Wesabe co-founder talks about why — and why not — his company failed.
Via TechCrunch today I came across this postmortem by Wesabe co-founder Marc Hedlund. Wesabe was a personal finance web site that competed with Mint.com. Despite coming to market earlier, Wesabe eventually shut down while Intuit acquired Mint.com for $170 million.
Hedlund makes convincing arguments for why Mint.com won, but also disagrees with other often cited reasons. One reason he disagrees with is that Mint won because its name was better than Wesabe. Hedlund writes:
Mint’s CEO likes to talk about how ridiculous our name was relative to theirs, but I think the examples of Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, Google, and plenty of others make it plain that even ludicrous names (as all of those were thought to be when the companies launched) can go on to be great brands.
I’ll agree that you can create a branded experience from a name. Amazon is a great example. But in this case Wesabe was made up. If someone told you to check out “wesabe dot com”, you’d have no idea how to spell it. You’d probably go to Wasabi.com, like the sushi sidekick. If someone tells you to check out “mint dot com” you would find it. Same with “amazon dot com”. The domain doesn’t necessarily have to do with the product, but you need to be able to spell it.
Later Hedlund writes:
You’ll hear a lot about why company A won and company B lost in any market, and in my experience, a lot of the theories thrown about — even or especially by the participants — are utter crap. A domain name doesn’t win you a market…
Hedlund is right. A domain name doesn’t win you a market. It can help, however. That doesn’t mean you should blow millions on a domain name if it doesn’t leave you enough to develop and market your product. Mint.com could have gone with something else and it still would have won. That said, had Mint been called something like Wesabe, which few people could spell, it certainly would have faced a harder course.