I consider myself an inventor first and an entrepreneur second. In real life, my hero is Thomas Edison. He was a great inventor, but also an outstanding entrepreneur who was able to sell his inventions to the masses. He didn't just develop the light bulb; he invented the entire electric grid and power distribution system.
When I was 8 or 9, I started using bulletin board systems, which was the precursor to the Internet, where you'd dial into... a shared system and shared computers. I've had an email address since the late '80s, when I was 8 or 9 years old, and then I got on the Internet in '93 when it was first starting out.
After building most of Mint.com's prototype by myself, I talked to anyone and everyone I knew about Mint. It's counter-intuitive, because you might fear someone will steal your idea, but it's the only way to make connections, be sure you're on the right track, and provide a solution for an audience broader than yourself.
I'm typically a 'just drink water' kind of guy. I was a bodybuilder in high school, so I used to - food to me was, 'there are this many grams of carbohydrates and proteins, and I need these micronutrients in order to grow and be fit,' and I ate in order to live and not live in order to eat, and I think most people are the opposite.
The way you dress or the car you drive or what you spend is to impress other people with how, I guess, successful and rich you are. But you're not, and you shouldn't, and who gives a damn what other people think anyway. So, that mentality, I think, is very destructive.
I've actually started a number of businesses in my career. So I'm 28 currently, but when I was about 16, I started building Websites, and that's how I put myself through school. I went to Duke with a degree in electrical engineering, computer science, computer engineering, and then to Princeton.
Mint's business model became, 'We'll go for free, and then we'll find these savings opportunities for you.' You know, better interest rate on your credit cards, when should you consolidate your student loans, when does it mathematically make sense to refinance your mortgage, and Mint figures all that stuff out for you.
I actually don't invest in anything that is social, mobile, deals or ad networks simply because those are areas where there are so many players and so many other smart people in the space, I feel like I don't have a competitive advantage. So I tend to go after things that are e-commerce, like healthcare.
I always knew I wanted to be a technologist, so I went to Duke and got a degree in computer science and electrical engineering. Really, I thought my goal in life was to be an inventor, a problem solver, so I thought I needed a Ph.D. to be good at inventions, but it turns out that you don't.
You don't start a company because you want to be an entrepreneur or the fame and glory that comes along with it. You become an entrepreneur, and you create a company to solve a real problem. And by real problem, I mean a problem that is going to exist down the line.
One third of the economy goes through 'QuickBooks' in terms of businesses invoicing other businesses. Each invoice contains a connection between vendors, suppliers, and customers, and also the price of that connection. Representing the payment graph is huge opportunity and something no other company can do.