Second, Mint focused on making the user do almost no work at all, by automatically editing and categorizing their data, reducing the number of fields in their signup form, and giving them immediate gratification as soon as they possibly could; we completely sucked at all of that. Instead, I prioritized trying to build tools that would eventually help people change their financial behavior for the better, which I believed required people to more closely work with and understand their data. My goals may have been (okay, were) noble, but in the end we didn’t help the people I wanted to since the product failed. I was focused on trying to make the usability of editing data as easy and functional as it could be; Mint was focused on making it so you never had to do that at all. Their approach completely kicked our approach’s ass.

Mark Hedlund CPO, then CEO of Wesabe says it like I need to hear it.  Many of you have asked (and at times shrieked) about why I have pulled winwin offline. The answer is in Mark’s quote. Read his full write up about his startup’s failure here.

To boil it down for those of you who dread the click through he blames his failure on three things:

  1. Himself- he worked “peerlessly”
  2. Focus on changing user’s behavior rather than giving them instant access to simple data
  3. Building an internal aggregation system rather than partnering with one that was already on the market.

His reasons for 2 and 3 are clearly understandable- he wanted to afford users secure, accurate and prescriptive views of their financial habits. To do this he avoided partnering with a crumbling and opaque data aggregation system. His hubris that he could help the our entire countries culture of spending is laudable…if not accurate.

Why is this a cautionary tale for winwinapps?

So many many ways.

  1. Our beta (now deemed prototype) version was written on a custom frameowrk, and was not able to take advantage of entire development communities advances
  2. I worked essentially alone, with expertise in the world that our customers lived in and not the technological field.
  3. I prioritized the ability for users to customize and manage every aspect of fundraising and marketing from the winwin dashboard, rather than making each tool as simple as possible to use.

Customers who met me, and were trained side by side with me felt that the app solved all of their organizations problems, and for that I feel some measure of pride. New users were unable to reap the benefits.

winwinapps 2.0 is growing slowly, and each module is stupid simple. Check out the first iteration using icouldbe.org as a tester. Thanks for your patience as we re-build you a stupidly simple product to help you raise money.

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

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