Mailchimp CEO Rania Succar explains why an email company makes sense for Intuit

Intuit purchased Mailchimp in 2021, and less than a year later, co-founder Ben Chestnut was out. Here’s how new CEO Rania Succar is moving forward.

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A portrait of Intuit Mailchimp CEO Rania Succar.

Today, I’m talking to Intuit Mailchimp CEO Rania Succar, who took over as CEO in 2022 after a pretty rough patch in the company’s history. See, Mailchimp was founded in 2001. It was a startup that learned a lot of lessons from that first dotcom boom and bust, and it managed to stay both successful and fully independent for 20 years. 

But in 2021, it sold to Intuit, the company best known for finance products like QuickBooks and TurboTax, and the very next year, Ben Chestnut, who was one of the company’s co-founders, stepped down as CEO after telling employees that he thought introducing themselves with pronouns in meetings did more harm than good. After that, Rania took over. 

This is a pretty huge culture change for the company, especially as it became more integrated with Intuit. It was also a big challenge for a new leader who came in from the outside — well, the outside of Mailchimp, but the inside of Intuit. 

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You’ll hear us talk about that transition a lot. Rania and I also got into the weeds of making decisions, which is very Decoder. She has a lot of thoughts on how decisions are made and why sometimes the things that seem easy are challenging and other things that seem difficult aren’t. That includes shutting down cult favorite newsletter service TinyLetter, which you’ll hear Rania say was one of the easiest decisions she’s ever made. 

We also got really into the core business of email. Email was hot, then it wasn’t, and now it’s hot again. As part of Intuit, Mailchimp is just one part of a platform that helps small businesses operate. Mailchimp is there to do marketing and customer management, and the platform sells itself as something that “turns emails into revenue.” You’ll hear Rania explain how all of that is supposed to work. 

Of course, we had to talk about generative AI, which is a big part of the Mailchimp road map. You’ll hear Rania explain that AI right now is more useful for segmentation and targeting: sending the right message to the right customer at the right time instead of constantly bombarding everyone with emails. 

But there’s a dark side to that, of course. Having AI send everybody perfectly targeted emails all the time might just lead to a lot of email spam, and it might lead to people responding to AI emails with AI emails of their own. So, I asked Rania about that loop and if there’s any way to break it and make all of this a little more human.

This was a really fun conversation with some honestly scary ideas in it — and it’s all about email.

Okay, Rania Succar, CEO of Intuit Mailchimp. Here we go.  

This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Rania Succar, you are the CEO of Intuit Mailchimp. Welcome to Decoder.

Thank you for having me.

You are a new-ish CEO. You’ve made some changes. That’s what our show’s all about. I think email is just a fascinating forever project of the internet — how we use it, where it goes, who controls it. There’s quite a lot there to unpack. And then there’s just basically the state of our networks in the age of AI and how we’re going to manage making things with AI and distributing things with AI. All wrapped up in Mailchimp, a company that distributes emails. So, lots to talk about.

Let’s start at the start: Mailchimp has been around for a while. I’m sure people have heard a few ads. How do you think about Mailchimp right now? Is it just email marketing? Is it more than that? What is the core purpose of the company?

I love that you talk about how Mailchimp has been around for a while and has this incredible storied history. It’s been a company that’s been around for 20 years; one of the earliest players in small business [software-as-a-service] — started off very much as an email player. When we acquired Mailchimp into Intuit overall, we think about it having a much more expansive role to play for small businesses, and we think about it as playing a role to solve their growth problem. We are in the business of solving challenges for small businesses. The top challenge they have is getting new customers and growing existing customers. And so, for us, it’s all about: how do you power growth? Email is a very important part of that, but there’s much more to that equation than just email.

When I think about the boom time of the millennial internet, I think about a bunch of the direct-to-consumer companies that lit up. They bought cheap Facebook ads or cheap Instagram ads. There was an explosion of these companies, where we can just name them and think about them — mattresses, suitcases, whatever you want to say. Then, the price of the ads skyrocketed, and they all ended up buying real estate, which I thought was really interesting. But email was pretty steady all through that. Is that the kind of product that you’re offering to those folks — “Here’s just a steady, consistent way to get people down the funnel to a purchase” — or is it more growth-oriented than that?

It’s more growth-oriented. The problem that small businesses face is a lot more complicated than that. We know that 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first five years. The number one reason they fail is they can’t get enough customers or grow their existing customers. Marketing is hard for an enterprise. It’s especially hard for a small business, and it’s only gotten harder. It’s gotten harder because consumers are across multiple platforms these days, so you have to catch them in various different places, and that’s changing all the time. It’s challenging because businesses are increasingly using multiple apps to run their business, so their own customer data is dispersed and fragmented. So, I love the space we’re working in across Mailchimp because it’s a really important customer problem to solve, and it’s a complicated customer problem to solve. It’s not just about getting the right emails out — it’s about deeply understanding their prospects and their existing customers and helping them get the right message at the right time to the right audience in order to deliver those growth outcomes. So, it’s much more than just email.

I did something really reductive before I jumped on the call with you: I just looked at the website. The tagline on the top of the Mailchimp website is very simple. It’s, “Turn emails into revenue,” which sounds great. I wish I could turn more of my emails into revenue.

We all do. 

What is the actual process? What is the thing that turns email into money?

It starts with email, and over time, it’ll increasingly be more and more channels, but it starts with the depth of understanding about our customer’s customers. So, we want them to come in and connect all their customer data into Mailchimp, and then we use our predictive analytics to be able to deeply understand their customers in a way that they can’t get from other platforms. Then, based on that, especially with the possibilities of AI, we help them craft a message that’s personalized for that customer that we know will drive outsize performance, and then we provide those recommendations for the business to just turn it on.

So, especially as AI continues to evolve, there’s a world where a small business can come into any of the Intuit small business properties — whether it’s QuickBooks or Mailchimp — and these will operate as one operating system. They can come in and be served up a growth plan that says, “We found an opportunity to double your revenue,” and have a fully built out growth plan to go after that omnichannel, et cetera. But the foundation of that is the depth of insight about their customers and the intelligence we have about what it takes to drive conversion for those customers.

So, I run an online store for widgets. I’ve collected some emails by offering 10 percent off when you come to the store, when you buy something. Now I’ve got your email address, that’s great. You can see that I’ve bought blue widgets instead of green widgets, and you’re going to have AI send me a deal on blue widgets. That’s kind of what that sounds like at the top level. You know the customer well, so you’re going to send a very targeted email to the customer saying, “Hey, do we have a deal for you.”

Just think about how hard that is! One of the things we find is the small business owner — they’re a one-man shop, and so they are trying to do everything. They’re trying to deliver the product or the service and do all these things. Even just the intelligence of how to set up a marketing campaign is not some expertise that they have. And the mid-market marketer has the expertise and the know-how, but their data is fragmented and sitting everywhere. And so, they rarely have access to those insights and those analytics to be able to build sophisticated campaigns like that. So, you described it well: it’s going to be very exciting as it all comes to market, and it’s been increasingly exciting as we’ve brought solutions like that to market.

Is that the target customer base — the small- and mid-size company?

That’s right. We’re really proud across Intuit. We have a long-standing history, as does Mailchimp, for being one of the first software solutions small businesses choose as they go to solve their problems, so we want them to continue to choose us. The majority of small business customers today across the Intuit ecosystem have fewer than 10 employees, so we really are solving for the early stage business. In the last several years, we’ve increasingly focused on that mid-market business — being able to serve them not only when they start but as they grow and across their enterprise. So, not only in marketing or accounting but also in getting paid, accessing capital, managing their employees, accessing expertise — all the gamut of things they need to grow and run their business.

This is a theme I’ve heard from a lot of the enterprise software leaders that have been on the show: “You run a dry cleaner or a yoga studio. You’re going to need a bunch of software to deal with your customers and market your business. The opportunity is in providing all of the software. And then,” — much like you just did — “we’re going to call that an operating system for business.”

I’ve heard this pitch a lot: You need something to schedule customers to come in the door. You need a billing system. You need some way to email them. You need all this stuff just to run any kind of business nowadays. And that bundle is really, really valuable. You’re starting from, “We’re going to help you email your customers,” a much more digital-focused approach. Would you extend to that other stuff that is more brick and mortar, that is more scheduling all the stuff that a physical retailer would have to do?

Yes. We think about the customers we serve today as the Intuit small business customers, which are 10 million small business customers across QuickBooks and Mailchimp. And we have the majority of those verticals already present. We have a long-standing relationship with them. We’re one of their cornerstone software solutions in terms of the work that they’re doing with us. They entrust us with a lot of their data. And so, we’ve already got an edge in working across all these businesses. And so, that’s one of the extraordinary things about Mailchimp: the historical vertical distribution.

You look across all verticals, whether it’s service-based or product-based and then e-commerce versus digital brick and mortar — they’re all represented really well on Mailchimp. Then that also translates into what you see across QuickBooks, too. So, we think about serving all these businesses and that we have a unique opportunity to do that because of the historical relationships we have with these businesses and the depth of data they entrust in and with Intuit.

We’ve been able to bring some really amazing applications to the market. I was on the QuickBooks side before I joined Mailchimp a year and a half ago to lead that team. And the number of innovations we were able to bring to market that we could uniquely do as a result of that long-standing relationship and the data is extraordinary, and that’s how you begin to build that operating system. One example of that was the work I had the chance to do on QuickBooks Capital, where we were able to build lending products for small businesses and increase the approval rates and odds in a way that others wouldn’t be able to do.

The relationship between Mailchimp and Intuit — and QuickBooks and the rest of the Intuit software suite — is utterly fascinating, especially because Mailchimp was an acquisition. This company has been around since 2001. Intuit acquired it 20 years into its existence in 2021. The acquisition and integration — I would not say were totally smooth. You’re the new CEO. You came from the acquiring company. Let me ask you just the basic question: why is it a separate division of Intuit with its own CEO at this point?

It’s a great question, and I think one that all companies think about. Acquisitions are hard, and they’re not always successful. And you have to think hard about how to get it right and set it up in the right way. One of the things that was important as we thought about the structure for Mailchimp was the reason that we acquired it and making sure that the structure — in terms of how we organized it — would set us up for that. The reason to acquire Mailchimp was to continue to build this operating system for small businesses and to solve the number one problem that small businesses had, which was growth, in addition to the other problems we were solving on QuickBooks. We wanted to create this end-to-end platform to grow and run your business, so we needed Mailchimp and QuickBooks to work together.

I report into the small business organization. The small businesses organization includes QuickBooks and Mailchimp, and it’s our entire 10 million small businesses and how we serve them. That decision was incredibly important because it allowed us to stay close and to stay true to the purpose of the acquisition and to create true differentiation in the market. Now, we also kept it independent, so it’s connected, but the team stayed separate, generally speaking. There were certain functions that we integrated because it was important to integrate to create a sense of belonging and consistency across the organization. But we also very much wanted to accelerate Mailchimp to allow it to be successful and to continue without all of the work that comes with an integration. So, we’ve been very “choiceful” over time about how we do that, what technology we integrate, what we do, how we serve our customers across our small business ecosystem with one solution. So, that gives you a little context into how we thought about it.

There are pieces there that are sort of the technical pieces, and then there’s the culture piece. Let’s start with the technical side, the really nitty-gritty Decoder stuff. There’s stuff that every company integrates at scale, right? I’m assuming, as CEO, you’re not running a totally independent division with your own legal and HR and stuff. That’s just my guess.

That’s right.

That’s usually the stuff that gets integrated first. Then, there’s things, particularly on the software side, where when you tell me you’re the CEO of QuickBooks, it feels like you have probably more freedom to make software decisions or planning decisions or go-to-market decisions. Is that different? Has that been integrated? How does that work?

I’m really proud of the technology integration decisions we’ve made that are more business outcome-oriented and choices that we made along the way, so, again, the choices we’re making are all to serve our customers with an end-to-end platform and to serve them in a unified way across QuickBooks and Mailchimp so we solve all those needs. The other thing I’d highlight is we made a declaration several years ago at Intuit that we were a platform company building services at the center that were powering the various end customer use cases. So, we could move with speed in delivering those outcomes but also create consistent experiences for those customers. I’ll give you some examples based on your question. Everything we’re doing with AI — and we’re doing a ton with AI — is integrated and connected into the GenOS that Intuit has built. That’s our GenAI operating system.

That was something we built at the center, and all teams are using that, and that’s allowing us to move with speed and efficiency. Not only does that allow Mailchimp to move with speed, but also, it allows us to create connected experiences for small businesses, regardless of where they’re entering the platform. Whether they’re using QuickBooks today or Mailchimp today, we can access all of their data and create connected workflows because it’s all on a central platform. Similarly, we integrated Mailchimp onto Intuit’s Virtual Expert Platform. That’s another very big investment we made at the Intuit level as part of our strategy. Our strategy is to be an AI-powered expert platform. So, not only do we have AI, but we constantly can connect you to an expert in any of these use cases to ensure there are no dead ends in the experience and you always have an expert that can help you.

That was another capability that Mailchimp integrated into that allowed us to create human assistance experiences really rapidly but also deliver on real differentiation that Intuit has built and extended into Mailchimp. So, those are some examples of what we’ve done. I’ll just say one more thing here. We made choices on who we brought into the management team at Intuit. I think having me lead the business was an important part of how we create this connected strategy because I had seven years of context across Intuit and connections, and then we also did that for our leader on technology. So, the Mailchimp technology leader is a long-standing Intuit leader, an incredible technologist, but also deeply connected into what Intuit can do so that we can move with speed on some of those choices that we made along the way.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has joined us on the show a couple times, most recently about a year ago. I asked him what it meant for him to become the chairman of Microsoft, in addition to the CEO, and he basically said, “I have to go to more meetings.”

So, let me ask you a version of that question: What does it mean for you to be the CEO of Mailchimp inside of Intuit? What freedom does that role give you — does that title signify to your team — that maybe another title wouldn’t? Because that, to me, is really interesting that Intuit is composed of these big divisions or these big software products that people perceive, but you’ve been talking very much about it as one company for our entire conversation so far.

Several things. One is accountability: we have this very much across Intuit. It’s one of the things I’ve loved in my eight years since joining the organization. There’s a big focus on accountability and ownership, and you certainly see that here. I felt that in my other roles as well, so that hasn’t changed in that sense. But frankly, we have a lot of debate on how we think about Mailchimp, and the way we think about Mailchimp is actually broader than just Mailchimp itself. We think about it as solving the customer growth need across our small business ecosystem. So, I’m accountable not only for the results of the Mailchimp business, but I’m accountable for driving growth outcomes for all the SMBs in our small business ecosystem. And we very much think about Mailchimp’s role that way. So, that’s another way we think about it.

That makes sense. How big is that business? How much revenue does Mailchimp represent inside of Intuit?

In our last Investor Day, we shared that it was, I think, $1.1 billion. 

That’s a lot of emails. So, that’s the technical side, the nitty-gritty structural B-school side of how you run this thing and integrate Mailchimp inside of Intuit.

Let’s talk about the culture side because that’s where a lot of the, I think, bumps in the road came. The company was 20 years old. It had some loud CEOs. It was a pretty brash startup culture. I would just say Intuit is a much more buttoned-up company than Mailchimp was. There were some difficult things that came along for that ride. There were allegations of discrimination, pay disparity, gender bias. That’s all stuff that you were brought in to, I assume, to fix, to correct, to improve. How has that gone?

You’re absolutely right. The initial part of the acquisition was a little bumpier, and I certainly understand that. This had been a team that had been independent for 20 years and incredibly proud of that independence, and they were acquired by a larger company. For some employees, that was challenging. There’s a lot in the Mailchimp culture. There’s so much that is just so powerful and I’m so proud of. It’s this deep customer obsession. It’s this connection to the community. It’s really focusing on powering the small business underdog. It’s insane creativity. So, here’s how I approached it as I came into the role. First, it was certainly a focus. And when I came into the role, I spent a lot of time with our teams and our employees. And what I understood in those meetings is that they were frustrated by a lot of things, and it was the main focus of their conversation. [It] was taking up a lot of the airspace, the conversation around this.

But I also recognized that they cared deeply about our customers. And so, I refocused the organization, in my first 30 or 60 days, very rapidly on new priorities that were very customer-backed, that had a sense of urgency in terms of delivering against them. And I focused the entire organization on delivering. And what that did is it crowded out a lot of the noise, all this conversation, and it got people focused on doing great work that they loved. And it helped them see the connected nature between some of the values of Intuit and the values of Mailchimp, which turned out to be aligned in many ways. And it pivoted us. It got us back to a conversation on growth and energy and innovation as opposed to worrying about what the acquisition would mean for them. And they started to see the positives associated with that.

Let’s put that into practice. I’ll give you the example just so the listener knows, Rania alluded to this before we even started speaking. The previous CEO of Mailchimp sent an email that was pretty controversial, saying, “I don’t want to use pronouns in meetings. They do more harm than good.” You’ve obviously reversed that decision. Rania told me her pronouns before we started speaking — they’re she/her. How do you get people off of that onto focus on your customer? Because it seems like, “My company does not recognize gender as a spectrum or might not recognize me,” is a pretty big deal compared to, “I need to help people turn email into revenue.”

Whether it’s Mailchimp or Intuit, the focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is so true and so strong to our values and what we focus on. At Intuit, it’s so central. And so, we were just very clear at that time, and we continue to be very clear. We create an environment where every employee feels comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, and that’s the environment we create. That is just the approach and the policy, and we were very clear about that. And so, that’s something we constantly reinforce every day with our actions. And our employees see that, and they feel that. We’ve got a very active ERG community across our Atlanta offices and chapters where a lot of the Mailchimp team resides. We have that across Intuit more generally. We focus a lot on that in our hiring decisions. So, I would say it’s about how we operate every day and the values we demonstrate to our teams.

I watch a lot of music documentaries, and you always see the band in the garage, and then you see the band at Wembley Stadium, and you never see that middle part. And I feel like I want to ask you about the middle part here. There was a big acquisition. You were at another part of Mailchimp. You are obviously proud of that time on the QuickBooks team. This acquisition is going kind of sideways. There’s an opportunity to become the CEO, right? Because Ben, the previous CEO, is leaving. What was that moment like for you? Did you pick up the phone and say, “I want to do this”? Did the board call you and say, “You’ve got to get in there”? What was that exact moment like?

One of the amazing things about Intuit is it is really a leadership lab. I’ve been here eight years — longer than any company I’ve ever been a part of. I’d been at Google for five and McKinsey for five before this, and I’ve stayed because I’ve grown so much as a leader. Whenever I get comfortable, I get a call, and I get thrown into the next thing, and it’s always intense. And it’s intense because we’ve got really big ambitions about the innovation we want to bring to customers. I’ve had that opportunity multiple times because of our growth profile as a business and our philosophy around mobility and growing our leaders. I came in to run QuickBooks Capital. It was a $6 million business when I started it. We grew it into quite a big business that I’m incredibly proud of.

I then went on to lead our payments business; that grew into multiple additional businesses that we built over time. And then I had this opportunity. So, it was a continued set of new opportunities. In each case, what I look for is: how much potential do we have to innovate and disrupt for our customers? In all these cases, it’s such a big opportunity that you jump into it, and you don’t always have the answer right away, but you jump in with confidence based on the experiences you’ve had over time. But I would put it in the context of these other growth opportunities I’ve had since I joined.

Did you make the call, or did you get the call?

It was a joint conversation. So, a year before that, I talked to my boss about being ready to take on the next big thing, and that’s how we handle it at Intuit. We have open conversations, and then we constantly discuss, at every level of leadership, who’s ready for the next role. It’s a conversation that’s happening always in advance so that, as new roles open up, we’ve got clarity on who’s ready for the next role, what are people looking to do so we can continue to grow them. And so it was a conversation that started a year in advance that led into this.

That conversation was, “Well, this role is about to open. It’s a little messy, but you’re ready for it”?

Yep, that was the conversation. It wasn’t about, “It’s a little messy” — it’s, “We have confidence you can go in there and do everything we want to have happen.” There was a lot of ambition there: “We need to solve this massive customer problem. We want to grow internationally. We want to transform Mailchimp to also serve the needs of mid-market businesses. And we know you’ve got this.” So, it was a conversation like that.

I love it. I love, “We need to solve the needs of mid-market businesses, and you’ve got it.” They’re going to make a sports movie about that someday, I promise you. Two more Decoder questions, and then I have an entire section here labeled “Existential questions about email.” 

How is Mailchimp structured today? How have you built that team?

We made a lot of changes, and we made a lot of changes really rapidly because we needed to set up this team that could drive the next chapter of growth for Mailchimp. The first 20 years were extraordinary, and we need the next 20 years to be as extraordinary. We think about that, again, in the context of our small business ecosystem, not just Mailchimp. So, we need a combination of people who are deeply connected into Intuit, who can create those connections. We need people with deep industry expertise in the areas we’re looking to shift Mailchimp, whether that’s mid-market or international or leading the way on growth capabilities and technology. And then we need people who can speak to Mailchimp’s history and continue to build on that and the strengths and the culture and all of that.

So, I’ve assembled a leadership team that represents all three dimensions of that — it’s an incredible team. But as I mentioned before, some of the key leaders on that team have deep roots in Intuit history, including me, our head of technology, our head of HR. We’ve leaned in to some of the new areas we want to go into — so, international: Mailchimp has 50 percent of its revenue coming from international markets. That was true before the acquisition — it’s the outcome of this incredible brand and product. We can do so much more in international markets. You can see that in the way we’ve grown the team in the areas we’ve grown in. Secondly, in mid-market, we invested significantly so that we could not only be the place where small businesses start but the place they grow with us. We’ve invested quite a bit in those human-assisted areas and then, of course, in all the technology around AI and the investments we’ve made there.

That first big chunk of investments you’re talking about — mid-market, international, et cetera — is that all sales investments? Is that go-to-market investments? How does that look? Because you bracketed that out of technology and AI, so I’m wondering what that first chunk looks like.

A lot of it’s go-to-market, everything from sales and onboarding and account management. So, there’s a lot there and then in partnerships, channel partnerships, technology partnerships. So, it’s that, and then, of course, this is all done with the approach we take across Intuit, which is technology-powered go-to-market teams. So, we invest from an AI perspective not only on customer-facing AI but human-assisted supporting AI. And so, that’s been a big part of the Virtual Expert Platform I talked to you about earlier, where our experts or our sellers or our account managers have access to really powerful AI to enable them to do differentiated things with our customers as they spend time with them.

Big Decoder question, this one’s the whole brand: how do you make decisions? You’ve done a lot of things, you’ve grown a lot. You’ve talked about how much you’ve grown. What’s your framework for making decisions now, and how has it changed?

I make decisions every day. By the time I get home, I think to myself, “I’m too tired to make a decision about what we’re going to have for dinner.”

Oh, I’ve been there, absolutely. Why do you think I wear black every day?

That’s a perpetual thing, decisions every day. So, it includes a combination of many things. One is building intuition over time. The intuition comes from being close to our customers, being close to data. That’s the first piece. It’s the intuition of having made lots of decisions over time and then watched other decisions get made. When I watch other leaders make big decisions that involve courage, I take a note of them to see how they’re going to play out so that I can reference them later. So, that’s another piece of how I think about things. So, the first thing is intuition. The second is surrounding myself with different perspectives as I go into a decision so I can really bring a group of experts together and ask questions. So, I moderate a discussion, and I say, “Well, how might you think about this?” And really create space for the divergent views to be shared. So, that’s another piece of how I think about making decisions.

The third is I have a bias for action and making decisions fast and then learning really quickly after the decision, so we can learn from it and pivot as needed. And so, that’s a huge part of how I operate. How I’ve changed in making decisions over time? I think I’ve leaned in more to the pulling out the voices of people who might think about things differently. I have a very strong voice in the room, and I need to create space for other voices because that’s when you get really powerful decisions — when people pressure-test them in a very strong way, and someone feels comfortable saying, “Actually, I’d think about it differently, and here’s how we should think about it.” And so, not only has that translated into making decisions quickly, which is important for velocity, but increasing the number of decisions that are made with that precision to make it an even more powerful decision.

The way I think about it is: I try to have the worst ideas in the room so people can tell me that my ideas are bad, and then that creates the freedom for everyone else to have bad ideas and, hopefully, ultimately have a good idea. Let me poke at something a little bit more strongly: you mentioned intuition is the first thing, right? You trust your intuition. It takes a long time for people to trust their intuition. When did that click for you?

That’s a great question, and it’s in different levels of experience. So, I’ll highlight the point of I love the opportunity to learn every day. And so, it grows over time. I have learned so much in this Mailchimp context that I could have never read by reading a book because you have to get in there and make a mistake and learn from that mistake. I couldn’t be more proud of the opportunity I have to make mistakes almost every day. Because you learn so much, and you build that intuition, and then that becomes your playbook. And so, I recognize when I’m in a space where we’ve done that before. I’ll give you an example. Sometimes, as I lead product teams, I push hard for speed and outcomes: “We’re going to launch our new QuickBooks checking account by this date.” And I remember once being told, “We’ve never worked with a partner that launched a checking account in that amount of time.”

And you sit there and you question: Am I making the right decision for the team? Am I going to push them to a breaking point? Are we going to deliver something that’s not high-impact? But once you’ve done that three times and you’ve seen the outcome, you have confidence. And so you have to recognize the categories where you have more confidence. But I often will take a risk, like I did with that checking account example, where I’m not sure how it’s going to work, and I take a risk even if I don’t have that intuition, and I see what happens. And I’m always staying close to the learnings across the way and willing to pivot as we go.

But you take a risk, and you note that you’re taking a risk so that you can record the outcome at the end and add it to your intuition. So, I’m constantly trying to build this library of learnings, and I’ve been reflecting in the last several months about how valuable it is to have these failures in your playbook, too, because you learn so much from those. And I think about micro failures every day that you course correct as you grow.

It seems like the project at Intuit overall — and at Mailchimp — is more focused. I think most tech companies are in a period of increasing focus, and that focus comes at the cost of, potentially, some market opportunities. So, we start off by saying: email is forever. It’s hot right now and in various ways, which is interesting. I think as the algorithmic media gets unpredictable and expensive, email seems consistent and stable and predictable. I look at it from my perspective of somebody in the media and say, “Okay, there is Substack and Ghost and Beehiv and all these things that are growing. That’s where the action in media is.”

And Mailchimp is walking away from that. You all shut down TinyLetter. You used to be in that space, and you aren’t. I had the CEO of Substack on the show, and I was like, “Is Mailchimp your competitor?” And he was like, “No, I don’t think so.” Why are you not in that space? Why focus on the enterprise space and not this other thing that seems to be growing?

Focus is so incredibly important, as you said. It’s so important because you need to hone in your resources to innovate in a way that only you can and create true differentiation. For us, we’ve got clarity on the problem we’re trying to solve. We are trying to increase the success rate of small businesses, and everything we do is focused on that. And in the domain of Mailchimp, it’s all about helping them find new customers and grow existing customers. And to do that, we need to strengthen our email product and to broaden that out in a way where we can solve the problem in a way it’s not solved in the industry today. And that’s the reason we’ve chosen to focus there. It’s just having clarity on the problem we’re solving and our unique capabilities and opportunity to solve it in a way that no one else can.

Walk me through that decision to shut down TinyLetter. You’re entirely focused on small and medium-sized businesses; TinyLetter was not that. You’ve got this thing — it was an acquisition. People were really excited when Mailchimp acquired it because they thought that meant it would be stable. You’ve got to make the call. Walk me through how you made that decision.

This is one of the easier decisions we’ve ever made. We basically looked at it from a perspective of “we’ve got clarity on the customer problem we’re solving,” which is, as I said, helping small businesses grow. And we need to make sure that our technology is as efficient as possible. When you’re maintaining parts of the tech stack that are no longer core to what you’re delivering for customers, your technology becomes pretty clunky. And so, we look at that over time to say, “What was something that was important in the past that’s no longer important to the mission or was not successful?” You see that all the time as you do innovation and startups — you launch things that may no longer be successful years later. And you need to be efficient in shutting those things down so you can focus on the core and create efficiency for your engineers. So, this decision was not one of those that was a challenging one to make.

How did it come to you? Was it just an email saying, “Hey, I’m shutting down TinyLetter,” and you’re like, “Great, not core.” Were you in a conference room? Did you draw on a whiteboard?

I raised it when I came in as a conversation I’d heard from across our teams and our engineering teams, in particular, around, “There are many parts of the Mailchimp app that are no longer core to our focus.” TinyLetter was one of them. And so, the conversation was not about TinyLetter — it was about “how do we shut down things more efficiently so we can increase the velocity of the way we’re operating and running as a business?” And so, it was part of a set of things we were looking at shutting down to focus. And so, we made a decision about the need to prioritize that because, often, teams are so focused on innovation they don’t focus on those things, but that’s one of the keys to velocity: you need to slow down and do that work to accelerate your ability to innovate. And so, we made the decision in that context.

Here’s a question: do you run Mailchimp on email, or do you use Slack and Teams and Zoom?

I spend all my day in Slack. I love Slack. I love phone calls, so that’s where I spend a lot of time. But we use email, too, of course, but I spend a lot of time on Slack.

“How email-dependent is the email company?” is not a question I thought about asking, but now that I think about it, it seems very important.

We are not an email company — we are a growth company. And we focus on getting the right message at the right time to the user and, therefore, think about all the channels that are possible to reach.

Have you used the new AI tools in Slack? We just got them yesterday, and I can’t tell if they’re really useful or completely distracting.

I haven’t used them yet.

“Summarize this discussion,” if that is actually helpful to you.

It’s actually an important point. I think a lot of the early-generation AI tools that are out in the market are still pretty superficial and in the early innings of their ability to provide value. And I think that creates a lot of room for companies that are very serious about it and then have unique amounts of data and very large customer bases to experiment and learn with to really differentiate themselves. So, it’s interesting to see, a year in, how some of these tools that had a lot of promise, how few of them have actually been able to realize all the promise yet.

Would you ever send Slacks written by AI? I think about this all the time: Would I ever send an email written by an AI to a co-worker or a partner external to the company? Would I ever let Slack write more than a predictive text? Yes or no? Actually, just say something on my behalf. That feels very fraught. I feel like every leader confronts it the most because the communication bandwidth is potentially reduced if you just let the robot talk for you. Would you ever do it? It sounds like you’ve been playing with these tools and deeply considering them. Would you ever let it send more than a one-line predictive Gmail response or whatever?

I think I absolutely would. I’ll answer that, and then I want to get into how marketers should think about it and how we think about it for marketers. But yes, we’re all very busy. If you even look at the predictive tools in Google, how much better they’ve gotten over time, as they learn from the user and the voice and tone, it gets much better. In order for you to feel comfortable using them, several things have to be true. One, it needs to be consistent with your voice and tone. And oftentimes, the early generation of these solutions are not, and therefore, we don’t feel comfortable using them. The promise is for players that are able to do that and personalize it in your voice and tone; then there is a lot of potential for the AI to help you be more efficient. So, I absolutely would. I’m looking for efficiency gains all over my life.

You can also think about it as the assisted version versus the do-it-for-me version. And so, even just the assisted version where it finishes and completes your sentence, that saves a lot of time, especially on a mobile phone — it’s incredibly helpful. And so, you think about it as a continuum, but I absolutely… It’s not the case today, where my personal emails, I’m using AI to send end-to-end or work emails. But I do see a world where that’s very possible. From a marketer’s perspective, let’s understand the implications of not using AI. The implications of not using AI is a lot of revenue is left on the table. Because marketers today are not using segmentation as much as they should because it’s hard without AI to recognize what segments you should be using. 

Really quickly, can you unpack two words for me for the Decoder audience: marketers and segmentation?

Yes. Marketers at a small business is typically your small business owner-

People hear marketers, and you think of the marketing department, but you’re talking about the people trying to get customers.

That’s right. So, you think about our customers that we serve. When a business has fewer than six employees, it tends to be the business owner who’s writing the marketing and doing that. So, that’s the marketer. When you grow to more than six employees, the next employee tends to be their marketing director, and then, over time, it becomes a department of six people. So, we can think about it that way. The next word you wanted me to decode was?

Segmentation.

Segmentation. Yes. Segmentation is all about finding clusters of people with similar behavior and similar demographic characteristics that are going to behave in the same way so that you can send them a different message that’s customized for them, that’s going to allow you to personalize the message and increase the likelihood of responding. I have young children, a five- and a two-year-old, so I’m going to more… They’re now older, a six- and a four-year-old. And I’m more likely to open an email from a clothing company — because I’m looking for efficiency — that’s showing me content for them than if it’s not personalized and it’s more generic. And so, that type of personalization drives much higher outcomes than if it’s not personalized.

Segmentation is a concept of the past, though, because, with AI, you can hyper-personalize. You don’t have to group people together anymore. You can write a single message to that individual. And so, if you’re not using AI to generate the content, you’re never going to be able to personalize at scale. You’d have to write a very large number of emails to be able to do that, and people won’t achieve that. And so, every marketer needs to be using AI now and over time in order to be able to achieve those revenue outcomes.

You used to group people together by saying, “Okay, you are a bunch of, I don’t know, 25- to 40-year-olds. You all lived in this town. You make about this much money. And, I don’t know, you all drive Hondas. You’re much more likely to all need an oil change at a discount at this time, at this price.” (You can tell that I need an oil change in my car, by the way. Just to be very clear, I’ve now ruthlessly targeted myself for oil change discounts. I’m ready for it.) And that was the most efficient you could get. With AI, you’re saying you’re going to know the customer individually and write that customer an individual email at the right exact time.

At the right exact time.

So, here’s my worry, and this is my existential question about email: that is an enormous step change in the amount of email that will be generated — “We’re just going to send more emails to more people.” And on the other end of it, they’re going to have their AI respond to that email or filter that email. I’m looking at my inbox today, and it is a wasteland of obviously AI-generated emails. I can feel the difference. And there’s a part of me that says, “Alright, I’m going to get an AI and just let it deal with it.” And suddenly, the entire email ecosystem feels like a bunch of robots talking to each other while the human beings are all on Slack. And I’m like, “Does that feel like a doom loop?” How do we break out of that outcome?

I look at it a lot more favorably in terms of the outcome.

Just to be clear, I would hope so, but that’s the most cynical I can be about it.

I look at it as a marketer, never inundating customers with emails they’re not going to love. Because you won’t then send the generic email to your entire base, you’ll… It doesn’t mean you’re going to send more emails or SMS messages or find them more in social media and other places. Instead, you’re going to send them the right message at the right time that’s going to be highly personalized and relevant. And so, on the marketer side, I think you’re actually going to be a lot more efficient and likely send fewer emails that are a lot more powerful or fewer content pieces to your customers to try to get them to convert.

On the consumer side, I think that’s great. If AI’s helping me as a consumer really identify what marketing messages are going to be most effective for me, what’s going to delight me in that moment with a surprise on something I may not have been shopping for or exactly what I’m shopping for right now and help me sift through that, great. But marketers are going to be in a great position to figure out how to get those top messages to customers if they’re using the AI tools that can differentiate them in that space. So, I’m very excited by the possibilities for both marketers and consumers in that scenario.

As a consumer, do you perceive that increase of incoming communication that is obviously AI-generated? Or is that are you just too busy, you’re in Slack all day?

As a consumer, our inboxes are exploding, for sure. But it’s so delightful when you find that message that hits you at the right moment in the right time, whether if you’re the type of person who wants to get an SMS at the right moment when you happen to be holding your phone or you’re in social media and you get the right message or in your inbox. And I’ve been delighted in recent weeks as I find something popped to the top with a subject line that gets my attention and the product is exactly what I want. So, it’s about getting through the noise and the clutter and having the right tool that will allow you to do that. And we talked earlier about the fact that consumers are busy. They’re inundated with messages. They’re increasingly across different channels. Everything we’re talking about reinforces how hard it is for a marketer to break through and, therefore, needing a solution that can help them do it. And the power of AI can play a massive role here. It’s going to be a total game-changer.

You can see as you just shop online, retailers are sort of desperate to get a hold of your direct contact information. They’ll lower their prices substantially. They’re like, “We’ll just take a 25 percent haircut to get your direct contact information on this first purchase because now you’re much more likely to buy from us again.” And I think that’s a function of that being the most direct distribution mechanism on the internet, compared to Facebook ads or TikTok ads or whatever algorithmic media people might be consuming. There is still one algorithm between most people and an email marketer, right? It’s Gmail. Gmail exists. It is filtered. Political campaigns wage war against Google around that filtering. It is just as contentious a content moderation system and algorithm as anything else, even if it might not be at the forefront all the time. How do you think about that relationship? Do you feel email is controlled or monopolized in the way that some of the most strident critics of Gmail feel?

We think about this in the context of deliverability and making sure that we can provide our customers the highest deliverability rates in the industry so that we are actually able to deliver their messages and get them into the inbox, so we think a lot about our algorithm that way. And then we do increasingly think about the end platforms that they’re consuming that information in and staying ahead of the changes that they’re making to those platforms and making sure that we can be surfaced there. So, we do think a lot about that. But again, we’re thinking a lot more broadly than email. And it’s increasingly disparate in terms of where consumers and Gen Z are spending their time. And, as we build Mailchimp and the broader Intuit small business ecosystem to be this growth engine for small businesses, we need to make sure that we can have a multichannel approach where we can reach customers and we’re not impacted by the decisions that one platform makes, but we can help them stay of all those outcomes and get to good outcomes for their business.

Do you think about Gmail as a platform in that way?

It’s one of the main places where a lot of customers read their email, so yeah.

Do you have conversations with Google? Do you ever go in there and say, “Look, let Mailchimp emails hit a tab that isn’t the promotions tab”?

We spend a lot of time with all of our major tech partners, as you can imagine. The ecosystem is strong, and we build deep relationships with them and talk about the possibilities to innovate together and what that could look like. But yeah, there’s lots of conversations that happen both around innovation and also just building solutions together so they can work for our customers.

This is another sort of existential problem AI has brought to the fore. If there is a text box on the internet, someone is going to fill it with AI-generated content at a rate that is perhaps unmanageable for any of our existing spam services. You’re sending to people with inboxes. They would like to manage the rate at which they’re seeing things. Those inboxes are run by big tech companies like Google and Yahoo and other companies, who provide to their customers a service of filtration and getting rid of some of the spam. And then you run an input box of your own that people are probably spamming with AI. That’s a swirl of things. Let’s start with your input box and then work all the way to the end of “Where does the email go?” You run a content distribution business that’s sort of most reductive. Are there things you won’t let people do with Mailchimp?

We have an acceptable use policy that is very clear and is adjusted all the time. And yes, we have things that we allow people to do on Mailchimp and things that we don’t. It’s focused on achieving several things. One is ensuring that we can continue to achieve a high deliverability rate. And that’s important because as our deliverability rate stays high, that allows us to support our ecosystem effectively. So, industries that may be prone to lower deliverability rates may not be able to use the platform.

Let’s pull that apart — I’ve never heard anybody pull that apart before. So, you’re saying Mailchimp, as a whole, is a sender of emails. And if you have customers that ruin your deliverability rating with the big email providers, you actually don’t want them, right?

So, there’s some kind of customers you don’t want because it will negatively impact your other customers because Mailchimp, as a platform, will get deranked in some way.

That’s consistent with our values as well. Because oftentimes, that’s associated with spam or fraudulent activities or things like that. Because low deliverability is also associated with more concerns being raised about those emails. And yes, so if it’s going to lead to low deliverability rates, we don’t want them on our platform.

You said it was consistent with your values as well. Obviously, you have values — you’ve talked about them already. But there’s a cold business logic there, right? You don’t want spammers and scammers on your platform or fraudsters because the small business is trying to get one more customer — their emails will get filtered more aggressively. How do you make that calculation? When you’re saying, “Okay, we’re going to update the acceptable use policy, the AI-powered fraudsters are out. We need to define them and make sure they don’t get accounts.” Does that come up with you, like, a model of how your deliverability rates will get affected if you enable a new kind of customer class or get rid of them?

Yes. So, we think about it that way, and certainly, we need to maintain our deliverability rates as high because that’s one of the top reasons businesses choose us as a platform, and that’s one of the top value propositions we provide. 

To your point on models, this is an area where it’s important for models to help you be as precise as possible. And I learned this when I led the fraud and risk team at Intuit. You want to protect against bad actors, but you want the models to help you not make false positive decisions so that you can be as precise as possible. And that’s where technology can really help you be effective. So, as a business leader, you say, yes, in principle, we shouldn’t allow businesses that demonstrate low deliverability to be on the platform, but how do we use the best technology in the industry to identify those so we reduce the false positive rate?

Is there any time you fired a category of customers because they were negatively impacting your deliverability?

It’s something we evaluate all the time and update it all the time based on data we’re seeing. And, as our models get better, we look at that as well, where we can pull out an individual actor versus a more blunt instrument.

Can you give me an example?

I don’t have specific examples to share, but it’s what I always push on. When we started with AI, for example, in generative AI, we opened it up to a small handful of industries to start, where we felt confident that the content would be produced, wouldn’t be sensitive, and we wouldn’t worry as much about the nature of the content that was produced. And, as we became more and more confident about our content moderation associated with AI and what we could do with the automated models and then the human in the loop, we opened it up further and further. So, we’re constantly looking to refine our policies to be able to let as many industries onto the platform and to make decisions in an automated way.

What’s the riskiest one that you think you’ve seen?

There are businesses like gambling and crypto and things like that, historically, that have had lower deliverability rates.

The security side and the crypto fraud side, they seem pretty directly linked. You obviously think about security — you were on the fraud team. But a couple of years ago, there was a pretty sophisticated crypto theft operation that was operating inside of Mailchimp. Because you’re giving people so much access to data and targeting and refinement and segmentation and all these things, that seems like a pretty attractive place for a fraudster to come do business. How do you manage that?

We take the security side really seriously across Intuit. That’s an area where we’ve had to build some of the industry’s most powerful security mechanisms because our customers entrust us with really sensitive data across all Intuit properties. So, it’s an area where we’ve built a lot of capability and strength, and we brought that to Mailchimp. It wasn’t part of Mailchimp in the earlier days of the acquisition. And since then, we’ve bolstered all the security settings with the capabilities from across Intuit. And so, that’s how we think about it. We take it extremely seriously. We have some of the world’s most sophisticated algorithms here, as well as a human monitoring team that’s constantly staying ahead of it.

Fraudsters are constantly coming back. You build the next thing, and they come back. And so, this is something we’ve invested quite heavily in over time and have very strong safeguards to always stay one step ahead. But it’s an area you have to constantly stay on your toes with. And I learned that from my time leading the risk and money movement team at Intuit and various other parts of the company.

It’s an election year. I’m assuming there’s going to be a lot of political campaigning on your platform using your tools, people trying to get donations, whether it’s the candidates themselves or their affiliated super PACs or whatever. Are there any restrictions on that kind of activity on Mailchimp? Is that something that seems dicey? Is that something that seems lucrative? Political advertising can be very lucrative. Is that something you have to think about differently?

It comes back to our acceptable use policy. We work to just ensure that there’s no harmful content on the platform or hate speech on the platform, so we just stick to the guidelines we have and ensure that all the messaging coming out of the platform is consistent with that.

One of the candidates in the presidential election cycle seems vastly more prone to things that feel like hate speech than the other candidate. Is that something you would restrict?

It would depend on the content being generated on the platform, and it would come back to looking at the guidelines we have in place. And when the situations are trickier, we spend a lot of time deliberating those decisions to get to the right decision and revisiting and learning as we go.

Is that something that’s ever come up before? It seems like this is going to be challenging for every platform in this particular presidential election cycle. Was that something you’ve had to deal with before? The company’s had to deal with before?

We’ve had several topics we look at that relate to content moderation. These are sensitive, and so we spend a lot of time deliberating over them and making the right call. And this is one where you’ve got to go back to your policies and principles and use multi levels of judgment and decisions and then make a decision and then just continue to evaluate it over time.

So, that’s your text box. That’s just your text box. It’s very challenging. That’s just yours.

Now you’ve got to send the email. You’ve got to make sure it’s deliverable to a bunch of other people’s input systems that might filter or otherwise adjudicate the content of your email. And, like you said, you talk to all those tech partners all the time, but some of them are also your competitors, right? I think Google thinks of itself as in-service to people who would like to buy advertising and increase their businesses. Does that feel like a competition? Does that feel like cooperation? Does that feel like they’re trustworthy? I’m picking on Google, but you could name a hundred different companies that sit between you and the actual recipient of an email.

There are certainly overlapping areas in a lot of tech companies in terms of areas they’re playing in and opportunities to partner. That’s certainly the case across the board in so many of these tech spaces. I would say we have a pretty unique place in this ecosystem as Intuit because of our relationship with small businesses and the depth of the relationship with small businesses and the number of things we do, whether it’s accounting or payments or access to capital or some of the advice and expertise we’re providing. So, in general, we find there’s a lot of appetite from tech partners to want to work and partner with us and build creative solutions together. And they can see a world where this can really work. There’s so many things we can do with each of these partners that we’re uniquely positioned to do in partnership with them.

We’ve talked about email as being an alternative to social platforms throughout this conversation. But you go out to a restaurant now, and their menus are just on Instagram, and they’re maybe not updating their website so much. And they’re maybe not asking for your email to email you discounts. There are lots of businesses now. Small Business TikTok is one of my favorite stories we’ve ever done at The Verge. Just guys with pressure washers building businesses on TikTok. Do you think about ways to address those platforms as well because that’s where so many audiences, particularly young audiences, are? Or are you focused on email, the web, small business stuff?

We’re certainly focused on reaching our customer’s audiences wherever they are, as we want to be the central growth platform where they’re managing all their growth activities through us. They need to start with Mailchimp and the Intuit ecosystem more generally, bring all their customer data, and use it as their customer data platform where all their data’s coming in getting enriched, where we’re understanding their customers better than they ever could or they could anywhere else.

Can you import that data from Instagram and YouTube and TikTok and all the other places where they might be? I’m just thinking about the — let’s just go with the pressure washer people on TikTok. They’re my favorite small business to talk about. I don’t even know if that’s still a thing, but there was a time when pressure-washing TikTok was a big deal. They’re getting lots of views. They probably want to segment those views by location, maybe serve them some ads. The people that are near them, that’s a very physical local business. Is that data you can see and import and help them with, or is that manual, or is that just a black box to you?

You can inform who you’re targeting on those platforms based on what you’re learning about your audience in Mailchimp, which is your central customer data platform. You can segment your audiences in Mailchimp and who you want to reach and then use that to get that messaging out to those other platforms. So, you can do it that way.

But there’s no direct connection?

The direct connection can come through… Today, we do have some direct connections where you can update an audience in Facebook, for example, based on the tooling that’s available in Mailchimp, and you can also schedule some messages you want to post in different places from Mailchimp.

I’m asking it this way because it feels like the email providers that you’re sending to, they’re predictable. You can model deliverability and impacts on deliverability. I think if Yahoo or Microsoft or Google or whatever big email service provider decided to start screening people’s email, there’d be more of an outcry than not. That feels like a neutral inbox. The other platforms are anything but, right? They are marketing platforms unto themselves. That is where the big direct-to-consumer companies built their businesses in the beginning, and I think they would like to eat more of your market to say, “Okay, we are the place where you’re going to understand your customer,” and that feels like a much more open competition than not. But you’re saying you can still somehow address those platforms?

Well, a couple of things. First of all, many small businesses today are not doing paid advertising because it’s overwhelming and confusing and hard for them to do it. So, it’s one of the areas where the big tech platforms have struggled to break in, and that’s an area where, through partnership, we can help them break in because we have the relationships with these very small businesses. And we have unique proprietary data where we could help them execute against these campaigns effectively. So, that’s one area of opportunity.

Secondly, it’s harder for these businesses to be able to manage their entire customer base on these platforms because they often don’t own the customer relationship one-to-one and don’t have all the data about their customer in one place. And so therefore, they need to come to a platform like Mailchimp, where they can build the logic and knowledge about their customers end-to-end and they own the customer data and, therefore, are able to take advantage of it.

One of the themes on Decoder over the last year or so is the kind of big battle versus the open internet that we’ve had for so long and the algorithmic internet that seems to be dominant at this moment — and maybe even creaking at the seams. I don’t think the algorithmic internet feels particularly stable or even good to people right now, but there’s a pendulum that swings back and forth. Do you see yourself betting more on this sort of open internet like email, like web? Or do you see more of the action going toward the algorithmic platforms?

Say more about that.

Building a business on email is a thing you can do, and you can run a business for 20 years on it, and no one can take email away. Like building a business on Facebook: a bunch of media companies tried to do that, and Facebook took their businesses away. Right now, 170 million Americans who have built communities and businesses on TikTok are looking at that potentially going away. People who have built businesses on the web are never under pressure like that. So, there’s a yin and a yang, and the audiences seem to have vastly preferred the closed platforms, but the stability is on the open platforms. And I think you’re right at the center of that tension. I’m just wondering how you’re thinking about that right now.

It comes back to the discussion we had earlier, which is the way we think about power and growth for small businesses, which is our focus. We ensure that they build a connected view of their end customers, which is extremely hard to do. Today, they’re very far from able to do that. And then once we have depth of understanding on their end customers, we’re able to help them craft the right message to reach their customers in the right place at the right time. And so, that means that we need to be able to reach their customers in all sorts of different places — across social media platforms, paid media platforms, email, WhatsApp, messaging, Discord, different platforms overall.

We’re going to continue to build the ability to reach customers everywhere, end customers everywhere. Our secret sauce is that we’ve built the depth of understanding of their end customers and then can help them craft the right message at the right time and identify what the right platform is and ensure that, regardless of the dynamics that will continue to happen on all of these end platforms, we’ve got omnichannel representation to be able to reach the end customer at the right place at the right time.

That last turn — “We’ll identify what the right platform is at the right time” — that seems like, one, an increasing amount of complexity, but two, the thing that you’re actually betting on, right? It’s not open versus closed for you.

That’s right. We’re betting on the ability to leverage AI to craft the right message that’s going to drive the best performance outcomes in the industry and then to be able to look across all the different channels to figure out what’s going to perform best and craft a strategy for a business that way.

Would Mailchimp ever get to the place that’s like, “The AI made you a TikTok video. Just put it on your TikTok channel and we think it’ll hit the right target”?

We’ll leverage in-house-built capabilities and then partner capabilities to be able to deliver an end-to-end campaign for businesses, including who you should target, what you should say to them, what the message should be, whether it’s a video or an image or text or a combination of all those things. Our vision is to deliver against all of that.

Let’s wrap up here. I’m assuming you cannot do this today. How long until somebody opens up their Mailchimp dashboard and it says, “You’ve got a big opportunity. You’re a denim retailer.” (I love making up the names of small businesses that might be your customers, by the way. This is maybe the most fun I’ve had.) “You’re a denim retailer, and there’s a guy in Westchester, New York, who needs a new pair of jeans. Make a TikTok video and send it to him.” And then push the button, and it just happens, and it’s sent to TikTok. How long from now until that is possible, do you think?

Well, I’ll tell you, this is an incredibly exciting time and space. I’ve never seen the pace of innovation be faster than it is today. And it’s been pretty rapid in my time and technology. And so, what’s incredible with generative AI, every time you open the Mailchimp app, you will see new generative AI capabilities. And where we are today is very different than where we were in September in terms of what we’re able to do and what’s happening. And so, if I answer your question, when will that be? I think it’s every month, we are going to move dramatically closer to that outcome.

But that is an outcome. I think part of my question was: is that a realistic outcome?

It’s very much part of the vision we have for what’s possible.

Well, that’s amazing — also, I think, a little scary. Rania, thank you so much for joining Decoder.

Thanks for the great discussion.

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