Every so often, Mailchimp allows a select few people into their creative space, just for a few days, to explore their offices, gain valuable insight into their product roadmap, and meet the lovely folk who work at Mailchimp – including the founders. This event is called Partner Lab.
You won’t find much info online about Partner Lab, in fact, we weren’t even sure we were allowed to publicly talk about it, which would have been painful as this event has been an amazing experience and one I will remember for some time.
Meeting the Founders
On day one, we had a cosy fireplace chat with Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius, the Co-Founders at Mailchimp. It was truly inspirational to hear their stories, as well as understand their values, what drives them, and why they turned down billions to give it all up and retire early.
They are both driven to helping small businesses grow. This inner drive comes from their personal journeys, both good and bad, and unlike most huge tech companies, both founders still have that spark to do something ‘cool’, an inner passion that comes from the heart, a drive to wake up each morning and go into work like an employee.
In fact, neither of them need ever go into the office, there are over 1000 employees to see their vision through to fruition, but they want to. They are driven towards the next big thing. No spoilers.
I spoke with Ben briefly, and I have to say; he’s really humble, and a genuinely lovely guy, not what the CEO of a billion-dollar company ‘should’ be like, right? He has also dressed up as a ninja and promised to send me the proof – I’m waiting Ben!
Are you Mailchimp-y?
The thing that you notice early on at Mailchimp HQ, is that there is a real culture of fun, but also of passion and a commitment from the team. We saw it with every single person we spoke to, to every corner of the office we visited, and trust me on this one, if this was fake we would have sniffed it out, but it wasn’t. The culture seems to be baked into the fabric of the organisation, and at no point does it come across as false or forced.
Mailchimp has an inner motto: listen hard, change fast. This permeates the company from the top down, and everyone we met listened to our viewpoint and seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing.
We were part of a collective of partners from around the world, and were asked to give real-world feedback on the day-to-day use of their platform. it actually felt that if we made a point strongly enough, it would be taken seriously and rise to the top and potentially alter the direction of the company. Wow, feel that power!
They aren’t a company that treats users and partners as spare parts or extras, they view us as being essential to their game plan, and our contribution, however small, is valid and all feedback was appreciated.
Inside the HQ
I officially have office envy.
Every space in their massive Atlanta-based complex is adorned with Freddie-related ‘stuff’, he’s more like a corporate deity than just a mascot. There’s Freddie toys, wall decals, and even the meeting rooms are named as ‘Classic Freddie’ or Frosted Freddie’ etc.
The vast building was broken up into concentration booths, meeting spaces and small offices, all interlinked by decorated hallways. The entire office environment feels fun, friendly and encourages creativity to flow.
Mailchimp is ready to take over. I’m not talking in a Salesforce-like barge-their-way-through kinda way but in more of a disruptive way.
As Mailchimp has been moving beyond email for some time, they have introduced landing pages, postcards, social ads and Google remarketing ads, but there is loads more to come. Stay tuned for some exciting product announcements, as partners, we got to hear about these first – watch this space!
Mailchimp takes a very different view of its Partners to any company we’ve worked with. When you consider that Mailchimp turns a $600m profit and both founders are valued at $2.1bn, you’d forgive them for being a ‘closed shop’ and fiercely protective of their territory, but they aren’t. They are open to new ideas, happy to receive critical feedback, and you don’t get the feeling people are being micromanaged or reined in. There seems to be a perfect balance between employees being relaxed, chilled and happy to be at work, mixed with the fun and excitement of being involved in a company that is ready to take over the world of small business marketing.
Each person we met clearly has a passion for what they do, and clearly feels that they are playing a small part in the growth and development of an ever-growing product.
Mailchimp is made up of a bunch of nearly 1000 employees but still feels agile, like a startup trying to figure things out. This is mostly down to the founders. Ben, the co-Founder and CEO, said that he regularly shifts focus and changes direction, and it’s up to the various teams below to catch up and see his vision through. As the digital marketing space evolves, so must the leading platform.
What gives the founders so much scope for change, is that they aren’t backed by funding or have a board to throttle their constant evolution. Instead, Ben and Dan dream up the next big thing, follow their hearts, and within a matter of weeks are able to announce something new and exciting. One employee we met described it like being on a freight train – you ride it or you get run over.
Unlike many marketing platforms we explored before entirely committing to one – we have found Mailchimp to be focusing on us and our growth, not their own. A number of people have asked “so, how can we help you grow your business”. An odd question from such a juggernaut of a company, but then they seem to truly understand that in order to become more successful, partners are a key ingredient.
This refreshing approach just makes us love them all the more.
Partner Lab 2019
We met some lovely people during out 2-day trip to Atlanta, here’s some shots of the gang!