IDRsolutions was one of the early UK customers of HubSpot. So we were particularly interested when Dan Lyons published the controversial but excellent book Disrupted about his time working there. It is always interesting to read books that feature people you have spoken to in real life. As well as being a humorous take on working in a tech startup it also raises some serious concerns about the industry.
Should tech startups think more carefully about the culture they create?
Dan is twice the age of the average HubSpot employee. Much of the humour in the book comes from the culture shock he experiences. He is bemused by the Nerf gun battles, candy wall, dressing up days and general frat house culture. And he is annoyed by use of terms such as ‘delightion’ and ‘loveable marketing content’ (i.e. spam) as well as the constant overuse of exclamation marks.
But he is also making a serious point about ageism in the industry. Tech companies are consciously creating a culture that appeals to young college graduates who are willing to take a low salary in exchange for the party culture and free candy. He also notices a striking lack of diversity. So, should tech startups be making more of an effort to attract a more diverse workforce?
Where is the tech industry headed?
Dan was a journalist during the dotcom boom, and draws parallels between then and now. One of the issues raised in the book is a concern that we are heading in a similar direction again. With tech companies making public offerings without turning a profit, there is a question mark over how long the current situation can continue. Investors are competing to give their money away and people are buying shares in over-valued, loss-making companies. There is an expectation that the companies will turn it around in the future. This book raises the question of what the real outcome will be.
Are concepts just as important as products?
Halligan and Shah, the co-founders, came up with the term ‘inbound marketing’. This is the concept that the best marketing practise is to encourage leads to come to you, rather than spamming them with information. However in practice the company engages in a lot of outbound marketing, including telemarketing, to generate its own leads.
HubSpot is undoubtedly successful, and towards the end of the book they make a successful IPO. But Dan suggests that this success has little to do with the actual product that they sell. It has more to do with an ideal they create, and which their customers buy into. The image presented to the public, in particular at conferences and in the press, are what build the company’s reputation. This helps increase the valuation of the company, despite the lack of a profit.
It suggests that successful companies need to not only build good products, but tell a story and create a concept that their customers can buy into.