#33 MailChimp And The Future Of Email With Neil Bainton

Forward Obsessed

Jun 15 2023 • 1 hr 16 mins

Neil Bainton is the Co-Creator and COO of Mailchimp, and is currently an investor, advisor, and photographer. On this episode of Forward Obsessed, Neil Bainton discusses his unique career journey, starting with learning Russian during the Cold War and actually moving to Russia at the end of the Cold War to work for DuPont. Neil recalls Russia as an “entrepreneurial black slate,” transitioning to work for Pepsi, creating successful (and sometimes fervent) promotional campaigns in Russia. Neil talks about the challenges of doing business in Russia, returning to the US to participate in the dotcom boom, and recalls his early business that led to helping build MailChimp.

Throughout the episode, Bainton highlights the importance of design and innovation in staying ahead of competitors, and how the internet has drastically changed the business landscape. Tune in to this insightful episode as Bainton shares his wisdom and perspective gained from his unique journey. The episode also highlights some of the unique aspects of MailChimp's success, such as their passionate focus on design, their 'Forever Free' offering, their ability to compete with larger companies, and why Neil decided to eventually exit the business to pursue a better personal life.

Key Entrepreneurial Topics From This Interview

  • The importance of design and user experience for a startup's success
  • Going against industry norms and embracing competitors' new ideas
  • The benefits of being an extremely lean team that can out-innovate competitors
  • The challenges of doing business in a country with lack of rule of law to protect businesses
  • The importance of addressing spam and automation in product development
  • The success of a "Forever Free" model for a unique approach to the market
  • The value of advertising in international markets, despite tough competition
  • The potential for fraud in today's world, and the importance of protecting business assets
  • The impact of changes in market dynamics and emerging competition.


  • (00:00) Intro
  • (2:02) Early Years
  • (3:36) Going to Russia as a young man
  • (8:13) The dichotomy between Communism and Capitalism
  • (16:29) Why Wharton is so good at producing excellent MBAs
  • (20:37) Working with Dupont in the Soviet Union
  • (24:53) Where does work ethic come from?
  • (26:40) Transitioning to Pepsi
  • (30:08) How Russian businesses use fear to do business
  • (35:14) Being too early in fintech
  • (46:30) Fostering entrepreneurship in large companies
  • (48:50) Cultivating a work environment of experimentation and creativity
  • (50:00) Joining MailChimp as #4 on the team
  • (53:30) Designing the “voice” and experience of MailChimp
  • (1:00:00) Using “forever free” and product-led growth strategies
  • (1:04:00) Why I left MailChimp



  • Podcast website: https://forwardobsessed.com/
  • Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/forward-obsessed/id1615760781
  • Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2TrkOZ7xL7WSlzc2mrwXuC?si=aa5e7790aca64e05
  • YouTube Full Episodes: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-ldUUGxQZ5b9WPqVXz_qlfXgK3hHPs4z
  • YouTube Clips: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-ldUUGxQZ5Yt0LiPml0y6pNUSrqHzWql


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