eHub Interviews Wesabe

Posted by Emily Chang on Friday, April 13th, 2007. Filed under: eHub Interviews

Visit Wesabe, originally added to eHub on Nov 20, 06.

imageThanks to Jason Knight, CEO and co-founder of Wesabe for this email interview.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

Wesabe: Wesabe provides a Web-based tool that gives our members a better understanding of how they spend, and links them to a community dedicated to helping each other get more for their money.  Wesabe aggregates and analyzes financial transaction data from members’ bank and credit card accounts, and delivers customized, money-saving tips based on members’ actual purchases.  These tips come from other members, allowing everyone in the Wesabe community to benefit from its collective wisdom.

eHub: Why did you start this project?

Wesabe: My background is in business development and advertising, where I saw first-hand the vast amounts of data that businesses compile on their target audiences. As a consumer, I felt a real inequity – I didn’t know nearly as much about the places I was shopping as they knew about me. Recognizing how powerful it would be if consumers could aggregate and share their insights on businesses, I joined forces with Marc Hedlund to create Wesabe.

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth?  Do you have a day job?

Wesabe: I’ve been working full-time-plus on Wesabe since December 2005.

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

imageWesabe: I co-founded the company with Marc Hedlund, our chief product officer.  Prior to Wesabe, I served as the VP of marketing and business development of Asurion Asia Pacific.  I was previously a managing director at Ogilvy & Mather, and held executive positions at Excite@home and Kendara.  Marc most recently was an entrepreneur-in-residence at O’Reilly Media.  He previously served as: VP of engineering at Sana Security; co-founder and CEO of Popular Power, a distributed computing startup; and founder and general manager of Lucas Online, the Internet subsidiary of Lucasfilm, Ltd.  Earlier in his career, Marc was director of engineering at Organic Online and CTO at Webstorm.

The rest of our team consists of five engineers (Brad Greenlee, Coda Hale, Jay Laney, Sam Quigley and Tim Mason) and one communications person (Debbie Pfeifer).

In addition to a great team, we have a kick-ass advisory board.  Members include: activist, author and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow; consultant, teacher and writer Clay Shirkey; and “Creating Passionate Users” author and javaranch.com founder Kathy Sierra.

We’re hiring – we have many great things to do at Wesabe and not enough hands to do them.  If you’re an amazing graphic/UI designer or a web application engineer, please shoot an email to: marc at wesabe dot com.

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

Wesabe: Since we know a huge number of people feel stress around money, we’ve designed the UI to do as much as it can to reduce that tension and make Wesabe a friendly and low-key place to talk about money.  We’ll use the color red to describe the way people feel about a merchant, but *never* to talk to you about your own money.  Rather than using color as a punishment or warning, we try to use prompts that keep you on track towards your financial goals.  As another example, we have a small customizable button representing each goal you’re pursuing, so you have a visual, compact, and hopefully fun reminder of what you want to achieve.  Additionally, we show you the faces of other people using the Wesabe site on every page, so that you see that there are many other people like you, trying to get the most from their money.  Overall, our goal with the design is to help people feel that money is something that affects everyone, is something they can control, and that they have options to get the most from it.

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

Wesabe:

* Ruby on Rails – web site and API development
* Mongrel/Pen/Apache/MySQL – server programs
* Python and wxPython – cross-platform client application, the Wesabe Uploader
* The Yahoo UI library – Javascript effects on the site
* OFX and a REST API – data communication
* OpenSSL – encryption

eHub: If your project is live, what are the most requested features from your users/community?

Wesabe: The number one request from members is for us to add their individual bank or credit union.  When we launched in November 2006, we supported 3,000 financial institutions.  We now have more than 5,000 and add more each week.

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

Wesabe: Our user base is distributed.  Our members live throughout the U.S. and in more than 100 countries worldwide.

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months?  The next 2 years?

Wesabe: During the next six months, we’ll be further simplifying the site.  We want to make it easier for users to import, export and do more with their data, regardless of what data format they use.

In two years, we see our tools and community addressing the needs of the broad spectrum of people who use online banking, not just early adopters and enthusiasts.

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

Wesabe: Convincing people that personal finance doesn’t have to be a chore.  We have taken out the time-intensive and boring parts of understanding where your money is going, and instead give you the tools and support to help you get more for your money and reach your financial goals.

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

Wesabe: There is no one thing we need, but many small things that in aggregate add up to a deeper, richer user experience.  Broadly, we need to be able to provide our users with more context around current spending and future goals.

eHub: Do you have a business model?  If so, what is it?

Wesabe: We plan to generate revenue via monthly subscription fees for premium-level memberships, which will be introduced later this year.  Wesabe does not plan to accept advertising.  There are plenty of sites trying to get you to spend your money; we want to be the one that helps you save money.

eHub: If you’re able to disclose this information, how much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?

Wesabe: For competitive reasons, we don’t release our traffic and usage numbers.

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

Wesabe: Pretty much every day, we get amazing positive feedback from our members.  It feels great to be providing a service that has been so well received and really makes a difference for our members.

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

Wesabe: I’d agree there is a shift towards user generated content (which is a very corporate view), but I’m also very struck with how UGC is a communication mesh that now surrounds us.  I was just on flickr looking at my friend’s baby.  My friend and his family have lived in Hong Kong for years, so I haven’t seen them in person for a long time, but I’m watching their child grow up.

eHub: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?

Wesabe:
OpenSourceCU
Bankwatch
A VC
Calacanis bog
Cooltools
ZeFrank
NetBanker
Get Rich Slowly
BankerVision
genuineVC
Dilbert blog
St. Bartholomew’s (Fr. Gawain’s blog)
The Mechanic and the Muse
VentureBeat
Valleywag
Tech Crunch
O’Reilly Radar
GigaOm
Webware
Arts and Letters Daily
New York Times
Wall Street Journal
Freakonomics

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

Wesabe: 5-6 hours

Thanks to Jason Knight, CEO and co-founder of Wesabe for this email interview.

Visit Wesabe
Originally added to eHub on Nov 20, 06