Why HubSpot Is a Field, Not a Factory

A few days ago I posted the following on HubSpot's internal wiki. I'm reposting it here for three reasons: (a) to share a few of the reasons I love working at HubSpot, (b) to add a bit to the excellent conversation Umair started and (c) to point out some of the things I think a growing company needs to do to be successful today.


Umair Haque, one of my favorite bloggers, has a great post this weekend about Leaders and Builders. I highly recommend it to all HubSpotters, and wanted to share some of the things it got me thinking about: 

At HubSpot we talk a lot about changing the way companies do marketing — and we're in the process doing exactly that.

As we grow, I think we should also realize and focus on the fact that we're helping to change the way companies are built.


Think about the difference between HubSpot and companies that were
built in the 20th Century. The GM's, Microsofts & P&Gs of the
world are factories. They're rigid command and control hierarchies that
don't encourage experimenting or innovating. HubSpot and other
companies that are now changing the world (Google, Acmen Fund, Etsy,
Amazon) are fields. Instead of enforcing a rigid hierarchy, we
cultivate great people and empower them to do innovative, world-class


Why is the field better than the factory? Umair Haque's article
and blog archive spells that out. But here's what I think: Fields are
more efficient for the shareholders, more rewarding for employees and
better for the world.

Some examples of how we're a field:

  • Tremendous transparency. This wiki is wide open and it
    contains tons of real discussion, data and documentation. As a result,
    anybody in the company is able to participate in any conversation they
  • A flat organization. Everybody at HubSpot does
    stuff. Very few people just manage. Look at the engineering team and
    the marketing teams — engineering is all engineers, regardless of
    experience; marketing is all inbound marketing managers, regardless of
    experience. That's awesome.
  • Agile Methodology. It's an
    example of the transparency and enables flatness. It also empowers us
    as individuals by giving us the chance to pick and define our own
  • Data-driven culture. In god we trust, all others bring data. This kind of culture reduces political crap by 110%.
  • Access to data across the organization.
    Anybody can collect any piece of HubSpot data they
    want. This data is our Twitter API. By opening up and publishing it
    internally, it enables individuals to do all sorts of creative stuff
    that benefits the company, but that nobody would have expected.
  • We're building a cathedral.
    We're focused on building something that lasts and has a positive
    impact, not hitting some revenue threshold, then trying to flip the

All this is great, but it hasn't happened by accident, and it will
be increasingly difficult to maintain. As we grow we need to be very
focused on building a different kind of company.

Specifically, I think we need to focus on:

  • Flatness. As we build out teams we need to work to retain flatness.
  • Avoiding fiefdoms and turf battles. Instead we need to focus on getting shit done.
  • Education & Training.
    We need to empower people with learning; sounds like training is
    AWESOME for new employees. How can we build the skills of existing
  • Open data. We need to give people within the company more access to company data.
  • Staying focused on the Cathedral.
    Each group is focused like a laser on our monthly numbers. But we need
    to make sure we pick up our heads and look around on a regular basis.
  • Hiring more rockstars. (All levels of experience.)

What do you guys think?


PS, if this kind of environment excites you, you should work at HubSpot.


The Flaw in Demand Media’s Fast-Food Content Model

After Mike Arrington and Paul Kedrosky's posts on fast-food content this week, I went back and reread the excellent October Wired article on Demand Media.

Demand produces tons of content (4,000 video clips and articles a day) related to specific keywords its software decides are lucrative.

The quality is lousy, but the company meets vast swaths of content demand that aren't currently being filled.

As Wired explains:

What Demand has realized is that the Internet gets only half of the simplest economic formula right: It has the supply part down but ignores demand. Give a million monkeys a million WordPress accounts and you still might never get a seven-point tutorial on how to keep wasps away from a swimming pool. Yet that’s what people want to know.

Demand makes money by cheaply producing articles that rank for "how to keep wasps away"-type searches, then selling ads next to those articles.

There's one problem with this business over time: It's an arbitrage, it's not creating lasting value.

Over time, businesses like exterminators will figure out that they don't need to purchase traffic from Demand. Instead, they can create their own awesome content about keeping wasps away from swimming pools, and replace Demand in Google's organic results.

As soon as exterminators start creating this kind of content, they'll realize they get a lot more value out of the content than just the value of the advertising they had been paying Demand for. They'll find significant additional value in PR, lead generation, social media growth, in internal company communication, and lots more I spelled out here.

The best part? When businesses create content, they have an incentive to do it well. Exterminators want a strong brand, so they'll write strong articles about keeping wasps away from pools.

Ultimately, these incentives will keep us from getting stuck the world of fast-food content that Mike and Paul fear.