Q&A: Gary Levitt, founder and CEO, Mad Mimi

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Q&A: Gary Levitt, founder and CEO, Mad Mimi
Q&A: Gary Levitt, founder and CEO, Mad Mimi

Gary Levitt, founder and CEO of email marketing services company Mad Mimi which enables customers to create and manage simple, scalable communications, including branded emails and newsletters - talks to Direct Marketing News about empowering even the smallest mom and pop businesses in a flash sale age.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): Tell us how a musician who wrote jingles and who was a former champion skateboarder in his native South Africa got into the email business.

Gary Levitt (Mad Mimi): We started in 2008 out of a little music studio here in New York. I was composing music for 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' and before that was a jazz bassist, as well as a busboy. I started writing music for TV commercials, and used to create these little emails using Dreamweaver or whatever software I could find to promote my little music company. I got decent at making these pretty little emails. That's actually how I landed the Oprah Winfrey gig; I sent an email to an ad agency I did some work for, and they forwarded it to the Oprah show. I didn't come into the email game knowing anything about email creation; I designed Mad Mimi to be a tool for musicians to create online press kits where they could drag in their MP3s and photos and biographies so music venues would book them. One day I was sitting there and said, 'Hey, this is a really cool way to actually create an email and manage creative content.'

DMN: Today, you boast 95,000 clients who send 1 billion emails per month. Who are your customers?

Levitt: The bulk are small businesses and mom and pop shops. We also have a large number of large and midsize businesses using the product, including Air Canada, eBay and Meetup.com, as well as some of the bigger iPhone apps like textPlus and iMob. They are some of our heaviest hitters, making up a lot of the volume.

DMN: What does Mad Mimi offer that's unique from other email services out there?

Levitt: The focus for Mad Mimi is on the small business that wants a really simple design experience. What makes our product unique from other template-oriented design tools is that we work a little more like Tumblr, and the end product that someone creates using Mad Mimi feels a little more like a Tumblr page than WordPress or TypePad. We don't embrace the concept of templates, where you pick a template and then plug in your content. With us, you create these small little modules that are really flexible. You can squeeze them and stretch them, and employ different color schemes and typography and background. When I was creating emails [as a musician], looking at solutions such as constant contact and vertical response and the tools they gave me to try to input creative content were very painful to use because they were really just a blank slate. There was nothing creative I could really come up with. Being a musician, an artistic type, I really wanted to create an email product that inspires the user creatively and handles the blank slate of writing and generating content in a gentle, soft, beautiful way.

DMN: How big is your company today?

Levitt: We have 20 full-time employees and $4-8 million in annual revenue, so we're a small company.

DMN: What are your plans moving forward?

Levitt: We're working to launch a really simple e-commerce piece that is email-driven. There are small businesses that aren't necessarily [doing business] online yet and they want to be online, but don't have the energy to get set up with an enterprise-level e-commerce network, or even one of the smaller ones. Over the next five years, we'd like to launch a number of small-business products into the Mad Mimi brand, in keeping with the energy of Mad Mimi.

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