Aaron Patzer: How I Started Mint.com
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Name: Aaron Patzer, 29
Founded: Mint.com, 2006 (acquired by Intuit Inc., 2009)
Business: Free personal finance management software
Location: Mountain View, Calif.
Challenge No. 1: The decision to drop my job -- a good-paying, challenging startup engineering job -- to dedicate myself full time to the creation of Mint.com.
Why: I had savings, but I had just moved to the Bay Area and had nothing else. No friends, no network, no support system. The only other engineers I knew I had hired to work with me at my former company, so they were off-limits for hiring, and I was on my own.
Solution: I took advantage of the Bay Area's community to build my own network. Joining hiking clubs, breakfast groups of entrepreneurs and meeting people however I could because I knew the development I was doing on my own -- 10 hours a day, 7 days a week -- would only take the company so far.
Challenge No. 2: Getting the first yes from an investor after receiving dozens of no's.
Why: Even though I'd saved enough to run the business for several months, build a prototype and hire my first employee, to really get the business off the ground, I needed outside funding. Investors in [Silicon] Valley have seen hundreds or thousands of proposals from eager young entrepreneurs -- so when they give a flat-out no, or worse, tell you your idea will never take off, it's pretty disheartening.
Solution: I continued to build what I knew was a good solution, and when I got really down I listened to Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" and got back in the game. Once I got my first yes, it was game on. The momentum built from there, and the rest is history.
Challenge No. 3: Hiring is always a challenge for a young entrepreneur.
Why: I was 25 when I started Mint.com. I was looking to disrupt the banking industry and encourage people to trust their financial information with a startup they'd never heard of. I was a CEO no one had ever heard of, looking to hire the best people in engineering, marketing, business development, etc. I knew I needed to surround myself by the best.
Solution: I worked really hard. I asked investors, friends and trusted advisors for recommendations. Then I made sure I went through the topgrading steps to be sure I got top performers in all positions. It was uncomfortable at points, because it took a long time, but it was worthwhile because I was confident with every single person on my staff.