Why Wesabe failed: Marc Hedlund’s Challenge

October 5, 2010

At tomorrow night’s Bay Area Quantified Self Show&Tell, we are going to focus on transportation, consumption, and energy. Our meeting is in the incredible Autodesk design gallery at One Market Street, and there are some terrific talks planned. Some of the talks will be about tracking the things we buy, and in anticipation of this, I want to share the following excerpt from a recent post by a person I admire, Marc Hedlund of Wesabe, who discusses why Wesabe failed. Wesabe was the market leader in personal finance tracking before Mint launched. In his full post, which is well worth reading, Marc frankly discusses why his decisions  led to an inferior user experience, which meant that it was Mint rather than Wesabe that grew and was eventually acquired by Intuit.

At the end of Marc’s piece, he challenges the notion that automatic tracking of financial data has made people smarter consumers – at least so far:

…But when we analyzed the benefits we saw for our users, and when Mint boasted about the benefits they saw for their users, the debt reduction and savings increase numbers directly matched the national averages.  Because our products existed during a deep financial crisis, consumers everywhere cut back, saved more, and tried to reduce their debt. Neither product had any significant impact beyond what the overall economy led people to do anyways.

So, yeah. Changing people’s behavior is really hard. No one in this market succeeded at doing so — there is no Google nor Amazon of personal finance. Can you succeed where we failed? Please do — the problems are absolutely huge and the help consumers have is absolutely abysmal. Learn from the above and go help people (after making them immediately happy, first).

I think Marc’s challenge is made directly to you, QS folks, and that is why I am passing it on.

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