Intuit Acquires Mint.com

September 15, 2009

It’s been awhile since I last posted and I apologize for the absence.  In part it was because I was busy looking for a new job, and in part it was because I became slightly detached from what was going on in my area of interest.

Alas, I am back among the employed after landing a great new job in NYC.  I am the new Marketing Manager over Distance Education Company, responsible for schools like the New York Institute of Photography and the Sheffield School of Design.

And during my absence, a lot has happened in the world.  One thing that I just found out about today that is worth commenting on is the acquisition of Mint.com by Intuit.

Intuit, the company responsible for Quicken, clearly sees the value in adding this highly popular personal finance tool.

Mint, for those of you that don’t know, is a web-based tool that allows you to track all of your personal finances from one place.  You can add all of your various accounts, take care of bill paying and budgeting, and even use tools to help you better prepare for the future.  Since it’s founding in 2006, the service has grown rapidly, with new services and features added almost monthly.

In the email I received this morning as a Mint member, I was informed that the acquisition will not directly affect the service I receive as much as it will help to grow Mint’s coverage and popularity more quickly and efficiently.  Sounds like a strong play for both companies to me.  As more and more people shift their daily tasks to the web for ease, companies like this will flourish.


Madness? A New Spin on Sports Betting

March 20, 2009

centsportsA longstanding controversy, the art of sports betting has been around as long as people have been playing sports.  And as the internet made gambling from anywhere in the world at any time an effortless, habit forming task, the controversy spread.  What is legal?

The sheer legality of gambling makes it appealing.  As I have said in the past, even negative publicity gets people’s attention.  And if you get their attention, you’re winning the battle.

Now, imagine you can take the concept of sports betting, and make it legal in some way.  Then, say you manage to do that and offer it online, where anyone with a computer and internet access can get to it, anytime.  Sounds like a pretty innovative way to start a business.

Well there are two websites of mention that are doing this, and seem to be doing it well.

First, there’s ESPN.com.  Their website has undergone a massive transformation over the past couple of months, with a clear focus on driving advertising dollars and boosting web traffic.  One very interesting way they have done this is by creating a “Streak for the Cash” contest.

Basically, Streak for the Cash offers up various sporting events that users can “bet” on by selecting the winners.  The first person to collect 25 wins in a row, wins $1 Million.  And it’s free to play.  What this does is brings people to the site over and over again throughout the course of the day/week/month that this contest is active.  The more hits they get, the more ads they can serve, the more money they’ll bring in.

Second, there’s a site most people are not as familiar with, CentSports.com.  I was introduced to CentSports through a friend who had gotten involved and was enjoying the experience.  Immediately I was intrigued.

CentSports operates like a traditional sports betting site, except that you cannot gamble with your own money, making it completely legal.  You open an account, and you get $0.10.  That 10 cents is yours to bet with on whatever you want.  You can build up a large bankroll over time, and whenever you go broke, they’ll put 10 cents back into your account.

Here’s the catch, even though the money you are using is completely free, you can cash out for real money once you get to a certain value.  They have tricky cash out rules, and you have to play for awhile to build up enough money to cash out, but its all very real.

How do they do this? Ads.  Companies have been quick to buy ads on the site, which get displayed with the user’s permission, and often.  The money from these ads supports the weekly payouts to “betters”, and keep the site going.  As the site gets more popular, the ads will definitely continue to get more valuable.

Both of these are examples of websites that are looking to capitalize on the popularity of gambling in a new way.  Make it free (which also means legal) and support yourself with ads.  We’ve seen this model work in many industries, and it looks to be a winning formula here as well.

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Steve Jobs to Take Over at GM

February 23, 2009

gm_chrys_fordIt looks like there is a different reason for Steve Jobs’ leave of absence from Apple than was first reported, a spot at the head of the American Auto Industry.  Not really, but that is the suggestion that a recent open letter to the President brought up.

Posted on TechCrunch, the letter written by Todd Dagres suggests that the one thing that the auto industry needs, along with this bailout, is an innovative leader with the ability to think outside the box.  Someone we should use as a model, Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs has the ability to see the big picture, outside what is being offered to the public.  He has always done right by his employees, his shareholders, and most importantly, his customers.  His innovative spirit has made the companies he leads forward looking, creative, and successful.  And the truth is, we need to be describing the auto industry in the same way.

Here is a short piece from the letter:

“It is time for us to put tax payer money behind an executive capable of transforming the automotive industry. I respectfully submit that neither the current leadership behind these companies nor government officials are the answer. We need entrepreneurs, consumer product savants and creative managers capable of effecting change. We need great leaders who can transform cars into computers rather than horse-less carriages.”

I tend to agree with the thoughts presented in the letter, and as someone who spoke out against the idea of bailing out failed companies, would see this type of solution as a positive step.  We do need to rethink the auto industry, as failed practices continue to hurt the market and foreign car companies continue to outpace us.  Technology has offered solutions that have previously been only figments of our imagination.  From fuel to design, from function to form, things need to change fast to bring these companies back to the head of the field. And who better to lead a technology innovation than a tech genius like Jobs, or anyone else at the cutting edge of technology and Silicon Valley.

I recommend giving the letter a read.  For the full text, click here.  Tell me what you think in the comments area below.  Thank you for the suggestions Mr. Dagres.

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WebMD and the Future of Self-Help Healthcare

January 7, 2009

logo_webmd2

When you’re sick, you notice a few things.  You notice that sitting on the couch all day is boring.  You notice that reading emails, reading Tweets, and doing anything else that involves comprehending what’s on your computer screen is difficult.  But you also realize that there have been great advances in healthcare recently, and there are certainly many more on the way.

WebMD did something that should have been very obvious, and assembled all the information available about healthcare onto one website.  Allowing any Joe Schmo with a computer and internet access to “self-diagnose”, the website makes it easy to find out what’s wrong, and what you need to do to feel better.  This is all quite simple once you have the necessary amount of information.  But it helps people feel a little more comfortable, even if it is just knowing that the information is available when you need it.

But what’s next?  There are so many ways that we can help people look after themselves in times of need.  We can empower the sick to be stronger and more independent using advances in science and technology that were unimaginable only a short time ago.

As Google and other companies work within the healthcare industry to establish an online database of health records, healthcare should become a lot easier.  With an increased access to medical history, people are better prepared to deal with minor health problems and treatments on their own.  We can now begin to personalize the healthcare process outside of hospitals and doctors’ offices.

This has led or will lead to such things as advanced illness detection devices as part of your home computer, automated treatment delivery systems, advanced robotic treatments, electronic alert and notification systems for the chronically ill, and many more.  We can treat ourselves more effectively, and give doctors a way to stay on top of their patients more efficiently.  This can go a long way to helping people live a healthier, and more importantly, a happier life.

If you or someone you know is taking advantage of a great advancement in modern healthcare, let me know about it here by posting a comment or emailing me at ztheller@gmail.com.  Let’s spread the word and see what kind of progress can be made in the years to come.  Thanks.

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The Day the Earth Stood Still

July 6, 2008

I recently saw a trailer for the remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, a 1951 movie about an alien visit to earth.  This is not a post about movies though.

As I was checking it out, I watched the trailer for the 1951 movie, which I have never seen.  I thought to myself how old everything looked, and how it must have been so ahead of its time when it first came out.  It got me to thinking about a few things.

We always consider the latest and greatest technology to be this incredible advancement into the future.  But years later you can look back and almost laugh about how old it has become.  Today, technology is moving at the speed of light, and we have an endless array of gadgets to choose from on a daily basis.  What will people twenty years from now when they look back at the original iPhone?  Will it look like something from the middle ages compared to the technological advancements of the time?

What does the future hold in store and who will bring it to us?  Voice recognition technology is at the height of its growth and development.  What will that be used for in the future?  Will we be able to control everything just by speaking?  Will buttons ever be needed to control anything?

What about energy?  Can something like hydrogen provide us with all the power we need?  If so, who is going to make it cheap and easy to use on an individual basis?  Or will batteries become so powerful, and so small, that we won’t need other forms of electricity in our day to day lives?

All of these questions, and many more, bring to light how far we have come, and how far we can continue to go.  It is interesting to think about what will be next.  It takes certain people with great foresight to see how far we can take the technological inventions of today.  The innovators among us carry us forward.  I wonder what’s next.