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.
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.
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 have always thought of myself as an inventor first and foremost. An engineer. An entrepreneur. In that order. I never thought of myself as an employee. But my first jobs as an adult were as an employee: at IBM, and then at my first start-up.
The typical workday, particularly in startup mode, is from nine to six or nine to seven, then you take a two-hour break to work out and eat dinner. By that time, you're relaxed, and then you work until midnight or one A.M. If there was no break with physical activity, you'd be more tired and less alert.
The start-up life kept me busy and surfaced the problem of not being able to stay on top of my personal finances, which led me to invent Mint.com. I was working 80-hour weeks, and had done enough preliminary work and research to know I had a big idea: To make money management effortless and automated.