Mobile

Watch teenagers and see the future of Intuit, says CEO Brad Smith

Intuit is an old company by today’s standards. It was founded in 1983, went public in 1993, and is still kicking. Chief executive Brad Smith has a reason for its continued growth: they’re watching teenagers and their phones.

No, not in the creepy way. Smith, who spoke at the DEMO Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., believes people like his daughters are the ones actually dictating technology change. Smith explained that he came home one day and asked his two teenage daughters why they hadn’t responded to his e-mail. They said, “Dad. I don’t read my e-mail.”

Intuit needs to change, pivot as Silicon Valley calls it, as younger generations change — away from the PC and toward the smartphone.

“It has completely transformed our business. We had to get back to the roots of who we are,” said Smith. “The computer has moved to the palm of our hands now.”

Other companies, such as Facebook are also focusing on the mobile problem. Recently, Facebook acquired photo sharing application Instagram for nearly one percent of its market cap, $1 billion. But unlike the rest of the technology world, Smith doesn’t think it’s that crazy.

“I would be willing to make that bet if I had the courage in my convictions that it was that core [to my business],” said Smith.

Intuit has also made big purchases in the mobile space. Mint, a financial organization app, cost more than one percent of Intuit’s market cap and has been a big success for the company. According to Smith, smartphone engagement with Mint has tripled. And while there’s still activity in the web version, mobile is quickly becoming the preferred method of interacting with Mint.

Smith, who maintains that Intuit is broken up into teams that could be fed with only two pizzas, doesn’t even want to hear about other Intuit projects in quarterly reports anymore. Instead, he told everyone, “All I want to hear about is mobile,” and thus, the focus has shifted.

This type of focus is what helped Intuit win out when Microsoft attempted to crush the company. In 1994, one year after Intuit had gone public, Microsoft wanted to buy it to complement its own tax group. Intuit, which makes TurboTax (Smith says he filed his taxes using the software for 2011), declined the offer and thus spurred Microsoft’s attempt to knock it out of the water.

Smith has a message for the small businesses out there, however: “The people who have the most assets are not the ones who win… When you focus your team on the most important problem, and you play like there is no tomorrow, the odds are in your favor.”


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