A Fireside Chat with Hubspot: All about Company Culture

Tech in Motion Boston hosted a Fireside Chat with HubSpot this winter at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge, MA, featuring VP of Engineering Eric Richard and VP of Product Brad Coffey. Moderating the conversation was Stephanie Viccari, a Rails Developer at MeYouHealth, which was awarded “The Best Startup to Work For” in 2014 by the Boston Globe.

Find a Tech in Motion chat near you on this listing of events nationwide.

The evening began with an hour of networking and food provided by Boston’s popular food truck, The Chicken and Rice Guys, before the Fireside Chat took off. Stephanie started the discussion by asking our panelists about the beginning of their time at Hubspot and how they got involved in the recently IPO’d company.

Networking HourBrad told the audience about how he got his start at HubSpot as an intern, and how the company was founded out of MIT – where he earned his MBA. CEO Brian Halligan met the CTO, Dharmesh Shah, there. Brian had a “playbook” at the time, which helped companies he had previously worked with. When it came to HubSpot, he found it wasn’t working, so he took a step back to reevaluate. They came up with the idea of an “all-in-one software solution” that could bring their ideas together and resonate well with the customers. This idea flourished and has led HubSpot to where it is today.

The discussion then flowed into the topic of company culture and what its like to work at Hubspot.

“The key part of HubSpot was that it wasn’t about just a company when it first started, it was about how we wanted to create a culture,” Eric explained. “So we created the ‘culture code’ which asks the question ‘How do you think about culture as a company?’”

“You want to make sure that the teams and individuals have autonomy so they are making mistakes and thriving.” Brad added. “You want to empower the engineers to do work. You’re there to serve the people who make the magic.”

This topic sparked a great discussion between Brad and Eric, who both agreed that if you make sure the people who work for you are empowered, you will have a successful company.

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“Although we do spend a lot of time making sure our people are empowered, we also structure the ‘guard rails,'” said Eric. “We do something called a ‘Science Fair’ once every month which is a way for everyone at the company to show their products and projects off. Everyone get a few minutes in front of the room to present their work.”

The Fireside Chat

This conversation continued into some of the difficulties entrepreneurs can run into when starting and running a company. The Hubspot team made the point that it is hard creating the design and consistency you need as the building blocks and foundation to a new company. Eric and Brad then transitioned into the product teams and hiring process of engineers at HubSpot.

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“Cultural fit is the most important thing to our product teams. On the engineering side of things, we make sure the hiring process is fast and makes the candidate feel they are getting a customized experience throughout the interview.”

Stephanie opened up the room to questions after wrapping up the moderated discussion. The room immediately filled with raised hands as the audience was clearly intrigued and curious to hear more. Even after an extended Q&A, Eric, Brad and Stephanie continued answering questions and networking past the conclusion of the event. To be a part of the conversation, join the Boston Tech in Motion chapter here.

DC Tech Titans Talk Entrepreneurship, Co-founders and the Power of No

Tech in Motion’s DC chapter put on their first ever fireside chat this fall, hosting Adam Zuckerman, founder of Fosterly and Dan Berger, CEO and founder of Social Tables to speak about startups. Joe Colangelo, co-founder and CEO of Bear Analytics, moderated the conversation for the night with a heavy emphasis on content but a far more laid-back and intimate approach than the typical panel discussion.

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The event took place at the Artisphere, a local arts center located in Arlington, Virginia, which was once the site of the Newseum. The evening kicked off with networking in the Lower Town Hall, an open concept space equipped with a bar and art installations. The discussion then moved to the Dome Theater, which provided the perfect setting for the audience to interact with our speakers.

With Joe at the helm of the conversation, his easy-going personality and knowledge of the startup world was on display as he expertly moderated what proved to be a very insightful and engaging dialogue. His two speakers for the night, however, were no strangers to speaking up in front of the local technology community.

Adam Zuckerman of Fosterly was a recognizable figure to many in the audience as an important player in the DC tech space. He is well known for his work at Fosterly as well as various advising roles to the community at large. Adam calls upon his unique background in business, law, and technology to help galvanize the entrepreneurial community in the greater Washington, DC area.

Dan Berger is the CEO and founder of Social Tables, a hospitality software company with a thriving culture based in Washington, DC. Dan has been described as a “relentless and focused entrepreneur” and recognized 40 Under 40 in the meetings industry by Collaborate Magazine and Connect Meetings and named to Successful Meetings Magazine’s “Most Influential” list.

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When the networking portion of the night wrapped up, attendees eagerly took their seats in the Dome Theater to listen to these two experienced entrepreneurs. After going over their individual backgrounds, the discussion kicked off with Joe prompting Adam and Dan about the dedication they feel towards their companies.

Gone is the 40 hour work week – Adam stated the necessity of his 6 day work week schedule in order to make sure that Fosterly happens. Adam recommended that audience members find a job they would normally do as a hobby, because in the entrepreneurial realm, Work/Life balance is nonexistent.

“I’m very bought in, I don’t unplug. It’s a luxury which I don’t allow myself,” Dan remarked.

Dan was on the same page with Adam’s line of reasoning, stating that Social Tables was a side project on which he originally dedicated nights and weekends to. However, he quit his day job when a future investor didn’t believe him committed enough.

If anyone doubted the commitment of these two individuals and countless others in the tech community in D.C., that was put to rest as chuckles and murmurs of agreements followed Adam saying that “Entrepreneurs are the only people on Friday or the weekend who say, ‘Whoa, wish it was Monday.’”

After giving a brief history about Social Tables and how it came to fruition, Dan spoke on the topic of co-founders and how the relationship with his own came to an end. Dan said he realized two major factors eventually highlighted how he and his co-founder could no longer see eye to eye on the best course of action for their company.

“Don’t look for friendship or a different risk profile,” Dan said candidly.

Adam elaborated on the delicate nature of the co-founder relationship, adding that “you might spend more time talking to your co-founder than your family”. In the end, Joe, Adam, and Dan all agreed the most important thing to do was what most benefited the company, no matter how ‘messy’ things became.

Adam brought up a common misconception that a lot of individuals have towards those who have their own businesses; they believe that when you found your own company, you don’t have to answer to anyone. The reality, according to Adam, is that “you don’t stop answering to people. You answer to employees, investors, and the clients you want, have, and lost.”

On another note, it’s easy to take on too much when starting your own business. Dan shared insight on perhaps one of the most difficult lessons of establishing a startup: the power of ‘No’. Both Adam and Dan agree that it’s better to focus on doing a few things well than taking on more tasks or clients; they both firmly stated that it is okay to say ‘no’ and leave things on the table rather than over-commit.

The night ended with an extremely engaging Q & A session, where local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts were able to pose questions to the speakers about their experiences as well as ask for advice. Tech in Motion DC looks forward to the next tech talk – Join your local chapter to attend one of our free events in 2015.

How to Succeed in Technology: A Chat with TrueCar’s John Williams

Tech in Motion LA hosted a tech talk with TrueCar‘s Senior Vice President of Platform Operations, John Williams, on all things tech and TrueCar – a company that is making sure car shoppers never overpay again. John gave attendees some valuable insight into how to stand out in the tech industry and what’s most important for success in going mobile, getting capital and beyond.LA tech talk

Here are a few highlights of the advice he shared with Tech in Motion LA during his tech talk this fall:

Mobile:

  • Look at what other companies are doing and improve upon their concepts, strategies and execution
  • Be aware of interaction models and how users are engaging in the mobile technology
  • Think about data
  • Real-time capabilities are extremely important in mobile

Capital:

  • Start with a great product that users are interested in
  • Make it as flawless as possible upon public release
  • Figure out what other businesses you can partner with for increased success
  • Relationships with investors & VC’s are key!

Other areas:

  • Execution is most important
  • Competition drives the product demand but isn’t necessary to succeed
  • Uniqueness is desirable
  • Be ready to exploit trends in technology

For more insight from top tech execs, join Tech in Motion LA and get invited to the next event.

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About John Williams: John Williams has over 20 years of experience designing, building and operating large scale Internet infrastructure. After joining TrueCar in March 2011, John is responsible for the technology, security and operations strategy that facilitates explosive growth while still meeting strict requirements for performance, security and reliability. Before TrueCar, John was a consultant for numerous world-class technology, financial services, entertainment, military and government organizations. Previously, he was the CTO and co-founder of Preventsys (acquired by McAfee) where he created the world’s first automated security policy compliance system for large enterprise networks. Prior to that he founded and led the network penetration testing team for Internet security pioneer Trusted Information Systems. At the start of his career, John co-founded and built one of New York City’s first Internet Service Providers.

From Russian Linguist to CTO: A Recap of Philadelphia’s First Fireside Chat

On Wednesday, March 26, Tech in Motion Philadelphia hosted their first ever fireside chat at CityCoHo Philly Nexus with Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Richard Bunker of the Neat Company. Led by Christopher Wink of Technically Philly, the conversation covered Bunker’s journey from Russian Linguist to successful CTO, with a healthy dose of insight into the future of the Neat Company.

“I was paying to go to school for Russian literature by doing jobs as a programmer for Polaroid and Pepsi,” Bunker said about his beginnings, “and I discovered there are better paying jobs as a programmer than there are as a Russian literature student.”

Bunker’s path to CTO was never a straight line, but instead a varied path that included positions such as managing director, president and CIO. His first leadership gig was at SEI, as Vice President over about 50 software developers, followed by a stint as CIO for Procurian.

“CIO’s don’t become CEOs, so I made the move to the front office,” said Bunker of his transition to a Chief Technology Officer position.

Bunker leads the tech department as CTO of the Neat Company, which offers an integrated system of software, hardware, cloud services and mobile applications that allows users to perfectly scan documents and manage them in Quick Books, Constant Contact or other programs. Neat’s technology recognizes the type of document that is scanned with their hardware and intelligently parses the data accordingly.

“We’re going to keep selling hardware. We have groovy scanners,” Bunker acknowledged, “but the value is in our software…And I went to high school in the seventies; I’m allowed to say groovy!”

A little known fact about the Neat Company is that they process 12.5 Lowes receipts per minute, according to Bunker. Anyone with a small business has receipts and is going to keep scanning them. While Bunker believes this could be done directly with an in-browser application, Neat’s clients still prefer the mobile app.

“A lot of the hard stuff – synchronize, categorize, move things around – is going to move to the cloud,” said Bunker, indicating that the mobile app would soon become just a thin app. “We’re operating a cloud business at scale.”

When the conversation turned from cloud services to the Philadelphia tech scene, Bunker was full of optimism for the city, citing the high number of students and how the money made when companies are sold stays in the area as the former founders begin new startups. Neat Company even sponsored a code camp recently to give back, but Bunker sees the real growth for the community coming in the future.

“We are hiring people and we are doing things very close to what you would find in Silicon Valley,” Bunker told the audience. “These skills are becoming part of the community; those skills become a part of Philadelphia.”

While Chris Wink was a stimulating moderator for the conversation, Bunker inspired quite a queue of technologists waiting to speak with him after the Q & A wrapped up. Beforehand, he left the crowd with a phrase that has become his mantra.

“I try to say yes when people ask me to do things,” Bunker said with a smile.

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In addition to an educational evening from Bunker and Wink’s dialogue, guests also enjoyed bites from the Corner Foodery and beer donated by Shawnee Craft Brewing Company. CityCoHo graciously donated their space for networking and the fireside chat, as well.

shawnee craft beer

Thank you to sponsors Jobspring Partners and Workbridge Associates, who made the event possible.To join the Philadelphia chapter of Tech in Motion, please sign up here.