There's no pleasing the British, or winning their favor. They simply hate politicians. All politicians. Hatred goes with politicians like mint sauce with lamb. It's as old as Parliaments.
I wanted to build a tool for my generation: people 20 to 40 who don't want to spend time balancing a checkbook or checking multiple financial institutions' websites. Mint does just that, giving comprehensive, quick insights into a user's finances from their computer, mobile phone and/or tablet.
In the first three years of Mint, from when it was founded to when it was sold, I can honestly say that in a sustainable way, I couldn't have worked any harder on it.
After building most of Mint.com's prototype by myself, I talked to anyone and everyone I knew about Mint. It's counter-intuitive, because you might fear someone will steal your idea, but it's the only way to make connections, be sure you're on the right track, and provide a solution for an audience broader than yourself.
I've been spending quite a bit of time in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.K. as Mint is expanding globally, and I'm personally doing much of the research and business deals to make them happen.
Mint's business model became, 'We'll go for free, and then we'll find these savings opportunities for you.' You know, better interest rate on your credit cards, when should you consolidate your student loans, when does it mathematically make sense to refinance your mortgage, and Mint figures all that stuff out for you.
Kevin Systrom of Instagram used to work for us as a consultant in the early days of Mint. I knew him a long time ago. Maybe I could have gotten in there. But with photo sharing, I don't know if there's an obvious business model. I don't think there's a competitive, sustainable advantage.
The original idea before Mint was a life and goal planning system I called Carpe Viva. The idea was that all of life's goals, from buying a house, getting an MBA, or learning Spanish could be quantified in both time and money.
I wanted a personal-finance tool for people who didn't want to be accountants: something you could set up in ten minutes and spend less than five minutes a week on. Mint is now that tool.
Mint is designed to put your finances on auto-pilot. Whether you log in or not, it will send you a weekly summary of your balances and biggest purchases, and how your investments and budgets are doing, along with sending you alerts on unusual spending and low balances.