I Switched from Mint.com to Pageonce. Maybe You Should Too.

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the data connections to my financial accounts seem rock solid. In my time using the app, I’ve only had to fiddle with the settings once, when one of my banks decided to make online users to set up a secret question as a supplement to its regular password.

I was curious about how this startup seemingly out of nowhere to challenge the industry leader—and how it overcame or sidestepped the data connection issues that plagued Mint.com. So I went to see Goldstein at the company’s austere Palo Alto office.

It turns out there’s a back story to Pageonce that helps to explain its smooth performance. A former fighter pilot in the Israeli air force, Goldstein long worked for Mercury Interactive, an Israel- and Silicon Valley-based maker of software testing tools that Hewlett-Packard acquired for $4.5 billion in 2006. One of Mercury’s specialties, Goldstein says, was running quality-assurance tests on Web-based software.

The only sure way to assess a constantly changing website, Goldstein says, was to have the test software ingest it the same way a human would—by “viewing” pages and “clicking” on controls as if it were surfing from a desktop browser. Today, the Pageonce back end works in a very similar way. That means it isn’t thrown off when a bank changes its website in a way that affects login procedures—which they do all too frequently. (Goldstein says this was likely the source of my headaches with Mint.com.)

Strangely enough, though, Pageonce didn’t start out as a financial app. The first version of the application, back in 2007, was a Web-based personal assistant that “aggregated everything about your life,” Goldstein says—travel reservations, rewards program points, itineraries, social media accounts, e-commerce accounts, e-mail, bills (hence the name Pageonce—you could save every Web page in your life and not have to find it again). “It worked extremely well,” Goldstein says, but ultimately the startup decided it couldn’t compete with all of the companies offering more siloed apps, such as Tripit in the travel market. And when customers wrote in asking for more features, it was always about the financial-tracking functions of the application.

So in 2010 the company rebuilt its whole system around Mint-style financial account tracking. Within a couple of years, responding to customer demand, it added bill payment—in fact, the company’s user base started to grow at a rapid clip only in early 2012, when Pageonce introduced a feature that lets users pay bills from the mobile app. Payment volume is now around $1 million per day and is growing 30 percent per month, Goldstein says.

Guy Goldstein, CEO of Pageonce

Guy Goldstein, CEO of Pageonce

The days when you’ll have to write a paper check to your pay your rent or your medical bills are about to end, Goldstein says. Consumers are getting used to the idea of conducting secure transactions on mobile devices, and now want the ability to manage their entire financial lives from their smartphones or tablets. “There’s a big shift in the market from what we call a biller-centric approach to a customer-centric approach,” Goldstein says.

You can already pay hundreds of national or regional billers such as your electric utility from within Pageonce. Just last week the company added a system called “Pay Anyone” that lets users transfer money to small local businesses. Say you want to pay your rent check via Pageonce. You give Pageonce your landlord’s e-mail address or cell phone number, and he gets an e-mail or text explaining how he can log on as a Pageonce biller and receive bank-to-bank payments electronically. (Payments provide a second way for the startup to make money: when users pay a bill via credit card, Pageonce collects a 4 percent fee.)

To a user like me, Pageonce’s main virtues are simplicity and reliability. But in an app that’s mainly about aggregating account data from hundreds of different sources, you can’t achieve either one of these without … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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