Writing about personal finance systems we once likened Intuit's Quicken to Old Spice and spiky start-up Mint to Axe Bodyspray. Now Mint's success is being bought up by Intuit—will the smell of Old Spice overwhelm all else?
The deal hasn't been officially announced yet, but it's leaked out over at TechCrunch (which had a hand in Mint's launch in 2007). It certainly represents a success for the company's management, as the company's moved to a $170 million valuation in two years, passing a $140 million valuation at its last financing round just a few weeks ago.
Why is Quicken interested in it? First, it's a young upstart competitor, and has tapped into a new market very successfully (it has over 1.4 million registered users). Taking it on board at an early stage is a way for Intuit to control its rapid growth and prevent it from becoming a serious competitor later on. Second, Mint's apparently not begun to investigate the data-mining opportunities present in the recorded info on those 1.4 million users—a data set that's got intrinsic value in its own right.
So far, so good. But is this good news from a user point of view? Mint's press presence is full of glowing commentary and awards, and it's garnered a lot of positive public vibe. Quicken, on the other hand, faces a list of criticisms that start with how badly it abandoned its U.K. users in 2005, its advertisement placements and an apparently disproportionately large frequency of reported bugs. Sure, Intuit's the bigger entity, and Mint's management's going to clean up on the deal...but from a Mint-user standpoint, being bought up by a company with a dim user-interaction history doesn't sound all that good. We can but hope that Intuit uses Mint's design to inject some freshness into Quicken.