Monday, June 2, 2008

New personal finance startup idea

On the grounds of my last post about money management online, I came up with an idea of new personal finance Web application.

So here is the deal:
  1. Make a clone of popular desktop application. Either one would be okay. Rich features of the browsers allow you to do almost everything nowadays. Keep in mind, that the most of people have Checking, Savings, Credits and Loans, at least one, for the car. Don't give up on any of these just because you think people don't need it.
  2. Keep the style sticky, don't go far in the "ergonomics" and UI and UX design. The people are already stick to some specific ways of handling (and thinking!) of data. Let them stay with it.
  3. Use the Google Gears or anything of this kind to let your software work offline.
  4. Provide a number of communication tools to your software, like widgets, IM, SMS (text messaging from the cell phones), Web or good old e-mails. Make your software as easy as Twitter is for sending and receiving updates.
  5. Don't go far in reports, you're not developing an executive software. But be reasonable in your limits. There some things that everyone wants to know. Make sure you give them a tool for that.
  6. Give your site an iPhone application, both online and offline. Everybody wants iPhone nowadays. ;) Don't forget about other smartphones. However, it could be a simple e-mail and Web gateway.
  7. Start with the basic features, be very responsive, provide an ultimate feedback for feature requests and their status, let people know the exact day when they'll receive the feature that they want. You know, this is just numbers, it doesn't take more then a month to add some fancy splits or CSV import. Make your (prospective) clients feel that they are part of the process. Let them know that they will get what they want. (But don't be afraid to say Sorry, but not, yet for ridiculous and unreasonable requests).
  8. Make sure you have all features that let people the full visibility about their current financial situation. Don't make the wait for transactions clearance on the credit card, let them see the upcoming expenses, monitor the budget, let them stretch it for urgent needs by taking funds from other categories (for example, let people temporary save on restraunt expenses for the goal of buying a new laptop). Make this visual and straight forwarded. What you really need to deliver is a personal financial tool. People want to be in control and to be able to optimize their funds. Visual way of funds planning and optimization is the easiest way for the most of us.
  9. Charge not more then 10 dollars per month (but not much less), don't mess up with different plans. I don't want to count how many accounts do I need to handle, how many transactions would be in each, etc. Give me a choice: get it free or pay for it. But make sure you give it for free. No obligations.
  10. Once you're up and running, let the social networking to work. Let people give advices, mark events, whatever not. Develop content dependant advisory system. It'll pay off.
Yes, it'd be tough for a first three-five weeks to get the core up and running. After that you can become the next 37signals with a thousands of happy customers.

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