Wesabe, a community financial site

Wesabe is a brand-new social financial site and it comes from Radar’s startup alum Marc Hedlund. On Wesabe, you are able to share vendor-specific tips and financial goals with each other. You can upload your financial records and then tag vendors. Using these tags Wesabe shares tips and goals between yourself and other Wesabians (my word). You can also discuss these tips and goals. Wesabe also provides analysis tools to view your spending by tag and learn about the average Wesabians expenditure by tag.

There have not been too many community-driven sites that delve into the financial area and this is not surprising. A financial site of this kind needs people’s data for them to get a lot of value out of the site, and getting access to that data is a matter of trust. As a user, first you need to feel safe getting your data into the system and feel that your data and passwords are secure on the site’s systems. Second, you need to feel that once your data is on a service’s servers, the data is still yours and that there are no hidden clauses. Third, finding the right way to share financial data on a community site is difficult. The site needs to be useful, but it can’t be too revealing.

Wesabe handles the security issue head-on. When I logged on to review their site, I wasn’t looking forward to uploading my financial data, but then I found out that they had two methods for uploading. The first method was exactly what i expected. You are able to enter your passwords (securely) into their website for behind the scenes updates. The joy for me was finding out that there was a desktop app that I could use to keep my account access on my desktop. Using the desktop app (available for Mac and Windows) was easy. Whether my machine turns out to be a safer place then their servers remains to be seen. There is more info on their security system in their FAQ or you can talk to the CEO, Jason.

In reference to the data ownership question, Wesabe has published a Data Bill of Rights:

  • You can export and/or delete your data from Wesabe whenever you want.
  • Your data is your data, not ours. Our job is to help you understand and act on your data.
  • We’ll keep all of your data online and accessible for as long as you have an account. No “archive access” charges.
  • Any data you want us to keep private, we will.
  • If a question comes up not covered by these rights, we will answer it, remembering that your data belongs to you.

Other companies would do well to learn from Wesabe about how to treat a user’s data and who owns it. Marc spoke at the Web 2.0 Summit about Open Data and Data Rights; you can learn more about that on the Wesabe blog.

Wesabe has done a good job of balancing the needs of privacy versus fostering community via sharing. I never see where other people shop or how much they spend, only what their tags, tips, and goals are. Tips, goals and aggregate spending are grouped around tags. Tags can be added to a vendor by you or by anyone else in the system.

Similar to 43things, you are then grouped with people by goals and interests rather than by your existing social network. The analysis tool are simple and easy to read and use. They clearly show your spending over time and how that compares to other Wesabians. This is also the section of the site with the most room to grow. I suspect that they will add more community features based on user requests and as they detect unexpected uses of the site that they want to accommodate.

Wesabe plans to offer paid pro accounts in 2007. These accounts will have additional features and allow for more accounts. They do not not plan to add advertising — the site is about controlling your money and most advertising is counter to that.