, with amazing precision. An advanced alerting system highlights any unusual activity, low balances, unwanted fees and charges, and upcoming bills so you’re in constant contact with your money – effortlessly. 


Mint goes way beyond just reporting. Using a patent-pending search algorithm, Mint constantly searches through thousands of offers from hundreds of providers to find the best deals on everything from bank accounts to credit cards; cable, phone and Internet plans, and more. Mint’s suggestions are “unique to you” as they are based on your individual spending patterns. For example, if you have $20,000 in a bank account that’s earning no interest, Mint might recommend a high interest rate savings account from ING or HSBC. Acting on that suggestion would give you an extra $900 in interest income over a year.

Key Benefits
Mint is an entirely new approach to personal financial management. You don’t work for Mint, it works for you. We think you’ll love Mint because it’s:

Easy to use: You’re up and running in under five minutes. And Mint does virtually all the rest.

Comprehensive: Mint provides detailed visibility into virtually all your financial relationships with a single, secure login.

Visual and Analytical: Mint gives you powerful insights into your finances – making it easier to make good financial decisions

Constantly working to find you savings: Mint typically finds users $1,000 in savings opportunities in their first session – minutes after registering. And Mint keeps looking for new ways for you to save every day — continuously comparing your needs to product, service and bank offerings most relevant to you.

Secure: Mint provides bank level data security and industry leading identity protection. Its security and privacy have been validated by VeriSign and TRUSTe.

Always On: You’re automatically notified of upcoming bills, low balances, and any unusual activity in any of your accounts, through one (m)interface.

Anywhere/anytime access: You can get to Mint anywhere, anytime over the web

And it’s Free!

Breakthrough Technology
Aaron’s personal experience led him to create to two breakthrough technologies which make Mint so useful, intuitive and unique:

Patent-pending categorization technology that automatically identifies and organizes purchases from descriptions in the electronic records at banks and credit card companies.  A proprietary search algorithm which finds savings opportunities unique to each user.  Mint’s technology does everything automatically in a way that other online banking applications and personal finance management software can’t. It provides useful information and smart, specific recommendations for saving or making more money based on each user’s individual purchase history. Today, after nearly two years of development and significant private beta testing, Mint is preparing to announce the public beta of Mint.com. The company has put together an experienced executive and engineering team, and has attracted funding from top tier venture capital firms and angel investors.

Security

Security is crucial when someone is dealing with your financial information and it is no wonder there were many debates surrounding Mint in the public space. We have dug information up ourselves and have found many interesting commentaries made by Mint’s CEO, which we enclose below. Below is what Aaron Patzer, Founder & CEO at Mint.com, has to tell about security.

To all those who are concerned over Mint.com security, a few points:
1) You’re anonymous on Mint.com
2) Our security is independently verified
3) Email & text-message alerts help identify fraud immediately… and being proactive is the best measure.

I’ll make a bold statement: You’re safer on Mint then with online banking. On Mint, you’re completely anonymous. We never ask for a name, address, or SSN – just an email. We know about your finances…but not about you. We’re also independently verified by VeriSign, TRUSTe, and several outside agencies.

We also have serious physical security. Our servers are in a secure, unmarked facility. To get in, you need to pass 3 biometric scanners, 4 locked doors, and several guards. We have our own cage so we’re physically separated from all other companies. Cameras monitor our servers and power supplies 24/7. The servers themselves have additional locks. The hard drives are encrypted. It’s like Mission Impossible (except without the electrified floors…maybe one day).

Perhaps more interestingly, 90% of all fraud actually occurs offline, not online (e.g. someone swipes your card at a restaurant or from your mail). Because Mint sends proactive alerts for low-balance or unusually high spending, you’ll know right away. It’s better than logging into 4-5 different banks every day, or waiting 30 days for a paper statement before finding that something went wrong.

By law you have:
– $0 liability for credit card fraud,
– $50 liability for bank fraud (if you notify your bank within two days)

Again, 90% of all fraud starts offline, for example when someone takes your credit card at a restaurant, or digs through your mail. Sadly, a large portion of fraud is actually committed by friends and family members.

Mint.com helps keep you safe by providing email and text-message alerts for:
– Low balances (e.g. someone is draining your account)
– Unusual spending (e.g. someone buys $1000 in electronics in a day)
– Low available credit

If there are any anomalies, Mint.com shows you right away. The alternative is to a) login to every single credit card, checking, and savings account every day to check for fraud, or b) wait 30 days until a paper statement arrives before noticing an issue.

By taking a proactive approach, Mint.com actually helps protect you from the vast majority of fraud – better than just about any website out there.

Concerning whether using Mint.com violates your bank terms & conditions:

Consider that Quicken and Microsoft Money ask you for the exact same credentials as Mint.com, and have been for the past 10 years. MS Money even uses Yodlee to make it’s connection to banks (same as Mint.com, BofA, and Fidelity).

The problem with those tools is they cost $30-$80, sunset their products every 2-3 years to force an upgrade, require an hour to setup, and take an hour a week to maintain.

Mint is like an extension to online banking: pull all your accounts together in one place, finally see where your money goes, get alerts on anything out of whack, and find savings opportunities worth an average of $1,000/user.

Mint never gives your information to third party advertisers. We have a proprietary database of financial offers, interest rates, and communications (phone, tv, internet, wireless) providers. The matching is done in software, anonymously.

Your information never leaves Mint.com. If or when you click through on a savings opportunity, no information is passed except that the click came from Mint.com.

Mint does make a small referral fee from advertisers on some offers. That’s what keeps Mint free. Whether we have a relationship with a provider in no way affects our ranking algorithm – we find users the best interest rate or lowest price regardless.

What this means in the end is Mint only makes money if we can find ways for the user to save money. And we think that’s pretty revolutionary. The only ads you see are ads that make you money…think about how different that is as a business model.

What the company, by that time, seemed not to be dealing with is the offers it makes are often not competitive with or comparable to what users are getting, mint is just having no way to know that!

For example, I have a Capital One card with 1% back. You see my Capital One account with ? for a cash return, and “offer” me a 1% back card (a *savings* of $250/year!). There needs to be a way to user input the specifics of current accounts and products before you offer to “save” me all that dough!

Mint has told by that time they are tackling the issue within the next month or so, they will be able to accurately capture the rewards earned on just about every credit card. Then, it will be able to accurately reflect the fact you are earning 1% back on your Capital One card. We were unable to dig something up from the public web as to whether this issue has been fixed or not.

Some more drawbacks as we have found them around Web are as follows. You can’t import data to Mint in any way other than through your financial institution, meaning that if you’ve got years’ worth of financial data in Quicken, don’t count on importing it to Mint. That said, Mint can load over a year of your most recent financial data (depending on how long your institution provides it) when you sign up.  On a similar note, Mint doesn’t export data—meaning if you decided to ditch Mint for another money management solution, you’re not going to get a CSV file or any other export of your data.

The most notable and practical drawback to Mint came in the form of strangely named, incomplete transaction descriptions (the imported name was strange—the actual transaction name at the originating financial institution was more descriptive). As a result, I ran into problems setting up renaming rules for transactions in Mint. For example, a transaction that read in my checking account (at the actual US Bank web site) as “Web Authorized Payment AT&T” showed up in Mint as “Web Payment” or something along those lines. I set Mint to automatically rename this transaction to AT&T, but then every Web Authorized Payment in my account was renamed AT&T, although some were gas or water and power bills. Similarly, “Purchase with PIN” shows up in the ledger as “With,” which is not terribly helpful. Next to the all-in-one account integration, automation is Mint’s biggest draw—which means these sort of minor issues need worked out before you can set up renaming rules with complete confidence (especially since you can’t currently undo renaming rules). On the flip side, Mint claims to accurately identify and rename 90% of imported transactions without any need for user import, compared to Quicken’s 40% (their numbers).

Management team

Aaron Patzer
Founder and CEO
Aaron is both the visionary and technical mind behind Mint, the first free, automatic and secure way to manage and save money online. He designed Mint to meet his own needs and those of people like him who value the immediacy of the Web, simplicity and their free time. With 10 patents filed or pending, Aaron brings strong innovation skills to Mint. Prior to founding Mint, Aaron was an architect and technical lead for the San Jose division of Nascentric. Before Nascentric, Aaron worked for IBM and founded two web development and online marketing companies: PWeb and International. Aaron holds an MSEE from Princeton University and a BS in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering from Duke University.

Aaron’s Financial Personality? Über-Frugal but lusting in his heart for expensive cars.

Donna Wells
Chief Marketing Officer
Donna brings over twenty years’ experience in strategic management and marketing to the Mint team, with specific expertise in the financial services industry and online demand generation. She led client acquisition/retention, brand-building and product development for organizations ranging from start-ups to global brands – including Expedia, myCFO, Intuit, Charles Schwab and American Express. Prior to Mint, Donna was Senior Vice President of Marketing at Expedia, where she was responsible for strategic direction of the company’s brand, advertising, direct marketing, customer and partner marketing and market research. At Intuit, as Vice President of Corporate Marketing and acting CMO, she led the company’s corporate marketing functions and general marketing strategy. She also served as Vice President of Intuit’s Small Business and Personal Finance division, responsible for direct marketing, channel marketing and market research for the Quicken, QuickBooks and Small Business Services businesses. Donna joined Intuit from myCFO, Inc., where she was Chief Marketing Officer. She previously held senior positions at Charles Schwab, where she led marketing for segments representing 70% of all Schwab client households, and American Express, where she launched the Gold Rewards and Platinum Corporate Cards. Donna holds a MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a BS in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a past Board member of the Financial Women’s Association of San Francisco and the Marketing 50.

Donna’s spending personality: Unremarkable, except in her weakness for luxury hotels.

David K Michaels
VP Engineering
David has over 10 years experience in building secure, distributed, fault-tolerant systems. David was most recently leading the development of server products for PGP, where he helped design, build and ship three major versions of the company’s  flagship product: PGP Universal. Prior to PGP, he built a high-volume financial information product targeting online retail equity traders. David was on the server team at NetDynamics (acquired by Sun Microsystems), implementing core features for security, scalability, fault-tolerance, distributed load balancing, and performance. He has also worked at GeoCities, where he developed the company’s first capability to insert advertising banners on its pages. He has held several positions with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory working on distributed systems and the WWW. David holds a M.S. in Computer Science with honors from Stanford University and a B.S. in Computer and Information Science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

David’s Financial Personality? Conservative and analytic in all spending categories Dining Out. Major Foodie.

Aaron Forth
VP Product
Aaron brings over ten years’ of product development and product management experience to Mint. Prior to joining Mint, Aaron held several leadership positions at eBay and Half.com (acquired by eBay Inc.). Most recently, as Director of Advertising, Aaron was responsible for product strategy, design and product development. Aaron has a background in multivariate testing used to drive analytically-based decisions around product design, improved user experience and strategic partnerships. Prior to working in advertising, Aaron managed internet marketing and product management teams, focused on search engine marketing, search engine optimization and affiliate marketing. Aaron’s career in software was established at Kana Communications, Inc., a CRM software start-up. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Earth Sciences from University of California, Berkeley.

Aaron’s spending personality: Frugal at heart. Focused on enjoying life in practice.

Anton Commissaris
VP Business Development
Anton is responsible for Mint’s business strategy, revenue and partner development. Anton brings to Mint over 15 years of experience in the software and Internet sectors spanning legal, operations, marketing and business development roles. Prior to Mint, Anton was Vice President of Business Development at Right Hemisphere, the leader in visual product communications and collaboration. Prior to Right Hemisphere, Anton was Director of Business Development at Spotlife (Logitech) a pioneer in Web consumer video solutions. Anton began his career as an attorney working in London and Paris, and then in Palo Alto, California at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the leading law firm for emerging growth high technology companies. He holds law degrees from the University of Auckland and the University of Montpellier, France.

Anton’s Financial Personality? The ultimate deal-seeker and most passionate negotiator. We love having him run Biz Dev.

Mint has been named Best of Show at the 2007 Financial Innovations conference. Mint has also been chosen as the best presenting company at TechCrunch40 and has won a $50,000 cash award. In December 28, 2007 Mint.com has also won the 2008 PC World 25 Most Innovative Products Award.

Competitors and similar companies include BillMonk, Expensr, Wesabe, Zecco, Buxfer, SpendView, Geezeo, sMoneyBox, FreeAgentCentral, Covestor.com, Yodlee, wclipperz.com and passpack.com, among others. Of course, Intuit is the major player in the space.

More

http://www.mint.com
http://www.mint.com/blog
http://www.mint.com/press/downloads/release_20080108.pdf
http://www.mint.com/press/downloads/release_20071228.pdf
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/16/mints-47-million-a-round/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/mint
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/09/18/mint-wins-techcrunch40-50000-award/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/14/billeo-secures-7-million-in-financing/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/07/mint-rakes-it-in/
http://www.netbanker.com/2007/10/mint_mortgagebot_and_prosper_w.html
http://www.informationweek.com/windows/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=178600217
http://www.crunchbase.com/person/aaron-patzer
http://www.linkedin.com/in/apatzer
http://twitter.com/apatzer
http://digg.com/users/apatzer
http://consumerist.com/commenter/apatzer/
http://www.spock.com/Aaron-Patzer-NBd4i1sF
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/09/18/techcrunch40-session-5-productivity-web-apps/
http://blog.mint.com/blog/personal-finance-interview/personal-finance-interview-with-aaron-patzer-of-mymintcom/
http://blog.mint.com/blog/personal-finance-interview/mint-team-spotlight-sid-bhatt/
http://www.finovate.com/
http://r3fresh.com/2007/10/09/how-secure-is-mintcom/
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/22/fashion/22CYBER.html?ex=1353819600&en=6199204353c38df5&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
http://venturebeat.com/2007/09/18/mint-the-easiest-way-to-manage-your-personal-finances/
http://lifehacker.com/software/screenshot-tour/is-mint-ready-for-your-money-312083.php
http://consumerist.com/consumer/budgets/mintcom-+-a-new-free-personal-finance-management-site-301172.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Shriram
http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,140663-c,technology/article.html

Qunar, a Chinese travel search engine, raised $10 million

Chinese web 2.0 market is hot up to the point where large-scale financial institution like Lehman Brothers has jumped on a travel start-up. Qunar.com is an online travel search engine that we’ve just found out it has raised $10M in its 2nd round a couple of months ago. The investment in the company was led by Lehman Brothers Private Equity and was joined by return backers GSR Ventures and Mayfield Fund.

The company is based in Beijing, China and was launched in 2005 and means “where are you going?” in Mandarin Chinese. The company was founded by Douglas Khoo, CC Zhuang, and Fritz Demopoulos who had founded and sold the CSEEK search engine to News Corporation and founded and sold the Shawei.com portal to The Tom Group.

Essentially Qunar provides a price comparison engine that leads users to transactions. Qunar makes most of its income from advertising fees. That concept and business model is not something new on Internet but is perhaps in its infancy in the huge Chinese market and Qunar is trying to tap into it.

Qunar is said that it expects to break even consistently in 2008 and it may seek an IPO listing in 2010 or 2011, either in Hong Kong or on the Nasdaq in US.

The market

As from what we were able to dig up Qunar competes with Ctrip and eLong, but analysts predict that it will grow 40%-50% year-over-year for the next couple of years. Qunar has been developing partnerships to get into the Japanese and Korean markets. Under no doubt the major global players on the online travel market are companies like Expedia.com, Hotwire.com, Orbitz.com, Priceline.com, Travelocity.com, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Mobissimo, among others.

Travel remains the single largest component of e-commerce according to Forrester Research, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. But despite the dominance of online travel agency heavyweights as the companies cited above, most users consult multiple Web sites when shopping online for travel. The average consumer visits 3.6 sites when shopping for an airline ticket online, according to PhoCusWright, a Sherman, CT-based travel technology firm. Yahoo claims 76% of all online travel purchases are preceded by some sort of search function, according to Malcolmson, director of product development for Yahoo Travel. The 2004 Travel Consumer Survey published Jupiter Research released an interesting fact that “nearly two in five online travel consumers say they believe that no one site has the lowest rates or fares.”

More about Qunar

Qunar.com was founded in early 2005 by three entrepreneurs with a number of years experience operating exclusively in the Asian region – Fritz Demopoulos, Douglas Khoo, and CC Zhuang.

With a technology and product development team based in Beijing and directly located next to Beijing University and Tsinghua University, Qunar.com has developed its own proprietary multi-language price comparison search engine in conjunction with these leading institutions.

Qunar.com represents a significant step in the development of the constantly changing, albeit rapidly growing online travel industry within the region. For the first time, through Qunar.com consumers can quickly, easily and in real-time compare virtually all available prices for air tickets, hotels, car rentals and tour packages. In other words, Qunar.com allows consumers to get the best choices and value.

Qunar.com is the market leader in Asia, and we look forward to meeting the needs of the fast growing travel industry.

Currently, Qunar.com searches almost 400 Chinese-language travel web sites. These search results provide our consumers with real-time pricing information and other descriptive details from more than 100 airlines and 10,000 hotels servicing mainland China.

As the recognized “new star” in the online travel industry, Qunar.com will continue to provide outstanding service and dramatically change the way consumers search and purchase travel services.

The Company’s founders

Frederick “Fritz” Demopoulos has been involved in the Chinese media, internet and wireless industries for over seven years. He is currently a co-founder of Qunar.com. In addition to these current entrepreneurial business activities, Fritz has been an advisor to an array of well-known Chinese and international media companies including Titan Sports, Hai Run Media Group and InterActive Corp. Previously, Fritz was also interim head of business development at Netease.com. He joined Netease in 2001, and was part of the management team that oversaw a period of significant growth for the company, which eventually became the NASDAQ’s best performing equity in 2002. In 1999 Fritz co-founded and became CEO of Shawei.com. Financially backed by Intel Capital, Softbank and IDG, Shawei grew to become China’s largest sports internet portal. Shawei was subsequently acquired by Hutchison Whampoa affiliate The TOM Group in 2000. Fritz began his career in China in 1997 as Business Development Manager for The News Corporation Limited. He was actively involved in a range of initiatives with various News Corp-affiliated companies including ChinaByte.com, STAR TV, NDS and Twentieth Century Fox. A native of Los Angeles, Fritz was educated at UCLA, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Karls-Ruprecht University and Cal State Fullerton. He is an avid golfer, tennis player and supporter of the Arsenal Gunners of the English Premier League.

Zhuang Chenchao “CC” is a recognized expert in internet technologies. He is currently a co-founder of Qunar.com and leads the company’s technology and product development. Prior to Qunar, CC was a member of the Systems Architecture team at the World Bank and was based in Washington DC. At the World Bank he was instrumental in developing a 130-country, 25-language intranet that was awarded “Best Intranet” by Nielsen Norman in 2003. Prior to relocating to Washington, CC was a founding employee and CTO of Shawei, China’s leading sports portal which was acquired by The Tom Group in 2000. In 1998 while still at university, he also co-founded Shanghai Wei Bo Technologies, a first generation text search engine. Shanghai Wei Bo secured early stage investment from IDG, and the company was eventually acquired by ChinaByte, an affiliate of The News Corporation. A native of Shanghai, CC was educated at Beijing University where he received a degree in Electrical Engineering. Among other pursuits, CC enjoys developing mathematical trading models and investing in the stock market.

Douglas Khoo has been involved in both the interactive and traditional advertising and marketing communications business for almost 20 years. He is currently a co-founder of Qunar.com and leads the company’s sales, marketing and business development activities. In addition to Qunar, Douglas is also a co-founder and investor in a range of online marketing service firms, including online advertising agency OneXeno and search engine optimization (SEO) firm Pixel Direct. Douglas is also Asia Director of Unicast, an internet advertising company specializing in rich media that was recently acquired by Viewpoint. Prior to these activities Douglas was a co-founder and Director of Shawei.com. Before pursuing these entrepreneurial opportunities, Douglas had a number of senior management positions during a 15-year career with the WPP group of companies, including Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson, M-Digital and Mindshare. Notably he was responsible for Asia for building M-Digital, the online media buying and planning arm of WPP. Additionally, Douglas was GM of China for Mindshare. At WPP he was assigned to work in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. A native of Malaysia, Douglas earned a diploma in architecture from Jaya Institute of Technology. In his spare time Douglas is an enthusiastic golfer and traveler, and an avid reader of Booker Prize winners.
More

http://www.qunar.com
http://venturebeat.com/2007/11/21/china-roundup-youku-facebook-and-qunar/
http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt/archives/2007/11/chinese_online.html
http://www.mobissimo.com/
http://www.kayak.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travel_search
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/10/yahoo-travel-chases-kayak-with-farechase/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/20/breaking-kayak-raises-196-million-buys-rival-sidestep/
http://www.tomgroup.com/eng/

 

An online collaboration tool built around Microsoft Excel took $2M, plans for $2M more

eXpresso, an online collaboration tool around Excel spreadsheets, has raised $2M round of financing from Novus and Rocket Ventures. This is on top of another couple of millions they’ve made off the sale of their original product, Smart DB, to Rocket Software (no relation to the VC firm). The money will be put towards expanding their current Excel product and building an online Powerpoint application due out next summer as well. The company has also announced they have plans to raise $2M more at the near future.

Expresso Corp is bringing new capabilities to Microsoft Excel. Using their software users can manage, compare and collaborate on Excel documents – features that Microsoft surprisingly hasn’t added on their own.

eXpresso is built upon AJAX functionality and combines a series of collaboration tools and back-end database wrapped around Microsoft’s own online spreadsheet editor, Microsoft Excel Web Component. The company seems oddly positioned by leaning heavily on Microsoft’s technology, but CEO George Langan points out that they can continue to develop the component without Microsoft’s support, or disturbance, and have a great deal of patented intellectual properties in the database system they run on. On the other side Microsoft has abandoned the technology themselves, announcing an end to development of the Office Web Components. Instead, they are focusing on developing new technologies around Microsoft Sharepoint. So, will Microsoft consider buying them or will just copy/cat their features and functionalities or is Microsoft heading towards different direction and will leave eXpresso behind? Let’s put it that way it has never been good to have your business model built upon and relying on third party company’s technology, service or solution.

However, the spreadsheet editor works smoothly, provides a familiar interface, and brings most of the Excel’s desktop functionality online. You can edit cells, add formulas, sort, filter, and format. Google and Zoho have been aggressively adding a lot of these features themselves, but support auto-fill and charts as well. eXpresso also offers more applications. You can create a new file from within the program or sync one directly from Excel using their plug-in. eXpresso also offers file permissions (down to cell ranges), enables real time chat, and file management (version control, spreadsheet comparison). It’s currently free in beta, but will cost $10 or less per user when it’s finally released.

More about eXpresso

eXpresso is led by an experienced team with decades of collective experience in data management, and enterprise software applications. eXpresso’s team comprises Founders and Corporate Executives who have successfully developed and delivered award-winning business solutions for Fortune 500 companies.

About eXpresso Spreadsheet Communities
Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet application is one of the most popular on the planet. Millions of people use Excel on a weekly – or even daily – basis for simple personal tasks as well as for enterprise-critical functions such as managing supply chains, reporting corporate finance, or complying with regulatory requirements. eXpresso is a hosted workspace for real-time Excel collaboration in secure, structured communities. eXpresso brings sophisticated spreadsheet version management, comparison and collaboration capabilities to the world’s standard data interchange solution.

What can you do with eXpresso Spreadsheet Communities?

  • Upload, securely store and organize your Excel spreadsheets online
  • Authorize colleagues to view or edit your spreadsheets anytime from anywhere
  • Have a virtual meeting where invitees simultaneously view or edit Excel
  • Take advantage of powerful eXpresso features like group chat, email, alerts, and audit trails
  • Visually compare two or more spreadsheets for cell or formula changes.

eXpresso does compete with other services such as Google Spreadsheets, Zoho Sheet and XCellery. Investors include Individuals Venture Fund, Novus Ventures and Rocket Ventures. As we learned Xcellery has joined eXpresso and here is what the press releases said: “As a startup, Xcellery was committed to finding a better way for people to share and use Excel spreadsheets online. eXpresso has taken that idea to a new level of power and convenience, which is why we can wholeheartedly recommend that Xcellery users adopt eXpresso.”

eXpresso has won a number of industry awards and recognitions. 

eXpresso was honored with InfoWorld’s 2008 Technology of the Year Award: “These Technology of the Year award winners represent the best business process management system, best enterprise service bus, best database middleware, and the best SaaS collaboration and community platforms we tested in 2007.” eXpresso was also among The 2008 PC World 25 Most Innovative Products.
More

http://www.expressocorp.com/
http://blog.expressocorp.com/
http://www.expressocorp.com/download/eXpresso_Second_Round_Funding.pdf
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/expresso_web_office.php
http://www.infoworld.com/slideshow/2008/01/144-2008_technology-5.html
http://blogs.msdn.com/excel/archive/2006/07/17/668544.aspx
http://blog.expressocorp.com/2008/01/28/expresso-and-microsoft-office-web-components/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/12/expresso-gets-2-million-to-grow-an-online-office-suite/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/expresso
http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,140663-c,technology/article.html
http://www.paloaltodailynews.com/article/2008-1-7-expresso
http://www.sltrib.com/technology/ci_7907885
http://blogs.computerworld.com/share_excel_files_saas_style
http://www.expressocorp.com/download/XcelleryPressRelease.pdf