Archive for May, 2008

The Wesabe Process

May 30, 2008

[Note: I’ve asked some of the Wesabe team to contribute to the blog, starting with Nate Hatcher, one of our member advocates. Enjoy! –Marc]

Everyone at Wesabe loves feedback. I answer a goodly number of support requests, and I’ve found that Wesabe users are really good at giving feedback, both compliments and complaints. The complaints are really interesting because more often than not the people complaining are complaining because they want to use Wesabe. Here are some paraphrased examples: “Why don’t you support my bank in the Automatic uploader?”, “Why don’t you guys support investment accounts?”, and “I can’t use Wesabe because my bank only exports in Excel”. These complaints have the following in common: they come from people who like what Wesabe is doing, and want Wesabe to work for them.

Of course, these complaints get transformed into a more disgruntled version by the passage of time. Waiting for Wesabe to let them and their bank into the party doesn’t make people happy. So what does the Wesabe team do? Well, first of all, we consider the complaints as a team. At least every day someone in the engineering team shares a complaint and everyone discusses it for a few minutes. Three major considerations guide us: What do our current users want? What do potential users want? What do people need that they aren’t asking for yet? And here’s where the conversation about feedback gets even more interesting. In any endeavor, you can’t please everyone. During the process of creating something new and innovative, you can please even less people. When picking a few issues to focus our efforts on, we spend time on our current users and our potential users, but we also spend time on creating features that nobody is asking for, but that will be useful to everyone. Making people happy makes us happy, but we’re also driven by inventing new things. A good example of this is the new value engine which lives in the “Tips” tab. That feature deserves a blog post of its own, but in short, it has the potential to open up and democratize the market by giving customers useful hard data about businesses — data that’s available nowhere else.

The balancing act between innovation and adding requested features is a hard one. Feature fixes like search — which is back, improving, and is already better than before — and an overhaul of the spending and earning summaries (currently in progress) were delayed so that we could focus on an innovative feature (Tips) and a widely requested feature (the Automatic uploader). Support requests for feature fixes and feature requests can get overdue when those features aren’t the ones under development. One of the ways we’re trying to increase transparency is to start updating people who have older support requests (which are generally complicated ones that require a bug fix) with the current status of the engineer. Right now we’re just trying this out, but so far I think it’s a good thing: we haven’t forgotten your request and here’s one of the things that we’re working on right now.

In the long run, here’s why I think Wesabe will succeed in this balancing act: we have a mission, and we aren’t willing to compromise it. For example, the team here believes that people are coming to Wesabe to get control over their finances, so we don’t show advertisements. We put our money where our mouth is. Another example is security. We don’t think people should be forced to give up their bank username and password to use a financial tool, so we have always offered and will continue to offer uploader tools that enable people to use our service while maintaining whatever level of control they desire. This isn’t just lip service, we try to make it as easy as possible for you to not give us your bank logins if you don’t want to.

While Wesabe needs some fixes and new features, I think it’s purely a matter of time. What’s most important is that we are dedicated to providing financial management tools designed to relieve financial stress for people in all situations. And we’re going to fulfill this mission without cutting corners or compromising.

News about Jason and Wesabe

May 22, 2008

If you follow Wesabe on Twitter, you know that a few weeks ago, Jason Knight, our CEO, and his wife Jane welcomed a new son into their family. Unfortunately, their son was born with a serious respiratory disorder, and has been in and out of intensive care since his birth. While the prognosis for his long-term health is good, he has required and will continue to require very close care for a period of years. The amount of care and attention Jason’s son and whole family need at this point have led Jason to decide that he must resign from his position at Wesabe and focus on his son’s health.

Everyone at Wesabe supports Jason in his decision, and we all wish him and his family the best for the full and complete recovery of their son’s health. Of course, no one can see any other alternative for him but to make this choice. At the same time, everyone here is extremely sad to be losing Jason as our CEO.

As Jason’s co-founder, it is very easy for me to say that Wesabe would not exist but for his work. I first began talking about the ideas behind Wesabe in 2004, and nearly everyone I spoke with told me that asking people to manage and talk about their money on a Web site was completely crazy. There were two people who immediately and strongly supported what I was proposing to undertake: my wife, who has always been a wonderful supporter for me; and Jason. I have known Jason since we were each 14, and in all that time we’ve shared many ideas about the world and many ambitions for changing it. While Jason often disagreed with my ideas for businesses, and I with his, when we started talking about Wesabe it became clear very quickly that this was the right idea at the right time. During a particularly frustrating time in the lead-up to the company’s founding, I thought about giving up on the project, but Jason offered to keep working on it without me if necessary. We both made it possible for the other to keep going through those early, hard times of getting a company started, and Wesabe exists today as a result.

Unlike then, today Wesabe has a fantastic group of employees, members, supporters, partners, and investors, all of whom make the site the fantastic world it is today, and will continue to be into the future. I will be stepping in as Wesabe’s interim CEO, a position I’ve held before and am happy to hold for this great company. While we all are extremely regretful not to have Jason with us at the company, we won’t for a moment stop on the path to building out Wesabe’s future.

Please join me in wishing Jason and his family all the best.

-Marc