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October 28, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Local start-up ShopSync acquired by Mailchimp

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

That old saying about “timing being everything” is surely true in the case of Knoxville area entrepreneur Kyle Hungate.

A start-up he launched about two years ago to fill a void created for small businesses when two industry giants severed their relationship has been acquired by one of the two after they have resumed working together.

News of the acquisition of ShopSync by Mailchimp came on the heels of another announcement this week that Mailchimp and Shopify, who ended their business dealings over data privacy issues in early 2019, have agreed to again work together. The 2019 decision had left small businesses needing a third party software integrator to provide a seamless solution so they could share information between Mailchimp’s email platform and Shopify’s cloud-based eCommerce platform.

In their announcement on October 26, the two said that new and existing users of Mailchimp and Shopify will be able to connect their Mailchimp account with their Shopify storefront through a direct integration, eliminating the need for third-party tools and manual data transfers. That process involves Mailchimp launching an integration for Shopify that is built on the ShopSync platform. As a result, the ShopSync app is being retired effective immediately.

For Hungate, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and having previous experience developing software that integrated disparate systems used by small businesses.

Roughly a decade ago, he founded Vextras as a software platform to help small businesses more easily integrate online ordering systems into their existing sales, accounting, inventory, and customer relationship management systems (see 2014 article). Through that company, he was familiar with both Mailchimp and Shopify and their technologies.

Prior to the issue between the two coming to a head, Hungate said, “We didn’t really know what would happen between the two parties, but if there was a fallout, we knew there would be a large number of store owners that would be upset that they couldn’t use Mailchimp for their marketing efforts. Given our experience we had with both platforms while working at my other company (Vextras), we decided to take a shot in building a stand-alone app that connected the two in the event something happened. As luck would have it, later that year, Shopify prevented store owners from downloading the original app from their App Store.”

Hungate decided to launch ShopSync as a separate business rather than making it part of Vextras.

“At the time we didn’t really anticipate the demand for our app, but things took off quickly,” he said. “It was a cliche of being at the right place at the right time; thousands of users installed ShopSync every day. Over time, we refined the app, listened to our customers, and built features as a result of their feedback. In many ways, our app was better than the original one Mailchimp created, and that seemed to really create some buzz among Shopify users.”

Once the two tech titans resolved their differences, Hungate says Mailchimp approached him earlier this year to become part of its team. “Today, ShopSync is the fundamental technology behind their direct integration with Shopify,” he says.

Terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed, but it is obviously a win-win for everyone.

“The ShopSync team is excited to join Mailchimp through this acquisition,” Hungate said. “We’re proud of how we’ve been able to serve thousands of small e-commerce businesses for the past three years through our app, which connected Mailchimp accounts to Shopify stores to sync data and power marketing automations.”

In an article in Modern Retail, Joni Deus, Mailchimp’s Vice President of strategic partnerships, explained the acquisition this way: “ShopSync will come into the Mailchimp brand. They have managed that integration for two years and have been instrumental in helping us to offer this (app) to users.”

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