As a follow-up to its company pitch (MyBankTracker.com: 7/12/10), StartUp Beat did a Q&A with MyBankTracker.com co-founder Alex Matjanec, the company’s co-founder, about its novel approach to providing consumer banking information and services.
SUB: What companies do you consider to be your competition?
Matjanec: In the personal finance sector, we actually have a number of competitors depending on how you view our features. Overall, we see large properties such as Bankrate and their network of small-to-medium properties as the leader in our vertical. While we don’t consider personal finance management (PFM) properties such as Mint.com as competitors, we do recognize we sometimes target the same audience.
SUB: How do you tap the information you provide about financial institutions?
Matjanec: One of our main focuses when launching MyBankTracker.com was to offer consumers the most accurate information on the web. To do this, we spent months contacting banks to make connections, promoting the benefit of partnering with us. Today a number of banks supply us with updates on rates, press releases and promotional campaigns. Currently we track over 1,000 institutions. For the rest we have an internal team of research analysts that scour the net to keep MyBankTracker.com up to date with what events or changes are occurring.
SUB: Is it provided exclusively through partnerships with the banks themselves?
Matjanec: I think I may have answered this question above, but for a number of banks yes, we do have partnerships and for others while we are working hard to create these relationships—our research team ensures no news, rates changes or promotions are missed.
SUB: How are you marketing the site?
Matjanec: Our number one marketing tactic is optimizing our search campaign. At this time we do not invest in traditional marketing campaigns though we did partner with SSPR to help in spreading the message of MyBankTracker.com. We do run sweepstakes for our users that offer the opportunity to share the campaign for additional rewards, but our main focus is helping our visitors make smarter banking decisions. Converting can come afterwards.
SUB: Are you, or would you consider, bringing in outside funding in the future?
Matjanec: We are extremely proud that we launched and grew MyBankTracker.com to the product and company it is today on our talent alone. Bringing in outside funding is a conversation my partners and I do have, and may consider going this direction, if and when we make the decision to hire and go from a lean to a fat company for potentially faster growth.
SUB: What do you find to be the advantages (or disadvantages?) of being self-funded?
Matjanec: Personally, I have never run or been involved with a company that has not been self-funded. This is one of the reasons I wanted to take this direction. When we chose to start our own company we partially did so to be our own bosses. It’s a great feeling knowing we can make our own decisions and not have to present to a board of directors. Another advantage is we have the option to take on new projects, where a company backed by a VC usually needs to stay focused on the product sold to their investors. As a disadvantage, you cannot always make the choices you want due to lack of cash flow. Having a strong base of a couple of million dollars allows you to really form a team that can act quickly. One of the reasons we could go the self-funded route is because my partners and I have the skills to design, build, promote and sell.
SUB: Ideally, where do you see the website in six months to a year from now?
Matjanec: In the next year our main focus is building our brand. We believe our product is one of the strongest in the market, and making consumers aware of that will drive growth. Though we will continue to add additional features to enhance the user experience, our main projects are built around having a strong core audience that will be advocates of MyBankTracker.com.
SUB: Finally, a question I ask everyone: as an entrepreneur who has weathered the down economy, what advice do you have for those just starting out in the current economic climate?
Matjanec: I would like to offer two pieces of advice. The first to understand your capabilities. If you are planning on launching a web-based company, fully understand your role. If you know you will need to hire a designer or a programmer, spend as little money as possible to get a workable version of your product. Then up sell it to earn the funding to fully build it out. If you have the skills to develop the product, keep your costs low and do so. We are true believers in a lean company.
The second is the phrase “stories drive sales.” Some of the strongest innovations come from inventors that work toward developing a solution to a personal pet peeve. Starting out with a personal story is a great way to attach an emotional element to the product. Stories draw people in a much more personal and intense way than lists of features do. That personal connection is the reason review sites exist.
MyBankTracker.com – www.mybanktracker.com