Breaking the silence

Hard to believe it’s been 6 months since my last post, but what can I say, I’ve been busy! Not only have I been silent on this here blog, but for those that I have talked with over the last few months can attest, I haven’t talked a whole lot about what I’m working on. Today is the day I get to tell my story. NetworthIQ has been acquired by Strands and I have joined the Strands team to work on moneyStrands, the upcoming personal finance solution. For info on how this news is going to impact NetworthIQ, be sure to read the post over there. This post contributes my personal perspective. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about it.

It was just over 3 years ago that we started working on NetworthIQ. It was a bit of a bumpy ride. In the first couple months, I wasn’t sure if it was going to make it, but with a couple of high-profile press mentions we were off and running. The idea for NetworthIQ was pretty basic, apply the popular Web 2.0 principles of the time (social networking, public sharing, collective intelligence) and apply it to personal finance, something that hadn’t been done before. There was the occasional “this is the dumbest site ever” comment, but for the most part we always got great response and feedback from those that signed up, which was what kept me going.

Hard to believe that with the web being as global as is now, that the company that came calling was practically in your back yard. I spent two terms at OSU, and went through the disappointment of seeing my baseball career die, but now I’m back in Corvallis living out the dream. Pretty ironic. Not only that, as an active follower of the Silicon Florist and Silicon Forest, I already knew who Strands was and was following what they were doing.

So, how and why did NetworthIQ and Strands come together? Up until a few weeks ago, the face of Strands on the web was MyStrands, the social music site. It may seem odd for a personal finance site to come under that umbrella. But, now that moneyStrands has been announced, I think it starts to make a lot more sense right? Strands is starting to take the personalization and recommendation technology that they’ve built in new directions and personal finance was one of those directions. My primary job now is to channel my knowledge of the personal finance market gleaned from building NetworthIQ into the moneyStrands roadmap and keep NetworthIQ humming along.

Though it was a few months ago, it was sad to say good-bye to TransCore, I had many great opportunities to transition into software development (I started as a financial analyst) and got to work on some fun projects with great people there. But, when an opportunity to work on something that you are personally passionate about full-time and still allows you to support your family, it’s something worth making the jump for.

As for Corvallis, yes, I commute. Quite a bit different from my old commute (though I’m now even more disappointed in Oregon drivers). But, it’s only two days a week normally and the rest of time I’m up north here at home, or enjoying the quiet confines of the Sherwood public library (gotta love a city that provides free wi-fi. Even if its only downtown), or I’ve even been known to drop in on fellow web innovators and do a little co-working. I’ve also been able to make it to more events around PDX like PDX Web Innovators, Lunch 2.0, InnoTech, and BarCamp since it’s good to get out of the house a bit when working at home. However, after commuting 3 hours one day, I’m not exactly eager to make the drive into pdx proper that often, but it’s fun when I do.

Just wanted to add a personal thanks here to Todd, Jeff, and Aaron, my partners in crime at Fourio. Though we certainly had our struggles, the fact that we saw our first released product (a side-project no less) through to an exit is something to be proud of. I don’t want to make this into an academy speech, but I haven’t shared in a while, I should mention that my wife has been great through all of this, supporting my crazy/obsessive side-project turned startup dreams and for that I am extremely grateful. See honey, it wasn’t a waste of time :-).

Follow the building of a Web 2.0 app – with Twitter

I’ve been avoiding Twitter like the plague, figuring if I got hooked it would be a major productivity dagger, even more so than reading/writing blogs. Jason asked if I was on Twitter yesterday, and I responded “nope and don’t plan too.” However, the thought occurred to me last night, maybe I can do something slightly different with Twitter.

I decided to start a Twitter feed for the building of NetworthIQ. Kinda like bare naked app did by blogging about the building of Amigo and what Steve Poland is doing now at Ringside Startup, only mine will be “microblogging” allowing me to make quick entries instead of long blog posts.

For some background, NetworthIQ is a bootstrapped, side-project, .NET, personal finance web app/service that launched in the summer of 2005. It currently is nearing 8000 registered users and I’ve recently re-committed myself to focusing my spare time to making it better and helping it fulfill its potential. Two new features (tips and blogs) have been launched recently and I’ve got some more cool stuff in the works.

If you’re interested in the business of web apps, or the technology of web apps (not necessarily limited to .NET, I will explore many issues) I invite you to follow the feed and participate in the discussion as I go along.


Wesabe launches

So, Wesabe launched today. I’ve been waiting for this since I first saw Marc’s post on the Radar. As you may know I run a personal finance site, NetworthIQ, so I’m always on the lookout for related ideas and competition. I’m also happy to discover other people thinking about how to improve the way we manage our money.

Wesabe is a compelling product that I myself will try out. Features such as tips and goals are nice community features that are also slated for NetworthIQ one of these years (though my vision of these is a bit different). I need to still explore the account uploaders, but this could be the best part of Wesabe These uploading features give Wesabe the potential to be a Quicken/Money killer.

To beat Quicken/Money, I believe an app has to get out of the transaction entry approach and solve the problem of tracking finances differently and bring a lot more to the table feature-wise (like with social features). Yet, most new web-based personal finance apps (PFMs) still rely on transaction entry and have no social features. The data is already out there in the banks’ databases, so why should we have to enter it again? Plus, banks are rolling out better applications all the time, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to compete directly with them. One of my top goals for NetworthIQ was to provide account aggregation but never require a user to enter a purchase/transaction manually. That’s why it’s incredibly simplified down to just entering account balances once a month (which is stretching the bounds of data entry far enough IMO, and still needs to simplified further with automation and import/export tools).

Like we’ve faced with NetworthIQ, there is hurdle to overcome for users to trust their financial data to a web-based application. This is why you probably won’t see the desktop PFMs die anytime soon. But, like with online banking, the time is coming and Wesabe should help.

Vacation and NetworthIQ press

Oh, and of course, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that whenver I go on vacation, NetworthIQ gets some significant press exposure. Well, it happened again (the 3rd time in the last 12 months). Scott Burns, a syndicated financial columnist, included NetworthIQ in an article about Tricia, a personal finance blogger (and one of our users) chronicling her family’s climb out of debt. Congrats for the writeup Tricia, and thanks Scott! With the power of syndication, and the article being in Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News and several others, it looks like the impact was about equal to that of the Business Week article earlier this year.

Still far short of the NY Times, but I’m not complaining

What’s up with TechCrunch?

Or I should say what’s down, because it’s been down all morning. But, I guess since it’s not even 7:00 here on the west coast it’s not really all morning. I’ve just been up for a few hours already, so it feels like it. I’ve been trying to follow the conversation about Minti and niche Web 2.0 sites (ahem, such as NetworthIQ).

Mike has some interesting comments about walled gardens. In general, I don’t tend to buy his argument about aggregating content from blogs and not forcing people to enter content on the site. I think it’s a nice addition to be able to do so, but it’s not essential at this point (early in a product’s lifespan, the internet as a whole doesn’t really get it). It does get me thinking about NetworthIQ and our other projects and how we should reach out beyond our walls.

Mike, just so you know, NetworthIQ has all kinds of RSS feeds. We’re not perfect yet as far as getting data in and out, but I do agree that RSS is a good first step.

NetworthIQ in Business Week

Business Week

Fresh off the buzz of the Innovation Map, we turn our attention back now to NetworthIQ. This is an exciting time at NetworthIQ headquarters (virtual headquarters that is) as this week’s issue of Business Week features an article (free right now) on personal finance blogs and NetworthIQ is mentioned. Needless to say, the rest of the Fourio team and I are pretty happy to get this level of exposure. First the NY Times and now Business Week. Two big wins with barely a penny spent on marketing (ok I ran a couple of Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing experiments). Maybe there’s something to this viral marketing thing.

It’s really funny too, because I was heading on a vacation to Sunriver (central Oregon) when the NY Times article ran and I’m heading back to Sunriver tomorrow for the weekend. I should really get to Sunriver more often if this keeps happening.

The article is free right now, though I don’t know for how long that usually lasts: