Buckhead’s Ben Chestnut makes Mailchimp an icon of Atlanta’s startup scene

Ben Chestnut was already a legend of Atlanta’s tech startup community before his e-marketing colossus Mailchimp agreed to a roughly $12 billion acquisition by Inuit this fall.

The Buckhead resident’s life story runs from a small city outside Augusta to joining Forbes’ billionaires list in 2018. 

The 47-year-old Chestnut, who did not respond to an interview request through Mailchimp, attended high school in tiny Hephzibah, Georgia, where he met his future wife Teresa. He has said that his mom had a home hair-salon business and his dad had a military job. He attended Georgia Tech, while she went on to become a nurse at such Atlanta hospitals as Grady and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Hughes Spalding. 

As Chestnut told Georgia Trend last year, the Mailchimp story began in 2000, when he and partner Dan Kurzius lost their jobs. They started a web design company and, in 2001, a little email marketing sideline for their customers called Mailchimp. 

Ponce City Market in the Old Fourth Ward is home to Mailchimp’s headquarters while a new HQ is under construction. Credit: Ponce City Market

Driven by low pricing and high demand, Mailchimp grew explosively by serving the small-business market. It became an icon of Atlanta’s burgeoning startup scene and was a sponsor of Atlanta Tech Village, a Buckhead incubator. Along the way, Chestnut joined the list of Buckhead billionaires, along with the likes of Spanx clothing founder Sara Blakely and Home Depot co-founders Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus.

Today, Mailchimp is headquartered in Ponce City Market in the Old Fourth Ward — with a new headquarters under construction just down the Atlanta BeltLine on Ralph McGill Boulevard — and says it employs over 1,200 workers. 

For two decades, Mailchimp had remained self-owned and shunned outside investors. That is poised to change with the September announcement of the Intuit acquisition, which could close by mid-2022. Intuit is a California-based software company known for making the accounting program QuickBooks, the personal finance app Mint, and the tax preparation service TurboTax, which has generated controversy about steering customers eligible for free filing to paid versions.

Mailchimp has said its products will remain the same and it will remain headquartered in Atlanta. Communicating the deal to customers — via email, naturally — Chestnut said that “our mission to empower the underdog will always be our north star.”

In Buckhead, the Chestnuts keep a low profile. But their Chestnut Family Foundation does statewide work in support arts programs for youths.