Voices

MailChimp’s Unorthodox Growth, and 2 Other Stories You Should Read

Here’s what you missed while your clown fear was getting way too real

The Ringer: Silicon Valley Can’t Disrupt Craigslist

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief

There’s a recurring joke around Contently that I met various employees on Craigslist. It’s technically true; to this day, we still list our editorial internship on Craigslist, and it’s where we found some of the most talented young employees at the company.

Craigslist may look like a relic of the ’90s, but it’s more popular than ever, attracting 50 billion page views each month. Along the way, it’s defended itself against a slew of slick upstarts looking to take its lunch, and it somehow avoided responsibility for the hundreds of crimes and scams that stem from the platform each year. Considering how many obituaries that have been written for the site over the years, is it time to start wondering whether it’s truly immortal?

The New Yorker: Sam Altman’s Manifest Destiny

Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor

We’ve all read about how technology threatens our jobs and makes workers obsolete. Now, many of the people who fund that innovative technology could soon be obsolete as well.

That parallel is what makes Tad Friend’s profile of Y Combinator president Sam Altman so brilliant. Y Combinator, a seed accelerator that offers young startups cash and expertise in exchange for equity, has built a Silicon Valley machine. At the head of that machine, Altman has tremendous power and influence, which he’s wielded thus far with benevolence. But as Y Combinator continues to grow, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which it renders the current venture capital system obsolete.

You’ll still find the usual components of a profile—the origin story, humanizing anecdotes, legacy projections—but that subtle connection between slick investors and displaced laborers elevates this story with a unique depth.

The New York Times: MailChimp and the Un-Silicon Valley Way to Make It as a Start-Up

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

This is a nice little story of a nice little company, MailChimp. Though everyone’s favorite smiling monkey ESP is increasingly getting less and less little.

Farhad Manjoo does his usual thing here, breaking down a complex topic—building a software business in the age of venture capital—into an easy narrative. He tells the story of how MailChimp has grown over 16 years, from part-time project to a full-fledged martech big shot on track for almost $400 million in revenue this year. The difference here is that MailChamp has never taken money from outside investors—a far cry from the usual “grow explosively and either win or die in the process” philosophy taken by most software startups. Instead, MailChimp has grown slowly and deliberately, in the way its founders want.

The result has been steady revenue growth and a polished reputation in marketing circles for good customer service and fair pricing. Now, MailChimp finds itself in the enviable position of holding significant market share, a strong brand, and total control over its direction. It’s a testament to building companies the old-fashioned way.

Image by Creative Commons
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