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Wow… exciting. Eagle eyed CloudAve stalwart Krishnan posted about the reported purchase of Mint.com by Intuit (disclosure – the Intuit Partner Platform is a consulting client but I had absolutely no previous knowledge of this deal nor any insight into Intuit’s plans).
Many of us in the SaaS and personal/business finance software space will be spinning trying to work out the strategy behind this deal – obviously Intuit owns Quicken, the personal finance solution that is available in both an installed and online version – but I have a sneaking suspicion that there is more to this than simply a stablemate to sit beside Quicken.
I posted quite some time ago about the rumours that Mint was planning to mine aggregate user data in order to sell that (anonymized) data to third parties. It’s an ultimate play that really only works with a web product – and therein lies a distinction between the online products of desktop software vendors and true, pure-play SaaS apps.
Others have seen this deal as a way for Intuit to gain a new revenue model for Quicken (Mint makes its money by charging financial services companies to suggest their offerings to users) but I’m not seeing that – it would have too much of a cannibalization effect on their other products for such a simple strategy to be in force.
Quicken Online is a free product that attempts to gain converts for Quicken’s paid, and installed offering – as such and from a strategic perspective for Intuit, they’re loathe to give it features which would not be available in an installed product. Mint on the other hand is a pure-play SaaS app and, as such, its very point of difference is the connectedness – the fact that it can leverage both an individual’s connectedness to the web, but also the aggregate data of all users sharing the application.
It’s a point of difference that we see borne out in the business-facing world. FreshBooks has long been rightly proud of its “report card”, a periodic report that FreshBooks users can utilize to assess their financial performance compared to the performance of their peers. If Intuit is smart (and I know some guys within Intuit who definitely are) they’ll be thinking hard about utilizing what Mint already does for personal finance but parsing that in a business way.
Intuit already has the intuit Partner Platform, a platform play that allows users of the installed QuickBooks product (as well as people who don’t use QuickBooks) to integrate with other applications easily. This “common data model” lends itself to aggregated data plays. It’s not a huge stretch to imagine Intuit using Mint’s smarts via the Intuit Partner Platform to product a FreshBooks like benchmarking service for businesses.
As to the inevitable “what does this mean for existing Mint customers?” question – I think they can rest easy, at least in the short to medium term. Intuit understands the new business paradigm well enough to not make the mistake of disenfranchising the Mint user base – as I say, I believe a natural strategy for them is to clone what Mint does well, but into an associated, but different, product offering.