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The Minting of Mint.com
Aaron is both the visionary and technical mind behind Mint, the first free, automatic and secure way to manage and save money online. He designed Mint to meet his own needs and those of people like him who value the immediacy of the Web, simplicity and their free time. With 10 patents filed or pending, Aaron brings strong innovation skills to Mint. Prior to founding Mint, Aaron was an architect and technical lead for the San Jose division of Nascentric. Before Nascentric, Aaron worked for IBM and founded two web development and online marketing companies: PWeb and International. Aaron holds an MSEE from Princeton University and a BS in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering from Duke University.
Question: How did Mint get started?
Aaron Patzer: Sure. So, I’ve actually started a number of businesses in my career. So I’m 28 currently, but when I was about 16 I started building Websites and that’s how I put myself through school. I went to Duke with a degree in electrical engineering, computer science, computer engineering and then to Princeton. And during that time when I was building Websites and putting myself through school, I was sort of comingling my person and my business finances, so I was using Quicken and Microsoft Money since I was about, well, 16 or 17 years old, so it’s been almost ten years or so.
And I was pretty religious about it. I would manage my finances as it were every Sunday afternoon for about an hour each Sunday, made sure all of my accounts would balance and then I was involved in another startup where I was working 80 to 100 hours a week and I didn’t open Quicken for probably five months or so. And the problem with a desktop tool is if you don’t open it up, it’s not updating your finances. It’s not pulling in the information. And once I did that it downloaded about 500 transactions and they were all uncategorized and it asked me to reconcile all of my account balances and it just seemed very tedious, like, why would you want to balance a checkbook in this modern day?
And then I decided there’s got to be a better way, an easier way, a faster way to manage your finances than spend an hour every Sunday afternoon doing it. I want a tool where people can get in and out in five minutes a week or less and it takes, like, ten minutes to set up instead of an hour to set. And that was the genesis of Mint.
The first thing that I did was come up with a categorization algorithm so that instead of seeing a big pie chart where most of the things are uncategorized, this algorithm knows that Safeway is a grocery store and Starbucks is a coffee shop and it’s smart. It actually knows about 20 million US merchants. And then I realized, “Well, that’s a nice feature, but it’s not a business.” And so, if the user knows where their money’s going that’s great because they spend less time. They can set budgets, they can see a nice pie chart of their spending, but as a company it means we know where their money is going and we can help them out. We can find better prices on the things that they buy most. Like, you spend $180 on phone, TV and internet. You could bundle it together. You have $20,000 in an old checking account that you opened when you were 17 and it’s just lying around not earning any interest. You’re paying all sorts of fees on it. There's a better offer out there.
And so, 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.
Question: How did you market Mint initially?
Aaron Patzer: Well, between the time that I created the alpha version and we actually launched, it was about a year and I did build up a team. So, I got financing and got some more engineers and some real professionals working on this. But, the marketing plan was whatever we can do, basically, for cheap or for free. So, probably nine months before the product even launched we started a blog, a personal finance blog, and we had some of our own content. So, we did this thing that we called train wreck Tuesdays. It was, like, people’s worst financial disaster. And somehow reading about other people’s financial mistakes makes you feel better about, you know, the mistakes that you’ve - you know, like, “Oh, other people really don’t get it either.”
And then we did sort of a “What’s in your wallet?” We would talk to either Silicon Valley sort of tech celebrities or personal finance bloggers and ask them, “What credit cards do you carry? What brokerage accounts do you have? Why did you choose these?” And that was an interesting segment. But, most of our content came from other personal finance bloggers and we would just simply crosslink back to their site. We got a lot free content.
And so, by the time we launched we had more traffic to our personal finance blog than our competitors who had beat us to the market, who had launched before us, actually had to their entire Websites. And then we added, you know, a “Send us your email and we’ll put you on the beta” because we building demand for nine months. We got about 20- 30,000 emails during that period which was too many. We couldn’t let that many people in all at once. So, we actually said, “Okay. We’ll give you special access to the beta if you put up a little badge on your blog or your Facebook page or wherever, that says, “I want Mint.” Just a very small, little badge and then we looked at all the people who had those embedded and what that did was it gave people sort of exclusive VIP access. Sort of like, you know, the velvet rope treatment at a club, but it got us free advertising on 600 different blogs and not only the free advertising, in some sense we got the boost in search engine ranking because Google actually looks at how many people are linking to your site in order to determine your relevancy and your popularity. And so, the more people who are linked to your site, higher its page rank and the better you’re going to do when people search for things like personal finance tool or budgeting software or whatever it may be.
Aaron Patzer was frustrated with managing his finances, so he created an internet tool. Two years later, it’s worth $170 million.
Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".