Coulda, woulda, shoulda … but not really

First of all, congrats over to the team at for going live and winning the Techcrunch40 prize. As a die hard Quicken user, I think it’s great that companies are pushing in this space. I can’t say I save money or time by using Quicken, but it lets me feel in control. (And I could always tell when I wasn’t feeling in control of my finances, because I would avoid Quicken.) I wish Mint much luck.

But I’m also left with a slightly nostalgic feeling — and even a bit of jealousy — because I tried to create a similar venture back in late 1999. I was coming off of another startup (which I got wistful for when I first heard about Entise Systems and Azul Systems), all my friends were starting web companies, and I thought that what the world needed was a web-version of Quicken. At the time, everyone I talked to thought it was a crazy idea. People wouldn’t trust some web company with access to all their accounts. I was too late and the market was going to be owned by Yodlee or MyCFO. Only obsessives used Quicken and they were already satisfied.

I built a small prototype that could import my Quicken data. And I managed to disable my Bank of America and American Express accounts a few times while building screen scrapers for them. More importantly, though, I learned a few lessons about startups (don’t try to do it as one person — you need moral support and someone to bounce ideas off of) and about myself (I’m good at technology but not at sales). And, after working on it for a few months, I realized I wasn’t actually interested in building and selling the product, only in using it. So, I closed it down and took a job at a startup some friends had founded, which then disappeared with most of the rest of Web 1.0.

I wonder if it’s still a crazy idea. I hope not. Mint, with their scraping and auto-categorization, seems to have done a nice job. I suspect I’m going to hold off on using, because this is one kind of data I actually like to have sitting on my hard drive and not out in the cloud. At least for now.