Dharmesh Shah

Founder & CTO at HubSpot. Marketing community maniac at inbound.org.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON February 23, 2016 Thank Dharmesh Shah on Twitter

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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
Hi, I'm Dharmesh Shah, founder/CTO of HubSpot. I love startups, inbound marketing and building software. I hate unkindness, alarm clocks and phone calls. I have two passion projects at HubSpot. The first is a slide deck that I've spent hundreds of hours on called the HubSpot Culture Code deck (http://CultureDeck.com) . The other is http://inbound.org?ref=producthunt -- an online community for marketers to connect, learn and grow. I've also angel invested in 64 startups, most through AngelList (in which I'm an investor -- how "meta"). Ask Me Anything -- I type really fast.

Oh, and by the way, are you looking to hire an awesome marketer? I've created a special 60% discount code off the regular $250/post price just for Product Hunters. Use promo code "phrocks"
or click this link: https://inbound.org/job/create?c...

It's a great way expose your company to the 150,000 strong inbound.org community which consists mostly of marketers and makers. No pressure though -- inbound.org is not meant to be a profit-generating venture. Just looking to connect some dots.

UPDATE: Thanks for all the questions! Hope some of the answers were useful. I'm going to sign-off (and get back to writing some code).
Rand Fishkin — Wizard of Moz
Hi Dharmesh!

My question is hard. Really hard. Suddenly, tomorrow, you're made the Head of Product & Engineering at Moz (not an actual role, but it's a hypothetical so I get to play fast and loose). Knowing what you know today about Moz's history and products, what would you change?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@randfish That's a really, really hard question. I'll give you the short version now, and perhaps a longer version over a glass of wine (we're overdue):

The hardest thing about product strategy and figuring out the right balance between building what you think (or are convinced) should exist vs. what people want. You can't skew too far one way or the other.

Things I would do:

1. Make an inventory of the "stuff" (products/features) that you currently have, and come up with a way to measure the value they're generating. First-order approximation is revenue divided by usage/adoption.

2. Figure out what you can kill. Seriously. The mistake that many teams make is thinking that the software they've developed is "sunk cost" and that if it's generating *any* value, that's net positive. It's not. All products/features have an ongoing cost to them. Not just maintaining the software, but the complexity cost of making decisions around the feature, explaining to people what it is, why it's important, etc. Usually, the "long tail cost" of a feature is much higher than the initial development cost.

3. If you haven't done one already, do a customer NPS survey and try to dig into what it is your customers love about Moz -- and what they'd like you to do. Even better, ask the question I ask most customers I meet in person when I'm out speaking: "When I go back to my team, what's the one thing you'd love for me to ask them to do for you?" (That assumes, of course, that I can tell my team what to do, which is not true at all). But, the data is valuable. :)

That's it for now. Might be back to you later...
Rand Fishkin — Wizard of Moz
@dharmesh Thanks - not just good advice for Moz, but near-universally applicable advice. Very thoughtful of you to be so inclusive :-)
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@randfish If I didn't know better, I'd almost think that was a dig. But I do, and so I don't.
Hi Darmesh, If you were to add another letter to HEART — which would it be and why?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@carlosvivaldi The OCD part of me is going to want to come up with a revised acronym, but I'm going to resist doing that. The word I really want to get in there is Empathetic. Fun fact: I've actually lobbied internally to replace "Effective" in HEART with "Empathetic". And, replace "Remarkable" with "Resourceful". Have not won that internal debate (yet). I'm going to make another attempt at it soon.
Neal Kaiser — CEO of Upshot Commerce
Time management question here! Being an introvert, how do you manage getting enough quiet time w/ a demanding schedule and being surrounded by type-As (I'm assuming).
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@nealkaiser The question I have about demanding schedules is: "Who's doing the demanding?" Chances are, those that influence your schedule want to solve for "output" (not input). So, if you had a candid conversation with them about how you can add the most value (which is likely *not* being in extrovert-tailored situations), they'd listen.

For me personally: I have long-ago (15+ years) decided that I'm going to focus on my strengths and not try to fill-in my weaknesses. It's worked out OK for me. It's amazing what the world will let you "get away with" if you simply try it.
Jonny Miller — Cofounder
Thanks for doing this @dharmesh! I've heard @randfish claim that he steals all of his best ideas from you... looking back over the years, which ideas or achievements are you most proud of (and why?)
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
Hi Jonny! Thanks for stopping by.

@jonnym1ller @randfish First off, I'd say that Rand is too kind and humble, but there is no such thing, so will it stand. Over the many years that I've known him, Rand and I have given each other advice roughly equally. And, I don't think I've ever given him a great idea, other than the one I shared at a Search Love conference which was to monitor ProgrammableWeb for new APIs to generate ideas for neat tools to build.

In terms of the second part: The thing that I'm most proud of is have attracted a bunch of smart people and aligned them towards a cause of making marketing (and now sales) more empathetic and human-friendly. We're not the only ones to be working on that, but we started early and were relatively maniacal about it.
Hey Dharmesh! What's the most common characteristic shared amongst the most successful people you know?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@imbarrynyhan First, my definition of success: "Success is making those who believed in you look brilliant." So based on that, I'd say that the #1 most common trait amongst the successful is humility.
Kelly Kuhn-Wallace — Growth Marketing & Sales Consultant
(Third question - skip if needed.) I am surprised to see inbound.org named as one of your "passion projects." While the dialogue there is moderately active, it does not seem like a lot of attention has been paid to developing it into a particularly differentiated experience. What is your vision for inbound.org? How do you envision your passion for it coming to life? **excited to read the answer to this one**
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@kkdub Turns out, I have a 1,000+ word blog post in draft-mode that answers this question. But, here's the gist:

The dream for inbound.org is to be one of the best resources out there for marketers to learn, grow and connect. Now, that sounds super abstract and platitudinal, so let's dig in:

1. Be the best place for new marketers to break into the industry.

2. Provide a way for marketers to verifiably demonstrate their skills/expertise.

3. Create a place for organizations to hire great inbound marketers. In a "positive karmic loop" kind of way, what makes a great inbound marketer is someone that is empathetic and generous (put value in before extracting value out).

4. Build the world's biggest and richest graph of marketers, the tools they use, the projects they've worked on, the companies they've worked for, and the skills they've accumulated. Seriously.
Kelly Kuhn-Wallace — Growth Marketing & Sales Consultant
@dharmesh Love it. All of it. Perhaps inbound.org might also be a place for new marketers to seek mentors?
Really like your last idea @kkdub. Although I'm a little more biased to having a mentor outside your direct industry; that's a particularly strong attraction point for young marketers finding their feet. Considering @dharmesh has pitched Inbound above as a hub for young marketers to evolve within, moving towards a mentor model is an interesting challenge. I've tried it before - the logistics, reliability and commitment of people (mentors and mentees) can be a nightmare.
Kelly Kuhn-Wallace — Growth Marketing & Sales Consultant
@digigraziano Ideally we all have multiple mentors. :) The challenges you mention are real. Overcoming them seems possible and well worth doing. The benefits of mentoring (for both parties) are well-documented. And I believe (no data) that young marketers who have mentors are more likely to be mentors in the future. And that current mentors in marketing will gain the confidence to serve as mentors for young professionals in other fields. @dharmesh
Kelly Kuhn-Wallace — Growth Marketing & Sales Consultant
@digigraziano (I'm not capable of thoughts in singles. Apologies.) Another approach might be to partner up those of us who have not published with more seasoned marketers to work on research or articles together. Think of that like a highly targeted mentorship opportunity with a defined outcome that more concretely benefits inbound.org in the near-term. @dharmesh
Emily Hodgins — Community @Product Hunt
What's the best piece of advice you'd offer to new founders just starting out?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@ems_hodge Be careful with general advice. Understand that most advice is an extrapolation from few (often one) data point.
Love this @dharmesh. We can rely and form decisions far too quickly from data. Every industry, every target audience is different. 'Growth' and 'Retention' tips are great to build on, but repurposing them exactly as they are depicted is often a trip down the wrong road.
Edwin Espinosa — Angularjobs
1) What are the key things Hubspot looks for in hiring talent, both from a skills and intangibles perspective?
2) Pre-IPO how did this differ?

//I have heard that startups tend to do better hiring good cultural fits but once late stage it's best to hire for diversity (skills, character, intangibles) to continue innovation and growth. Thanks Dharmesh, you're awesome :)
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@edwinespinosa09 In our early years, we hired people that were exceptionally smart and Got Sh*t Done. Most of us didn't look like great hires "on paper". As we've scaled, we've found a clearer pattern to what kinds of people work well at HubSpot -- and they're usually humble and transparent. See http://CultureCode.com for more details on how we think about people.
Vishal Kuchanur — Associate at Goldman Sachs
Given a choice to quit the Internet world, what profession would you choose and why?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@vishal_kuchanur If I had the talent, I'd become a musician. But, I don't. So, what I will likely end up doing is becoming a professor. I have always loved teaching, and it fits my "do things that have impact and scale" mantra.
Jess — Coordinator, Northeastern University
@dharmesh @vishal_kuchanur Hi Dharmesh! I've worked as staff in higher ed for 7 years, primarily in faculty-facing roles. I mention this to say faculty LOVE what they do. Having worked in some capacity with several hundred professors from a wide range of disciplines (mostly business and healthcare but also arts & sciences and IT), I've found professors to be some of the most joyful and fulfilled people around. Bonus! Teaching keeps you youthful.
Andrew Ettinger — Intern at Product Hunt
You wrote 10 Questions I Hope I Don't Get Asked During My Product Hunt AMA. What is one question you hope gets asked?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@andrewmettinger It's already been asked-- the one about what http://inbound.org is all about.
Danny Lowney — Growth ⛏@ Sup
You hate alarm clocks. How do you like to wake up and what is your morning routine?

(In a totally non-creepy way...)
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@dannylowney This is going to sound a bit odd (because it is):

1. I go to bed roughly between 1:30 am and 2am on most nights. Unless I'm in the zone on some coding, in which case I sometimes push it to 3am.

2. I almost never, ever wake up to an alarm clock. I wake up when my body wants to wake up. On average, I get about 7-7.25 hours a night. At < 6.5 hours, I'm sub-optimal. At < 6 hours, I'm non-functional. Might as well have stayed in bed..

3. Because of my sleep routine, I don't usually schedule morning meetings unless absolutely required. Fun fact: First few years of HubSpot, there was an implicit rule to never setup a meeting before 11am (my co-founder, Brian Halligan is a night-owl too). Later, we revised this to: "You can setup a meeting before 11am, just don't invite one of the co-founders."

4. When I wake up, I usually don't hop out of bed. Not because I'm groggy, but because I like to lay there and *think*. It's one of the few times during the day that I literally don't have to do anything else. Other upside to doing this is that once I *do* get out of bed, I can capture my ideas relatively quickly/easily (because they were just in my head).
Andrew Parker — Founder of Givebuy
Hi @dharmesh! Overcoming obstacles is something that entrepreneurs generally encounter on a day to day basis. One of my challenges has been the rollercoaster of emotions every day. Sometimes I feel like nothing is going to stop me and other times I'm not sure what to even do next. How many times in your entrepreneurial career have you thought "this isn't going to work" and it worked out in the end?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@givebuy I've been working in startups for most of my professional career, and I've been on that roller-coaster many times. Often, I've felt the "can't be stopoped" and "we're going to die" emotion on the very same day -- for rational reasons.

The one thing I'll say: Remember that you are not alone. Everybody (including the ones you'd label as "successful") goes through this. The frequency of the oscillation goes down over time (I experience this less with HubSpot than I did with my first startup).
Was there a college course that fundamentally changed the way that you perceived the world? If so, why and what was the subject matter?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@dzidzienyo I loved college. Loved grad school more than undergrad, but that's because I was able to *enjoy* grad school, whereas I worked like a dog all the way through undergrad.

Courses that were influential on me:
1. Microeconomics
2. Game Theory
3. Improv Comedy (yes, I took a grad-level course on improv at MIT)
4. Strategy
Emily Hodgins — Community @Product Hunt
What three things should every marketer keep in mind when starting a campaign?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@ems_hodge Answer these questions: Who is it for? How does this help them? Why will this work?
Maricka Burke Keogh — Head of Digital Marketing, Altocloud
Hi Dharmesh, I am a BIG fan of Hubspot, and we actively use the platform at Altocloud.com. We are a customer journey analytics and digital messaging software company, in existence for the last two years. The team is growing bit by bit. However, there are vast amounts of work to do and the marketing team is currently minuscule. With your background, in a software company two years in business - how would you prioritise the following? Website optimisation (landing pages, copywriting, etc.); Onboarding material for new sign ups (Demo/Trials and New Customers), Online PR, Content Marketing and Blogs, PPC, SEO, Events, Videos.

BTW, you gave me a RT for the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin - made my day.

All the best, Maricka
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@marickab Given that I'm not a marketer by trade, I'm not really qualified to do that prioritization. But, I'll make you a deal: Post the question over at inbound.org and I'll make sure some *real* marketers respond to it.

The Web Summit seems so long ago!
Maricka Burke Keogh — Head of Digital Marketing, Altocloud
@dharmesh Thanks so much Dharmesh. Appreciate it. Maricka.
nicole — CMO, OnSIP
Hi Dharmesh! How does HubSpot decide what to build next, and how far out do you spec your product roadmap?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@nicolechirps We don't have a formal product roadmap. Things move too fast. We do have strategic planning cycles though, where we try to figure out (at a very high-level of abstraction) what our priorities are. We then make concerted efforts to ensure that the entire company understands what we are out to do, and let them go figure out what needs to be built.
Elvis M. — Inbound Marketing Ninja / Wantrepreneur
Question 2: I am currently in a market in which even seasoned online marketing professionals have never heard of Inbound Marketing (Bosnia and Hercegovina). I want to increase the awareness of benefits of inbound marketing, and teach professionals that LTV beats one-time conversions, that customers delight beats a closed sale.

I plan to start it with seminars to students who are interested in marketing, and see where this leads us.

What would you do if you were in my shoes? How would you tackle the problem?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@empteam It's a tough problem. Though teaching students is a decent approach, that's a long, long road. You need something that will have shorter-term impact.

What I would do is arm yourself with case studies of companies that those in your area know of -- and hopefully respect. Often, people are just skeptical -- but there are always a few that are open-minded enough to entertain the possibility that there might be a better way. You need just one. Then two. Then you build from there.
Elvis M. — Inbound Marketing Ninja / Wantrepreneur
@dharmesh I was thinking along the lines of case studies and practical experiments direct in the Bosnian market. The SEO landscape is literally non-existant, SMM works partially (Facebook), Content Marketing is really bad, PPC is done only for traffic sake.... You got the picture. So I am pulling up a website and will do everything "right" or at least "educated" and compete against market holders in different industries. It is either showing them benefits or taking market share... both ways work to educate
Hi @dharmesh ! How many domains do you own? Which one is your favorite, and why?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@harpblake Ha, ha, ha. I'm surprised only 2 questions from my list got asked.

Answer: 319 domains.
Favorite (that jumps to mind): easy.org

I also like GrowthEngineering.com, because I think that term should replace Growth Hacking in the long-term (I'm a stickler for what you call things). Note: I'm good friends with Sean Ellis, and an investor in his company.
Lejla Bajgoric — Intern, Product Hunt
Thanks for being here Dharmesh! Have you noticed any old-school, unsuccessful marketing strategies that people refuse to let go of and continue implementing?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@lejlahunts Sadly, almost all of them are still around (though many have reduced). The one I like the least is junk mail because not only is it not empathetic to the recipient, it's harmful to the environment. So wasteful.
sri — Founder of Twittume
Thanks for taking my question Dharmesh. Would you trust one person startup? If so, what are the qualities you are looking at before you can invest?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@sridhar_kondoji I have trusted one-person startups before (and invested in them). I don't think single-founder companies are less "trustworthy". But, empirically, multi-founder companies have better odds. So, all things being equal, knowing nothing else about the companies, I'd invest in a 2-founder company over a 1-founder one.

Also, putting aside that, one should have a co-founder because startups are a lonely business and it's really, really nice to have someone to share the journey with.
QueenLear — ConnectionAgent-Co-Founder @ButtonPoetry
@dharmesh 3rd question, @Scobleizer's favorite topic lately is AR and how market places/brands are moving away from mobility and into the future via AR/VR. (Sephora, Nike, etc. #AugmentedRealityMarketplaces). Have you been thinking/planning on how this will affect the marketing industry and Hubspot's model? Do any of your startup projects approach this? AR bandwagon?

(Side note... are you planning on attending SXSW this year?)
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@queenleariv @scobleizer I'm intellectually curious about AR/VR, just like any self-respecting tech geek. But, I haven't started digging into it yet, because it's a little on the "fringe" for me right now. The thing I *am* starting to think about is Conversational UIs. That's a mainstream thing that could touch billions of people in a relatively short time. There's no new hardware required. I'm a software guy -- I love when there's no new hardware required.
I love how you and your team embrace and live the Hubspot culture. I wonder if that impacts the vendor relationships you choose?
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Dharmesh Shah — Founder and CTO, HubSpot
@rnd64 Absolutely. In both directions. I think HubSpot's culture (which was primarily designed for our team members) impacts our customers/partners. I've had many of them tell me the *reason* they picked HubSpot was because it was the kind of company they wanted to do business with. Same holds true in the other direction. We like to favor vendors that think like we do.
Kelly Kuhn-Wallace — Growth Marketing & Sales Consultant
(Feel free to skip this if others have chimed in with questions.) The most significant problem I encounter in B2B organizations that use a sales team is coordinating the content delivery efforts and appropriate follow-up engagements between the sales and marketing teams. Delivering the right content to the right prospect at the right moment in the prospect's "infinite shopping loop" (my term) is far more difficult than it looks. Part of the issue is operational and part of it is that we know far less about prospects' mindsets than anyone ever admits. HubSpot seems ideally positioned to help organizations tackle this challenge, but to date its sales and marketing functions aren't so thoroughly integrated. Can we expect that to change? Will we see sales providing prospect intelligence back to the marketing team? That is the kind of integration needed.
QueenLear — ConnectionAgent-Co-Founder @ButtonPoetry
Thanks for engaging with the community! You have fostered a very exciting culture at Hubspot in parallel with a great and successful product. As Hubspot grows in popularity and the flood gates open more and more. How do you plan to protect your company culture from growing pains?
QueenLear — ConnectionAgent-Co-Founder @ButtonPoetry
Second question -- You were an early investor in Jonathan Lacoste's company, Jebbit, which is also in the ad/marketing segment. His product and vision of creating a more catered experience for clickthrough ads is an exciting pivot in perspective for Ad campaigns and company branding (website and campaign... customer journey optimization!!). How do you see innovative brands revolutionizing this space and what challenges do you see with Consumer and Company adoption of such tools and strategies?
QueenLear — ConnectionAgent-Co-Founder @ButtonPoetry
@dharmesh via your blog post-- AKA: how many marketing strategists does it take to change the public's perspective of Ads/Marketing campaigns? I mean change a lightbulb ... 💡🔑🔑