Should Founders take a cue from Mailchimp?

Week in, week out, we come across mind blowing stories of different businesses making waves across continents. 
X startup receives new funding, Y builds an exciting new product, or Z gets acquired by C for millions & billions of dollars. We absolutely love to see it because it shows that growth in the tech ecosystem is on the rise!

On this week’s episode of such mind blowing stories is the tale of Intuit acquiring Mailchimp for $12 billion after 20 years of Mailchimp’s existence. The success story of how Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius, the founders of Mailchimp turned their side project into a marketing colossus, stirred something and we just knew that there was definitely a thing or two, or even four things that founders can unpack from their story.

1. Find a niche

This may sound like a broken record, but clichès are clichè because they hold an element of truth. Since it started till now, with over 12 million users, Mailchimp focuses on helping small businesses find their audience, engage their customers and build their brand. If you don’t have a target, you’ll always misfire. 
Who do I seek to serve? What are their needs? How does my product satisfy those needs? Answering these questions as a founder will make your business/product irresistible. It will also greatly influence how you improve and market your product.

2. If it’s not working, it’s okay to pivot

In the startup kingdom, your customer is king and in order to thrive, you must pay attention to the king’s demands. Did you know that Mailchimp didn’t start off as this monster marketing company? It was originally a web design enterprise called Rocket Science Group. Dan and Ben noticed that their existing customers had issues sending emails, so they resurrected an old piece of code from a failed project and built the Mailchimp platform. When they realized that the platform was gaining a lot more traction than their web design business, they switched gears. 
Dear founder, observe your customer and seek out feedback on your original idea/product, once it isn’t working, do your company a favor and shift your strategy. This doesn’t mean drastically changing the direction of your company, it could simply be turning a feature of one product into the product itself. 
Take the risk, you just might succeed!

3. Great ideas often come from good ideas that already exist

It was in the early nineties that humans started to use emails to communicate with one another. Mailchimp didn’t exactly create a never-before-seen idea. Prior to Mailchimp, companies were using emails to stay connected with their audiences. However, the process of creating and distributing mass emails was a herculean task. Dan and Ben took this as an opportunity to build a tool that wouldn’t just distribute mass emails, but also enable businesses to build their brand, garner a loyal audience and make sales in the long run. 
If you are a tech entrepreneur desiring to build a startup and you are looking for a brand new idea, chances are, you might never find one. But if you find a problem with an existing idea, seek to solve it, you just might be sitting on a goldmine.

4. Don’t underestimate the power of marketing

Mailchimp is that marketing tool that does great marketing. Yes, you read that right! Through their creative marketing campaigns, more businesses have come to know, use and love the tool that is Mailchimp. A good product that isn’t marketed will be a secret.

Mailchimp grew from the ground up solely on bootstrapping. But, with VC funding you don’t have to wait for 20 years to build an empire out of your product.

You can grow faster, keep your personal assets, be mentored by seasoned business experts that are passionate about your product and will prevent the burns of trial and error, but what do we know?

If you think you have an idea that can shape the future of Africa, visit our website and #PitchForAYes.

We invest in early stage founders building the future of the African continent.