Two year old Mint.com just sold to Intuit for $170M. A real entrepreneurial success story. Within two years of being founded, Aaron Patzer and team created $170M worth of wealth for themselves and their investors, they created an amazing experience for their customers, and now, they are going to bring that amazing experience to several million Intuit customers. Absolutely everybody wins.
Within two days of the announcement Jason Fried of 37Signals blasts them in a blog post titled “The Next Generation Bends Over”:
“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’ll offer an alternative reason for why Jason should care. Because 37Signals is a company whose most valuable asset is not innovation or financial success, but rather it founder’s contrarian rants. They’ve built a company by gaining attention via a contrarian approach using the ‘establishment’ as the foil.
- An Innovative Company Creates Huge a Win for All Involved – Berate the successful innovators as sellouts that are killing innovation.
- Your Own Software is Simplistic and Inflexible – Write a book explaining that everyone’s approach to work management is wrong, and that the proper way to work is the narrow means 37Signal’s software is capable of handling.
- Your Customers Complain About Being Ignored – Make it clear to your customers that their desires are second place to your own opinions about what’s important. You know what’s best for them. Simplicity of design and fewer choices ensure that typically incapable customers don’t f*&# everything up.
- You Are Asked About Growth and Market Share – Tell everyone that big deals and high growth for growth’s sake are cancers while extolling the virtues of a lifestyle business.
SAP, Siebel, Oracle and others have very successfully marketed directly into their weaknesses. Tell everyone that affordability, customer satisfaction, and company culture are hallmarks of your business. While these self-portrayals are laughable to those inside the industry, it’s proven to be a successful way for large companies to semi-diffuse their primary Achilles Heels.
Thank goodness Mint’s announcement came along. It provided a useful foil for Jason to remind his employees and investors that financial success is evil, and that they are working for something much more important… Jason, I guess.
Mint’s performance and success is a fabulous motivator for budding entrepreneurs. I for one hope Aaron starts and sells 10 more successful and innovative companies in the next 20 years. That will pour more innovation and entrepreneurial motivation into the market than all of Fried’s defensive contrarian writings ever will.