Edit: Here's the worst stuff the article mentioned, I figured it would be good to highlight the relevant quote. These are felonies.
The documents also say there was an effort “to obtain sensitive information on individuals with access to the book’s transcript, or control of the publishing deal. The information found was then used as leverage in an attempt to prevent the book from reaching the market place.”
The report also mentions “tactics such as email hacking and extortion” in the attempt “to railroad the book.”
> Chief executive Brian Halligan was fined for failing to promptly alert the company’s board of directors after finding out about the incident. The actions were a result of an investigation by law firm Goodwin Procter on behalf of HubSpot’s board.
> “really aggressive tactics,” but he [the CEO] refused to disclose further details of the unusual incident.
> “It was fishy enough that I definitely should have reported it,” Halligan said in the interview at the company’s offices. “I agree with the message they sent me. I agree that I showed poor judgment.” 
Bro/frat-iness/childishness aside, if your culture condones criminal acts at the highest levels of power (yes, extortion is illegal) then your culture is screwed up.
These acts do not happen in vacuum. They often-times happen when everyone drinks the kool-aid; when everyone is always right so long as they do everything to protect "us" vs "them" without question.
So far as I can tell, only the bare minimum was done internally to address these felonies, so I'm not positive on Hubspot's future.
 "Loyalty over morality", as someone once explained to me.
 "Fishy", "poor judgement", such nice sounding words.
Note: I have no connection to HubSpot, and I hate spam.
Remember that this article is written in order to entertain and sell books. Everything is hyper exaggerated. There are a few fair points (for instance we were very overcrowded, we could not lease new sections of the building we were in fast enough. And yeah, some of the "change the world through Inbound marketing" messaging was over-the-top and made my eyes roll). But a lot of it is either inaccurate or spun to seem bad when it wasn't (see my other comments https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11370077 or https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11370016).
For the most part, HubSpot was a normal workplace where the vast majority of the time people worked hard and did their thing. People occasionally interrupted work for fun hijinks and we did sometimes have parties after work. By packing in every outrageous story into a few paragraphs, he makes it sound way crazier than it was.
I should also add that overall work-life balance was pretty good, and the company made efforts not to be "ageist". I had both mothers and fathers on my team and they could get out of the office on time to be with their families. As we matured, we planned our fun team-building events in ways to ensure that parents could attend them. There is an implication by the author that he did not fit in because he was old, but I do not think that is a fair critique.
The basic model on that side of the business is really simple: teach people how to write things that good prospects would find useful. Get them to write those things. Trade a copy for their email address and permission to send more things they will like. Send them more things they like, including recommendations on what you have that they should buy.
I know this sounds like black magic. It's not. Consider an insurance agent who sells to small businesses. They have zero software people in-house and perhaps 1.5 people who do marketing.
You tell those people "Write about the businesses you work with. Write about the kind or risks they have. Write the stuff you know that they don't about E&O policies and bind documents and what own occupation LTD means and how it is superior to any occupation LTD. Get the emails of businesses who could purchase from you. Then, after becoming their trusted advisor in the confusing world of insurance, sell them insurance. They did not do the research on E&O because they were fascinated with the subject intellectually. They did it because they have a legitimate need for it. Do the work upfront on education and you will be the obvious place to buy it from."
This works. Very well.
I can't comment on the company culture. Many startups seem pretty wild to me on that score. At the end of the day, though? It's a bunch of people, with jobs, engaged in honest labor. Insurance agents need marketing software; Hubspot makes it; this leaves the world a bit better off.
You tell those people "Write about the businesses you work with. Write about the kind or risks they have... Do the work upfront on education and you will be the obvious place to buy it from."
This works. Very well.
It works very well, if you can get the insurance agent to follow your instructions. In my experience (I co-founded agentmethods.com, which is roughly "Hubspot for insurance agents"), the best insurance agents often aren't the best writers and frankly don't want to do the work.
In a world where everyone wants the results but nobody wants to do the work, you quickly find snake oil sales people showing up selling the promise of no-work instant results. We've all come across those sleazy SEO firms promising first page rankings for a phrase nobody searches for. I'm not saying that Hubspot is that firm, but it is the world they play in.
Perhaps it does to some extent (especially if your competition is low), but eventually the pool installer from the article figured out that the real money was in selling others on the idea that "inbound marketing" works.
> This works. Very well.
And has become annoying. Very annoying.
Recent "annoying web design trends" articles are listing this technique.
And since you didn't read the fine print, you didn't realize you were being signed up for those five lists at each of the parent company's properties.
But they all have separate unsubscribe links. So just when you think you're done hearing from them, you get an email from another list.
That's what happened to me recently when I signed up for daily "running tips" from a major publisher in the field. I ended up setting up a filter for the publishing company's name straight to spam. Then I hop in my spam box every week or so & unsubscribe.
Edit: today's lists were "You have been unsubscribed from our Men's Health Special Offers email list. Thank you." and "You have been unsubscribed from our Organic Gardening Special Offers email list. Thank you."
"Trade a copy for their email address and permission to send more things they will like."
I routinely delete emails about stuff I like, without ever reading it. It's still spam, and I don't want it in my inbox!
You are obviously fully within your right to unsubscribe later, including immediately after downloading said PDF, but it's not spam by any real definition.
Regardless it's utterly ineffective. It goes straight to the trash.
Well, they're certainly laying on the euphemisms here. I mean, maybe it's just me, but that reminds me an awful lot of 1984 esque newspeak and the Ministry of Love. It's all 'lets make the worst possible stuff sound like a good thing'.
That's not much better. It's very rarely mutual. Either John has been fired, or John has found another job - perhaps at a company where no one lights cleaning equipment on fire - and is quitting.
Eng was in another world, especially after the move where your team wound up in your own, separately keyed area of the building, complete with your own kitchen.
I think the intention here is sound, though. There is so much negative baggage around "fired", "laid off", "quit", etc, when these are really not negative events at all. This is where an employee is liberated from a situation that isn't working (quite possibly at a company that isn't doing well, is poorly managed, or in a shrinking industry), and will generally end up working somewhere better, taking the opportunity to travel or start there own business, and grow.
Trying to remove these associations from the process is a worthwhile goal, but it would be rather more honest to just go for something neutral like "no longer with us" than trying to co-opt "graduation", which obviously means something completely different.
Yeah, right. Try to tell this to a single mother of two trying to pay the mortgage.
For a lot of people (I'd say most people), being fired is not a pleasant experience.
It's also extremely negative for the company. It's as much a failure on the companies part as it is the employees (with exception of course. Misconduct being an obvious one).
That's the thing: I don't think that parting ways with a company is a bad thing anymore. So, if the event stops being bad, why use the word with old emotional baggage to describe it?
Keep in mind that "laid off" != "losing your primary source of income". A person's primary source of income is, let's say, working as a software developer. If you're laid off, you can still work as a software developer, you just need to spend a little time finding somewhere else to do that. In this way, it's quite different from losing your primary source of income due to, say, ill health.
Even if you don't find somewhere else to work, as get all the time that you were previously selling to your employer back to use as you see fit, so in accounting terms it's a wash, rather than a loss.
TIL! I guess once I'm done with the Dune books, I'll have to go through this.
Which is quite an amusing image.
But yeah, it could be tied to the average age at the company.
It's hard to believe it wasn't intentional, but again, startup founders.
I'll go first:
I reported to an incompetent business person who having failed at doing anything that required business sense, used his considerable political skills to lead a tech team instead. Management practices included lying to create enemities between team members.
I am also writing a book about it. :)
Would you rather work in a room full of motivated smart people who are building somthing useful, or a rigid heirarchy that lacks transparency and puts its own personal interests over the work they do? Hmmm hard choice.
"I can't upload this lab document to the site!"
I call the person up for details, get the file they were trying to upload, and recreate the issue. I pull up the code for this site, run it on a local copy to get the exception, and find out that someone's string concatenating SQL queries from form inputs. This site was written in 2014. I bring it up in a meeting but we can't allocate time to fix that because it currently works well enough.
The former, obviously.
The flaw in your argument is that in no way are startup employees the smart ones, and big corporations the dumb ones. In fact, part of what makes startup culture disconcerting is that everyone thinks they're too smart.
Is there any evidence that HubSpot has higher-than-average numbers of smart people?
1. Dan's obviously not cut out for startup life. When he meets Zack, he assumes Zack must be someone's assistant because he is young. Dan has no concept of the fact that someone might have their position because they are skilled and perform well. In his mind, the only way to have a fancy title is tenure and age.
2. Sure, the language of startups is interesting (graduation as a euphemism for quitting or getting fired), but the clear message is that this is odd, and thus, wrong. As though normal corporate America is the one true way and is just fine. Bullshit. Let's make sure to keep the workplace exactly as it's been for the last 100 years and never evolve.
This was back in the 1930s. Apparently not much has changed.
In the 60s and 70s the DEC people used to talk about "Mother DEC" and "Father Ken (Olsen - CEO)" - and DEC was a vastly more pleasant company to work for, if you didn't mind meetings where people shouted at each other a lot.
Elsewhere, this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RINizGmhrYo
US corporate culture is insane. It has always been insane. The insanity takes different forms, and the web startup version frequently manages to be both insane and infantilising. (See also, startup names that sound like baby talk - more of a thing before DotCom 1, but there are still a few relics today.)
This is not what an adult professional culture looks like. Signifiers of playful childlike wonder and creativity shouldn't come in stick-on corporate office multipacks, especially not if they hide much uglier relationship dynamics in the office space.
It's fascinating to wonder why this has been such a strong trend in the startup space. Obviously it's more likely to appeal straight-from-college CS grads than battle-hardened senior engineers. But my guess is it's also an evolutionary adaptation to trigger paternal (less often maternal) feelings in investors and VCs, who are more likely to feel generously disposed and still part of youth culture if they sponsor a brogrammer creche, and less likely to feel threatened by kids who look nothing like direct competitors.
Social signalling in business is a very interesting thing, and maybe isn't questioned often enough.
I wasn't really commenting on the healthiness of the startup culture, just how out of touch and corporate Dan was (apparently so out of touch he doesn't even realize he's out of touch). But you make some really good points about this trend. I'll have to think about that some more.
A lot of this sounds extremely similar to corporate America. BS euphemisms, 1+1=3 (synergy, ya'll!), and a lot of hype about how you are helping the world when you are just doing a job to make money (and often employing skeezy/immoral tactics to accomplish those goals).
My take away from this article is that start-ups are not as "think different" as they like to pretend.
Those two points are not at end with each other.
What makes it 'wrong' is that 'graduation' is deceptive when employees are being fired or quitting because they hate the company.
Surely, some / many employees are leaving for positive reasons ('graduating' to something bigger / better) but if Lyons is right that that was the general term used for people who left the company, it is not only odd but Orwellian.
I'm sure HunSpot isn't for everyone. But I'm also sure it's awesome for some people. They make a real product people find useful and helps them run their business.
Don't believe everything you read. Especially when it's to promote something (like a book or a company).
Firstly, IMO, there was nothing "hell"-ish about Hubspot's culture or business model. It seems to me they were just playing the game-as-given, and doing it quite well frankly.
The proof of that is IPO.
Personally, I find it beyond refreshing that management is making a powerful effort to change up the typical gray-flannel corporate work/life thingy.
So old-school didn't get it, or even see beyond his own prejudices at the positive work culture meta-messages.
That's on him, not Hubspot.
BTW, nothing personal but I hate trying to explain my writing as I am a big fan of metaphor and ambiguity.
There's also a whole world of potential designs besides "drab cubicle farm" and "kindergarten mashed-up with ComicCon". For example, the 37signals office.
If they want to show effort and interest in the workplace environment, they should try providing private offices with doors that close.
I don't want an adult sized creche, I want somewhere quiet I can think.
Unfortunately, it seems the average startup environment (not even just in Silicon Valley) is closer to a college fratenity than a workplace. It's like a lot of these people want to live like college students into their thirties and forties...
Yeah, those jerks who want to be friends are so annoying. How dare they! I only spend half my time with them, why would I ever want to be friends.
Granted, every office has a different culture. I'm guessing the most distracting offices are the ones where everyone is distracted to begin with. For example, if you're at a startup where everyone works 60-80 hour weeks and is so chronically sleep-deprived that their ability to concentrate for any length of time is shot, then yeah, that's going to be a hellhole.
Just to reiterate, I don't think the open plan office was really the fundamental problem. It was the attempt to mix oil and water.
If you instead use a good pair of over-the-ear headphones so that you can get the sound you want at a low volume and without the assistance of any active noise cancellation, it's not quite the same story. Probably still shouldn't be doing it all day just to be on the safe side, but from what I've been able to find in the literature it look like it's probably fine.
I don't use expensive headphones (mostly in-ears as they are more comfortable) but I went through a few different sets til I found some that worked like ear plugs.
That's exactly the problem. You are plugging inefficiencies that exist for no reason. Listening to music hampers my work because I focus too much on it. I just want a quiet room.
But yes, I'm pushing back on more and more of those. And also try to move on quicker during the meetings.
If getting work done isn't the absolute focus then what is?.
- a ridiculous amount of hours expected of employees, so employers pile on beer fridges and ping pong tables to lessen the blow
- an obsession with "culture," which is such a difficult concept to define and control that the easiest ways to materialize it = beer fridges and ping pong tables and pep talks
- a younger workforce that chooses to seek more "meaning" in work
- generally speaking, inexperienced, improperly trained, and fearful people managers who only know "direct observance" as a management philosophy (this includes all those mostly useless meetings)
- a shitty pattern of 10-12+ hour days as the new norm
It's stated in OP's text that one of the roles of the young people is not to work, but to project an image to potential investors: that they're young, full of ideas, full of disruption etc., ready to take over the market (doesn't matter that the market is sometimes undefined), all they need is the investors' money.
This ties (somehow) into Graeber's On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/
P.S.: The guy who wrote OP's post is also the guy who wrote Fake Steve Jobs
Give me somewhere I can be quiet for 7 hours and I'll get everything done I need to and then go do something away from a screen.
In my case my tolerance for dealing with bullshit that isn't work related seems to be proportional to my age.
Luckily, I can leave at 3pm!
Kids come along, you become more choosy about the people that you socialise with, free time disappears in an instant.
You still enjoy your job, but you can no longer justify spending more than 9-5 doing it, so what becomes more important then is to actually be productive during the 9-5
This means quiet, efficient "grown-up" offices.
The studies against open offices are similarly lacking.
In the classic AcquiHire situation, sale price is determined by quantity of engineers. Retaining an employee is worth 1M a piece.
It's gov't though, which tends to be neither an intellectual monoculture, nor a major hub for new creative ideas. It's somewhere between industry and academia, but after 8 years I'm still not sure precisely where it is on that workplace spectrum.
Step 2: Watch these videos:
To all the ex-Hubspot people getting defensive: This article isn't about that specific company. Hubspot was the author's convenient example. It's about the ideas that companies like it exemplify: That work has to be "a cross between a kindergarten and a frat house" (I'd add "a cult"). That work should include partying and nerf guns and dodgeball outings. That you have to always pretend your company is about "leading a revolution" or changing the world. That you have to follow its culture and believe in its mission and values. That your work has to be more than an exchange of your labor for money. That's what this article is about, and that's what all the cynicism about tech startup culture is aimed at--not Hubspot in particular.
It grows from a lot of moments.
One moment your leader is asking all the employees if they're ready to change the world. Everyone thinks the company is a rocketship. They slave away into the moonlight and beyond. The next moment, the leaders gets everyone together and announces news that don't quite match what was promised before. Sad faces. Stiff upper lips. No worries, we can work past this.
The moment after that: more bad news starts trickling in. Then a flood. Then empty desks. Maybe, you get out first. Maybe, you're the first to discover your key card won't let you in the building anymore.
Throughout these moments, the faces of your comrades-in-arms will stay with you; the way the light in their eyes fades and fades and fades. You were "family", you were together, you were united in purpose...
And now what are you?
Fast forward years later. Your friends from the old startup no longer talk to each other. They all work at big companies. You're interviewing at a fresh up-and-comer. Someone 10 years your junior sits you down and asks if you're ready to change the world.
What do you say?
... Writing aside, I think the best company cultures tend to be filled with people who have been fooled before (the essence of cynicism) yet still manage care about what they're doing and building. These folks also tend to have meaning and identity outside of their work.
I hope that it does not have to be this way. I hope we can create companies that strive to be better. Culture does not have to mean one has to put the company above everything else. Making the environment that we spent most of our lives better requires more than nerf guns and ping pong tables. Having meaning and identity outside works in essential. I just don't want to give up the working hours. May be I have not been fooled enough times ...
Perhaps "Insufficient data for meaningful answer" as a certain computer would say.
Certainly not "Management Consulting" :) http://paulgraham.com/before.html
We're all here to make money... and yes, HubSpot sounds like a true hell to me (yes, I'm over 40).
Don't for one moment there is a great purpose around this HubSpot than that. The fact that they talk about inspirational stuff in training sessions doesn't mean that they do anything significant.
HubSpot could go bust tomorrow, and the world would still pretty much remain the same.
Having beer Wednesdays where we stay late and drink or we'll get odd looks doesn't make company culture.
Lying to ourselves about the true value of what we're doing by sprinkling revolutionary and disruptive and ... doesn't make a mission statement.
There's nothing wrong with coming to work to do work and the fulfillment being a job done well to the best of your abilities.
This resonated with me the most, as I learned it the hard way through my own failed startup. I was informed by several investors that tech was a commodity and they only wanted to discuss our go to market plans.
It's brilliant, I'd never want to work for a corporate company! We have regular parties, play table tennis daily, beers on Friday. It just makes work so much more enjoyable.
Admittedly, this is only my second job, and I am only 20, but I can't imagine ever wanting to leave. The only company that may tempt me would be Google.
For example, those of us who have families to get home to generally aren't going to be too keen on parties or beers after work on Fridays. Many of us also have noticed that the companies that have these kinds of perks also expect you to spend a lot more than 40h/wk at the office, if only implicitly, if only for "team-building" reasons. It's a precious few people who make it to their 30s and still want their life to be so centered on their job like that.
(Edit: Which isn't to say there's anything wrong with that. Just that people change. At least for my part, things that would have jazzed me 20 years ago I now find to be rather alienating. Companies who want to attract both veterans and fresh talent have a tough row to hoe.)
Different people appreciate different things. It's totally fine for you to value "regular parties, play table tennis daily, beers on Friday" but you should be able to understand other people value other things.
> Admittedly, this is only my second job, and I am only 20, but I can't imagine ever wanting to leave.
You may feel differently in ten or twenty years. There were probably a lot of things you enjoyed when you were 10 that you don't enjoy now (or don't enjoy as much).
Do you still leave 8 hours after you arrived, or do you add the table-tennis time? If so, do people that do not play table-tennis leave 8 hours after they arrived, and, if so, are they viewed negatively by those that do not (even if the people viewing them negatively spent two hours playing table-tennis)?
How much does your company spend on beer? Would you not rather have that as salary, which you could spend on intoxicating liquids if you wanted, but also spend on travel or things for your apartment if you wanted to do that instead?
When you leave or a bunch of your friends who used to go to happy hour together leave "for better opportunities," you'll realize that most people who are your work drinking buddies didn't really know you or felt or thought deeply about your personal experiences. (It's not that they're bad people, it's just what happens when people are put in an artificial social environment where people slap high-fives after work rec dogeball and shout out witty one-liners).
Also when you realize after 5 or 6 years of working, and the startup mantra of "changing the world," your other friends whom you laughed at before, toiling away in their fields have started coming on their own. You have only pushed bits for marketing, spam, online shopping, on-demand on-gig economy for people like yourself to get a stick of gum delivered in an hour. You can try to justify how you are promoted from junior all the way to lead to technical product manager, or how you led your team to switch from Rails to Node, SQL to Cassandra, Java to Scala. But you'll begin to see the thin-veneer of how little management cares about tech and how most of it is a pep-rally, a race to the bottom for those at the top of the Ponzi scheme to enrich themselves.
You look at other people in other fields or in other area's of tech. At work cafeteria IKEA lunch table (after a lengthy morning standup where there was yet another pissing match about React vs. Angular), People shoot the breeze about AlphaGo or that Tay twitter bot, and someone else shoot another witty one-liner comeback, everyone laughs, one person groans - in between the silence after the reactions settle in, it dawns slowly on your mind that we've all become spectators in the real information technology revolution.
That what you are toiling away when you go back to your desk after this lunch conversation is just another Twitter stream, another HN comment, Instagram heart, albeit decorated in syntax highlighting to the "AWS/Google Cloud/Azure Twitterverse."
That is just the same as the well-dressed girl or guy sitting in the next row over in the open-office environment, whom you never talk to but to make yourself feel better, secretly put down in your mind because what they do "is so much BS, social media customer engagement"; but they are the same, and you're all the same...
You call your friends up from college and hear their stories at the precarious precipice of 28-30. How many hours they stayed up at the hospital during a rotation, and a critical debate they had with their attending whether to admit a patient; or how many e-mails they had to sent to get their 15 minute film considered at 50 different film festivals; or staying on after getting finally their PhD, to work for free to do the technology transfer to industry the physics research they worked on in their group; and always, the one-liner remark, "tech has it so much better, you guys make so much money!"
Of course, the response begets a begrudging smile or another sequitur to equalize the conversation; but come work Monday, the habit to don on the noise canceling headphones, the cursory checks on social media to keep abreast fantasy football leagues/stock portfolio's, the internal monologue of the recalculation how much your employee stock options are going to be worth/vest, have all become instinctive rituals to not let the existential dread set in.
Poe's Law strikes again. I am genuinely curious if this is satire.
i'm having a tough time telling if this post is satire.
[edit for typo]
Meta: Forbes are convinced that I'm using an ad blocker to the extent that I had to google/cache the article linked above. I actually have no plug-ins at all, just accessing the site thru' and academic connection, suspect proxy may be blocking stuff. First time I've had that one.
Our whole sales pitch was that we were all-in-one software. So instead of running one system for your blog, another system for your home page, another system for email, another system for analytics, another system for your contacts database, etc, etc, you would just run HubSpot, and when all the tools work together you get much better results then when they are separated. To make good on that sales pitch, we had to be constantly thinking of ways of how we could add value by integrating pieces together and making things work well together. Hence we were told to always be thinking about how to make 1 + 1 equal 3.
f(1) + f(1) = f(3)
So honestly, after I read that, I thought clearly Hubspot didn't go far enough.
That math slide was followed by another slide with "synergistic" on it.
01 + 01 = 10
They just haven't graduated yet ;-)
Definitly saving it !
Having been forced to use Hubspot, I can say their UI is fairly horrific.