For some reason that I can’t even begin to guess, I always thought that Wesabe was headquartered in Seattle. “Assumed” is probably a more accurate description of what I was doing. Anyway, they’re not. They’re in San Francisco. And last week, so was I.
I’ve been a Wesabe user, fan, community participant and cornerstore evangelist for a little over a year now and, while in town for the Web 2.0 Expo conference, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have a beer (or two) with Marc Hedlund, Wesabe’s co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Gabe Griego, the VP of Marketing, and Brad Greenlee, one of the principal engineers of the Wesabe ecosystem. I’ve spent so much time conversing with Marc in the groups and in email that actually sitting down with him, in particular, felt a little like meeting an old friend for the first time.
Although we had to yell over the hip-hop grooves of a resampling of Wham’s “Wake Me Up”, it was a good conversation. There are a couple of subjects we touched on that I’ll write about in (very near) future posts, but I want to focus on my personal reaction in this post because it’s not often (or ever) that I get to meet the stakeholders and decision-makers involved in software that I actually use.
Following the obligatory introductions and handshakes, Marc got right down to it saying, “So, what are we doing wrong?” Hmmm. Now I was on the spot. I didn’t have a good answer. I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. They’ve made a few mistakes to be sure, but nothing terminal, at least not for my purposes. As we elaborated on the mistakes, though, what I found myself most impressed with is just how open to criticism (hopefully of the constructive variety) everyone was. They’ve always seemed open in the groups and support channels, but it’s one thing to be open in writing and another thing to be open when you’re up close and personal.
Writing software is a hard job. Writing software that’s transferring and storing personal data “on the Internet” is even harder because there’s an additional element of trust involved. Writing software that’s doing all that with personal data that’s also financial data has got to be monumentally difficult. In that arena, you have to inspire trust and then continue to earn it on a daily basis. That’s what the Wesabe team is up against.
The biggest takeaway for me was the sense that these guys are acutely aware of the trust that their customers have bestowed upon (sorry about the use of “bestowed upon”; I couldn’t come up with a less melodramatic way of phrasing it) them. They genuinely care about the product and they genuinely care about the customers who use the product. As one of those customers, I find that incredibly reassuring.