Mint’s sale to Intuit really pissed me off.
Why should I care? Because I think it’s indicative of a VC-induced cancer that’s infecting our industry and killing off the next generation. I don’t know the full backstory, but I’d bet this sale was encouraged by a Mint investor.
Here’s a fresh new company that was gunning for an aging incumbent. And not only gunning, but gaining. They had a great product, great design, and great potential. They were growing rapidly and figured out the revenue game. They were on their way to redefining an industry — one that was left for dead by the current custodians.
They were everything their main competitor, Intuit, was not. While Mint was inventing, Intuit was out of it. People used Quickbooks/Quicken out of habit and legacy. People used Mint because they loved it. Intuit was disgruntled, Mint was disruptive.
But here’s what happened: Intuit, last decade’s leader in personal finance, just became the next decade’s leader in personal finance. Mint had their number, but they sold it for $170 million. A big payday for sure, and if that was their two-year goal then they nailed it, but I can’t believe that was the point behind Mint. It had too much potential.
Mint was a key leader of the next generation of game changers. And now it’s property of Intuit — the poster-child for the last generation. What a loss. Is that the best the next generation can do? Become part of the old generation? How about kicking the shit out of the old guys? What ever happened to that?
As more great new companies are absorbed into big old companies, a whole new generation of change is lost. They can issue press releases saying how excited they are to be able to bring their product to a whole new world of customers, and how their new suitor will bring enormous resources to bear, but we know that’s usually not really what happens. Development slows, products stall, the staff that built the great stuff leaves, and mediocrity creeps in. Not always, but usually.
Thomas Jefferson said “Periodic revolution, ‘at least once every 20 years,’ was ‘a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.’” That may be even truer for business. We need new blood, new companies, new methods, new ideas, new applications, and new leaders to regenerate stale industries. The old must be plowed under by the new.
But today it seems like the old is doing the plowing. Let’s stop that. Let’s build great companies that are here to fight, here to win, and here to stay until the next generation after us comes along and kicks all our asses. And again and again and again. That’s how better happens.