WHEN JASON KNIGHT WENT LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS TO get out of debt, he instead uncovered a business opportunity. The CEO of the San Francisco-based startup Wesabe (www.wesabe.com) created an online community where people could manage their money and talk to others about their financial challenges and strategies.
The free Web-based software lets members access, upload, and view their banking and financial transactions, and tag or identify their spending, and it helps them make that "a-ha" connection to where all the money is going.
"It's very hard to talk about money," says the New York City native. "When I started talking to people about personal-finance tools, I felt like a priest. People were confessing their financial sins to me with this incredible level of emotion."
Knight, 36, and Marc Hedlund founded Wesabe believing the tools that existed in the marketplace failed to provide consumers with clarity regarding their money and spending habits.
Initially, investors balked at the company. "One unfortunate thing about Silicon Valley is that everyone knows what you're doing," Knight says. "A number of venture capital firms said, 'The consumer will never trust you.'"
With so much of the work involving sensitive financial information, trust was indeed an issue for the founders. To address that, they developed a "Data Bill of Rights," which is being viewed as an industry standard as users turn more toward open data applications for their personal and business solutions.
Knight and Hedlund launched Wesabe in November 2006 with $200,000 of their own funds. Customers soon followed. One of the top draws of the site is that users can remain anonymous--not to mention the...