Did you mean MailChimp?
With its intuitive design, MailChimp became the first email marketing provider that made it easy for anyone to use. They made it so that no one had to know things like CSS or HTML to set up beautiful emails, newsletters, or marketing information. Almost all their tools are “drag and drop” which means that businesses can put together the elements they need to assemble the message they want, and then that it can be sent to as many people as needed. At first, growth was slow. They could only really market themselves to small businesses in the area. But that could only take them so far since both Dan and Ben weren’t salesmen.
So, they went to the internet with their quirky brand of marketing, using humorous video ads that used wordplay like “JailBlimp” or “KaleLimp” to get people to put those terms into search engines and come back with search results saying, “Did you mean MailChimp?” With these tactics, word began to spread about their service, and it quickly grew in popularity. Soon after, MailChimp had become a global phenomenon, with millions of customers around the world. But even with all that quick upward growth, they soon topped out on what they could accomplish
Birth of the Freemium
Smaller businesses and individuals who were just starting out using MailChimp for more personal uses weren’t sure they wanted to pay for the service. So, Ben made the decision that would change everything. After talking with Dan, they concluded – they would make the tool free to use.
This decision alone would increase MailChimp’s user base exponentially, and the company was well on its way to becoming one of the biggest success stories in business history. Once the tool became free to use, Dan and Ben said they saw as many as 14,000 new accounts pop up daily for several months. The only time the service would charge its users is once they got to a certain level.
Businesses can decide to upgrade to premium services at any time, or it will happen naturally once the account holder’s audience grows to over 2,000 people or sends over 1,000 emails in a month. This is perfect for business owners because the reason they would need to upgrade signifies one thing, growth. Both Dan and Ben think it’s beautiful to see people make the switch from free to premium services because it means that MailChimp is doing its job, connecting businesses with their customers.
Kings of Bootstrapping
Dan and Ben both came from families that had businesses, but those businesses failed. They also saw the toll that came from it and noted that their parent’s businesses weren’t “scalable” which means that as the business grew, so could their ability to meet demand. So, they were determined to make sure that MailChimp would be.
They never accepted a dime of outside investment. That was because they didn’t want to feel like they were owned or had to take orders from other people. They wanted to be the ones at the helm and continue to even lead the company after they were bought by Intuit, the tax software company. Leadership in their company was so important that the two of them even turned down additional money to just walk away from the company and turn it over to Intuit.
Today, Dan’s net worth is estimated at over four billion dollars, making him one of the top 10 richest people in Georgia. But he points to his parents for his success. He says that they instilled in him the value of hard work and resilience no matter what. Dan Kurzius and Ben Chestnut are at the helm of a company that helps millions of businesses around the world communicate with their customers and employees.
Through their hard work, they were able to turn an idea into a reality, and the world is better off for it. Because they showed that not only is it possible to “bootstrap” or in other words start from nothing and pull a business up to great success and profitability. They also showed that it’s possible to start a tech company in a place that isn’t Silicon Valley, where many tech company startups are born.
Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius haven’t let success go to their heads. Ben continues to try to give back in numerous ways both through donations and charitable events. They also like to lobby for “the little person” since both came from nothing. They like to seek out good and growing talent and provide them the opportunity to grow working for MailChimp.