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The Self-Made Man: Aaron Patzer

Apologies for missing last week’s deadline, but Hurricane Sandy knocked out my Internet for a while there. That’s nothing compared to the flooding and widespread power outages in New Jersey and parts of New York City, of course, but it did complicate the process of filing my columns on time. Or at all, as it turned out. But now that’s all settled, so let’s get right into this week’s Self Made Man, Aaron Patzer.

Aaron’s one of those online entrepreneur whiz kid types who ran a BBS when he was ten years old, back in the Neolithic era of the Internet when access was limited to local servers and it took an entire day to download a picture of Cindy Margolis. My memories of those days revolve around playing Mad Maze and getting yelled at by my dad for racking up per-minute charges on Prodigy.

Anyway, Aaron used his considerable brain-smarts to get undergrad degrees in computer science, and electrical engineering, and computer engineering from Duke University, followed by an MSEE from Princeton. From there, he got a job with IBM and worked on their Cell microprocessor before leaving to start his own company, Nascentric.

Nascentric is important to Aaron’s story because it necessitated a 70-hour work week, leaving precious little time for him to work out his finances. And like many people, he tried using Microsoft Money and Quicken and hated them both.

So, with nothing but the shirt on his back, his Ivy League education, and a natural gift for logarithms, Aaron set about creating Mint.com, a web-based financial management service with a simple user interface and built-in budgeting and goal-setting options. Building the database was a stressful time for Aaron, who hadn’t done that kind of work in nearly eight years, and was trying to compete with Microsoft and Intuit.

“You see your net worth quickly draining,” Aaron told Workhappy.net, summarizing the uphill battle that was Mint.com’s development process, “[and] you have no idea what’s going to happen next, and you’re sitting alone in a room with no help, no resources, just your brain and sheer will-power.” But as we all know, brains and willpower are how every TSB-approved entrepreneur has succeeded.

Once he had something to show investors, Aaron met Half.com founder Josh Kopelman and First Round Capital partner Rob Hayes in 2006, and got them on board with his project. In September 2007, Aaron launched Mint.com at the TechCrunch40 conference and won the $50k first prize.

Mint.com has since been bought, ironically enough, by Intuit (makers of both Quicken and TurboTax) for what I can only assume was a substantial amount of money. Post-acquisition, Aaron has been sharing his knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, start-up businesses wherever he can. I’ll end with this interview he did with Big Think, which expounds on those topics.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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