A two-year-old Hartford company likes its chances of crashing social networking's inner circle, joining the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter with a Web site that encourages young people to track their finances.
Geezeo.com logged 174,000 separate users in December, up 1,481 percent from a year earlier.
The company's founders, Peter Glyman and Shawn Ward, are confident that performance will be enough to trigger a high-profile buyout by TheStreet.com Inc. by springtime.
TheStreet.com, the business Web site co-founded by investing guru Jim Cramer, invested $1.2 million in Geezeo in April and has an option to buy the site outright for $12 million within a year.
"We are looking to get as big as we can get," said Glyman, 35. "I think we can become a household name in personal finance."
Experts said the partnership with TheStreet.com and Cramer, star of CNBC's popular "Mad Money" TV show, sets the stage for explosive growth at Geezeo.
"I think it's a big deal," said Jim Bruene, editor of Online Banking Report, a Washington-based publication that tracks the industry. "There needs to be credibility for these sites to take off. This partnership puts Geezeo far ahead of the competition."
Bruene said there are a couple dozen personal finance Web sites, but only two or three with a social networking facet like Geezeo's. Competitors include Wesabe.com and Mint.com.
He said the sites have a combined 1.2 million users today but predicted that they could reach 40 million households in the next 10 to 15 years.
Glyman said he is appealing to the "plastic generation," those 35 years of age and under who have grown up paying for everything on credit and debit cards.
"It's a generation that has become detached from their finances," Glyman said. "They are so used to using credit cards that they don't realize how much they are spending. The site creates an audit to help them track that."
Glyman and Ward started the company in Framingham, Mass., in 2006 with about $1 million they raised from family and friends and a single private investor. The duo moved to Hartford last year after recruiting most of their nine-person staff from the region.
It's a company made up of brash, computer-savvy 20-and-30-somethings who wear jeans and T-shirts while listening to iPods at their desks.
Their product hit it off with Mike Kuznoff, a 20-year-old Manchester Community College student who created a Geezeo.com account to get a handle on his bills for dining out.
"I realized I was wasting too much money," said Kuznoff, after tracking his $600-a-month restaurant habit. "I was shocked when I saw that. I realized I needed to make a change."
The Web site allows him to organize his personal budget and to join a social network that has plenty of ideas on how to spend money more efficiently.
In its most basic function, Geezeo.com is similar to the online version of Microsoft Money, allowing users to link their bank accounts to the site and automatically update their balances.
But the site offers much more, including a budgeting tool that tracks and groups purchases. For example, a credit card purchase at Burger King is automatically posted on a user's account as a "dining out" expense, while a spending spree at Macys will be tagged as a retail transaction.
The Web site uses that data to create an expense report to help users identify where they are spending money.
"You can't learn to manage your money if you don't know where it's going," Glyman said.
The social networking aspect of the site gives it an added attraction.
"They figured out a way to capitalize on what all social networking sites are trying to do, which is build a community but also provide something useful," said Suzi Craig, director of marketing at Fathom, a brand interactive firm based in Hartford.
Craig said money used to be a taboo subject, but the Internet has opened up avenues for people to talk about anything and everything.
Discussion groups on Geezeo.com like "Divorced Dads," or "Fearless Chicks," give users a chance to discuss financial topics that have long been kept secret.
For example, one anonymous user writes, "I finally paid off the first of four personal credit cards (joy), only to find out my husband's credit card debt is even worse than mine (ugh)!"
Craig said money issues are on everyone's mind, so giving them an avenue to discuss them makes the site attractive.
Geezeo's rapid growth makes Glyman optimistic that TheStreet.com will exercise its option to purchase the company by April. That will allow Glyman and Ward to immediately add additional resources to the site, which he pledged to keep in Hartford. "We are committed to the region," he said.
However, Bruene said one challenge could hold back growth: site security. The site has to convince users that their personal financial information is secure.
Geezeo and similar sites require users to type in their online banking user name and password, which can be unsettling to some people, Bruene said. "Since these sites are relatively new names, they have a lot of work in building trust," he said.
Glyman says his Web site doesn't store a user's bank ID, password or account number. He said the site is "read-only," which means data is displayed, but can't be manipulated. "The bottom line is your information is very secure," Glyman said.