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Small businesses race to get online during the coronavirus pandemic, Mailchimp aims to help

Ben Chestnut, Mailchimp CEO and co-founder, joins Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss how MailChimp is providing digital tools to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, the company's evolution over the years, and much more.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Going right to your inbox, Mailchimp is still the dominant player in email marketing, and now it's wading into AI to help small business owners. Joining us now to discuss is Mailchimp co-founder and CEO Ben Chestnut. Ben, good to see you. So I believe it was this week you introduced a new-- some new digital tools to help small businesses. Why that pivot to AI?

BEN CHESTNUT: Well, we're finding that small businesses really during this pandemic are racing to get online if they haven't been online already. And they don't have a lot of time. And, you know, they want us to be able to-- they want to be able to get in and create campaigns. And they know that they can't just rely on one channel anymore. Email is not going to do it alone.

They've got to be on all the social media channels, they've got to build landing pages, they've got to sell globally. And there's just not enough time in the day to build all of those campaigns. And so Mailchimp is offering these wonderful solutions, like the creative assistance, who use AI to help them build and reformat all of their assets across all of those different channels.

There's just no time in the day, not enough time in the day to sell 24/7 globally.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, and I think a lot of small businesses are just sort of realizing what a company like yours could do for them. How much of your business has been just brand new business? Companies that are sort of racing to get in on the act.

BEN CHESTNUT: A lot of it, a lot of it. When we saw the pandemic hit, we saw a lot of businesses suffering, of course, in certain industries. But then we started to see a big race to get businesses online and sell online. So business is good. This is a time of entrepreneurship.

We've been through this before at Mailchimp. We started in April 2000, and just a few days after launching, we had the dot-com bust. And we built up our business, and one year later, we had 9/11. And we built it back up, and then in 2008, we had the financial crisis. So crisis after crisis, we've seen it means new waves of entrepreneurialism and small businesses.

BRIAN SOZZI: And I can't think of another business-- Ben, I just can't think of another business more in tune or in lockstep with the plight of small businesses right now. What have you seen or heard from your small business customers the past two or three months, or even actually just the past two months with no stimulus? How are their businesses holding up?

BEN CHESTNUT: You know what, entrepreneurs are survivors. I remember all of the crises we went through. We just kept saying, we are cockroaches, just be a cockroach. We wanted to be able to survive a thermonuclear war, and that's the spirit of entrepreneurialism. So yes, it's a bummer that they're not getting the help that they would like, but they are pivoting. They're not pausing, they're pivoting. And they're getting very creative in pivoting their services.

BRIAN SOZZI: Ben, you recently told our sister publication, TechCrunch, in an interview that four years ago, you considered selling the business. You've taken no outside money, but you decided at the time not to do it. And you want to make this pivot now into AI. No that you've done this, are you fielding new offers for Mailchimp?

BEN CHESTNUT: Am I fielding new-- [LAUGHS] you're getting straight to it.

BRIAN SOZZI: Straight to it.

BEN CHESTNUT: Is this some kind of finance show or something?

BRIAN SOZZI: There's no nonense here.

BEN CHESTNUT: I am not even thinking about that right now. I am so excited about act two of Mailchimp, going from just a simple email tool, that was a great ride, and I could have just sat on my laurels and then just kept raking it in. But we're up for the challenge of act two. And I love the story of Mailchimp reinventing ourselves. No better time than now. And I'm charged up and ready to go.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: What are some of AI tools specifically that you've been able to implement to help small businesses reach the right consumer?

BEN CHESTNUT: Well, the most exciting one for us is the creative assistant that's using AI to take their brand assets that are on their web sites, all of their colors, their styles. Our customers are very brand-centric. They know how they want to look, so we don't invent any of that for them. We take what they've done, and we resize it and reformat it for the best channel.

But then we're also using something we call next best action to use all of the data that's in our system, to tell them what they should do next in their marketing, where we're trying to make small businesses smarter marketers.