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Finovate Start-up: What Would You Ask Vestopia, SmartHippo and other companies?

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finovatestartup.gifThis Tuesday, I'm heading to Finovate Start-up hosted by Jim Bruene of NetBanker fame. There are a ton of companies presenting there. Some of the highlights that I'm looking forward to are Buxfer, Loanio (are they ever going to launch), Mint, Prosper, SmartyPig, Wesabe, Zecco, Zopa. I'm disappointed that Geezeo isn't going to be there. Lending Club bowed out, which is reasonable considering their quiet period.

I'd like to single out Vestopia and SmartHippo (not to be confused with SmartyPig or my upcoming start-up SmarterBoar). These companies have contacted me for one-on-one interviews. I've been able to secure a time with Vestopia, but I'm still waiting to hear back from SmartHippo. Other companies have tried to set up meetings with me, but since I don't know what to expect, I'm trying not to over-extend myself.

I could really use your help coming up with questions for Vestopia and SmartHippo. I'm not very familiar with them, other than what I read on their websites, so you can figure out what I can. As best I can tell, Vestopia let's you follow what Investment Directors are buying and selling - alerting you about the trade right away within 15 seconds of them doing it. There is a whole community aspect to the site as well. SmartHippo seems to be a community reporting mortgage rates from community members. I look forward to finding the value that this community provides, I found that I did extremely well doing a search for mortgages on Bank Rate. Maybe I got a lucky though.

So if you have questions that you want me to ask these companies - or any others, leave a comment or contact me. If there's a company that you'd like to know more about, let me know and I'll try to attend their product demo.

Last updated on August 1, 2011.

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7 Responses to “Finovate Start-up: What Would You Ask Vestopia, SmartHippo and other companies?”

  1. DebtKid says:

    Hmmm…to me Vestopia looks a little like CoVestor (where you can track other user’s portfolios), only for watching professional manager’s portfolios in real time. Their about me page was way hidden at the bottom of the page.

    SmartHippo looks like a more user generated BankRate. With users keeping banks/mortgage companies accountable to interest rates. The power of the people, right?

    I’d ask Vestopia how they picked the manager’s they are following. I mean, If I was a super-duper top wall street trader, would I really publish my trades real time? Probably not. Find out who they’ve got and how they got them.

    For SmartHippo, I’d ask, “how are you going to get more users into this?” Right now they look a little thin, and what’s the average person’s motivation for sharing this type of info.

    Anyway, my two cents.

  2. Tom says:

    Lazy, I was hoping to attend myself. I even purchased plane tickets. Unfortunately I had to back out at the last minute due to work commitments.

    I plan on doing some email interviews over the next few days with some of the companies since I won’t be going. I just posted an interview with VaultStreet. They have a pretty impressive offering that would be useful for some people.

    I’m looking forward to your interviews. I always like hearing about the challenges of starting a new business.

  3. Eric says:

    Michael from Loanio should be there. I was just going over his presentation with him the other night.

    Make sure you stop by his booth and talk to him afterwards! He seems to have a pretty good thing going there.

  4. Steven says:

    I’d ask SmartHippo what’s really useful for consumer in their service?

    Anyone can find reviews anywhere these days, so what’s their real value for consumers? And most importantly how they’re going to achieve it.

  5. Kelly Rusk says:

    Hi Lazy man! It was great meeting you at Finovate. Sorry we weren’t able to set something up–I actually never received a reply from you! (Gotta love email!)

    Glad we were able to meet anyway and I hope you have a better understanding of SmartHippo now. I’ll take a crack at some of the questions in the comments…

    @Steven -There are actually not many bank/broker reviews available online. Particularly aimed at mortgages as well, we saw that gap and that’s why we have reviews. We also integrate them into our site, so if you were to do a rate search and find a really great rate, but the lender has a poor rating, s/he might not be the best lender to work with, especially if service is important to you.

    The difference between SmartHippo and other sites that provide mortgage rates, is we are consumer-centric… Meaning most are just trying to get your personal information to sell to brokers, and in that situation, you can assume they are more concerned with padding their pocketbooks than giving you the best deal. SmartHippo keeps it anonymous, but does ask some qualifying criteria to get you accurate rates.

    @Debtkid-It’s definitely true our biggest challenge is traffic. Especially when it comes to mortgages, the average user will check out the site a few times, but once s/he secures a mortgage, s/he has bigger things (like moving) to worry about than coming back to the site. For this reason, we’ve modeled the site expected a fluid number of users, with a few who keep coming back because they are genuinely interested in mortgages and helping others out.

    Also we publish a monthly personal finance newsletter (not just on mortgages) with tips for managing a budget, saving money on bills etc., to keep us front of mind. I think enough people have had a bad experience with mortgages to motivate them to write a review (whether good or bad) However, we also run the occasional contest to motivate people to come on and write a review about their experiences.

  6. Kelly Rusk says:

    Oh yea, I should identify myself–I am the community manager at SmartHippo

  7. Kelly Rusk says:

    Note to self: don’t post blog comments before coffee, clearly this post is from LAST YEAR! : )

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