CountAbout is a cloud-based personal finance platform that allows users to manage cash, checking, loans, savings, and other financial information from tablet, smartphone, and the web. Account data are accessible in the cloud 24/7 and via mobile devices running iOS or Android. Below is our recent interview with Joseph M. Carpenter, Co-Founder of CountAbout:
Q: Joseph, what is CountAbout?
A: CountAbout is a personal financial management website which allows users to download banking transactions automatically (with connections to over 18,000 financial institutions), schedule transactions, create budgets, customize income and spending categories, and track spending using simple yet data-rich graphics. Account data are accessible in the cloud 24/7 and via mobile devices running iOS or Android.
Q: How did CountAbout get started?
A: CountAbout started because of an office chair. As a long-time Quicken user I would periodically sit down at the computer to download and categorize transactions to give me a complete picture of my finances. However, one day my wife was shopping for a chair for her home office and called me because she didn’t recall what we had budgeted for the chair. Since I was at work, and not at home, I didn’t have a way to access our budget in Quicken. This is when I realized I had delayed long enough and it was time to put our information into the cloud. I explored putting the Quicken file itself in the cloud but that wasn’t a viable option without risking data corruption. I looked at existing solutions, but was quickly turned off by Mint and most others that lacked a major feature: the ability to import my historical Quicken data. My neighbor Alex and I were discussing the problem at the kids’ bus stop and decided this was best further discussed over a cup of coffee. In that short time we hashed out the pros and cons of building something ourselves. CountAbout was born.
Q: What are main benefits of using it?
A: Since CountAbout is cloud-based, users can access their information anywhere, anytime. Additionally, since the apps operate in offline mode, you can categorize transactions when you don’t have an internet connection. The big attraction for long-time Quicken and Mint users is that they can import historical information so they can pick up with CountAbout where they left off with Quicken or Mint.
Q: What makes CountAbout a good choice?
A: CountAbout can be a true Quicken or Mint alternative. Being relatively new to the market, compared to Quicken and Mint, we aren’t restricted by either technology or by old code. Granted, we don’t have many of the features of either Quicken or Mint but we have a solid base to build from. Users can link their accounts for automatic transaction downloading, create and monitor budgets, set up recurring transactions, create custom reports and probably most importantly, customize categories.
Q: What were the main challenges you faced in developing the company?
A: As a startup we received questions about who we were, how long we had been around, the security of the cloud, and other concerns. We knew these were going to be concerns from the beginning so we planned accordingly. We partnered with a respected organization, Intuit, to connect CountAbout users to their banks. We decided to not keep any information about our users other than their email address and declare that the only cost was the subscription fee. We don’t mine, analyze, sell, barter, or give away users data to anyone. Finally, we followed lean startup principles to an extreme to minimize costs and maximize the opportunity for long-term viability. Because of this cautious approach, we were above break-even with cash flow within two months.
Q: What kinds of feedback are you getting from users?
A: CountAbout users have told us they love the simple-to-understand architecture. We have avoided installing gadgetry of value to only a few users. Users have told us they like the absence of advertising and the understanding their data is kept private. And they like knowing that their application will be kept up to date without needing to pay for costly periodic upgrades. Mostly, they like being able to check their budget and see their financial standing anytime, anywhere.
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Q: What can we expect from CountAbout in the next six months?
A: One of the great benefits of using CountAbout, in addition to our best-in-class customer service, is that we solicit feedback from users for future product development. We use a system where users can submit suggestions and react to suggestions from other users. This allows us to focus on features that are most important to our users as we continue to develop. As an example, we have just released a Tag feature for CountAbout. Tags allow users to add a layer of categorization to their transactions. For example, you might have a category called Vacation but you could have tags that you would add to transactions in the Vacation category such as Vegas or Grand Canyon. This allows users to minimize their category list.
Q: How does a person get started with CountAbout, either from scratch or using historical files from Quicken?
A: Getting started with CountAbout is fairly easy. Just head over to CountAbout were we have a free 15-day trial, no credit card required. Users can signup, link accounts, download transactions, create budgets, etc. without limitation. The trial is the same as the subscription version.Activate Social Media: