Name: Dharmesh Shah
Company: Founder and CTO of HubSpot(NYSE:HUBS) a provider of marketing and sales software.
Location: Boston, MA
Tell us a little about your educational and professional background
I have B.S. Computer Science from the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) and an M.S. Management of Technology from M.I.T.
How did the idea of Hubspot get started?
My co-founder and I met in graduate school at MIT. While working with growing businesses, we realized that the way people shop for new products and services had dramatically changed. Traditional marketing methods were no longer as effective as they needed to be, we do not like receiving junk mail, spam, or cold calls. And, we have gotten very good at blocking this marketing attempts out. HubSpot was about helping businesses transform how they market so that instead of interrupting people, they can attract people to their business with great content.
What were the failures/challenges you faced, how did you address them?
The big challenge for us in the early days was that we were advocating for a new way of marketing. We were pushing organizations totransform. To help promote this new idea, we did a number of things: We wrote a book titled “Inbound Marketing” (http://inboundbook.com). We wrote frequently for our blog. We invested heavily in our blog to help teach people how to market in a new way.
What were some ethical challenges you faced?
The challenge for us was maintaining the courage of our conviction that companies needed to change how they did marketing. The easy path would have been to just help companies incrementally improve how they did marketing, and not force change. To not take the easy path, we had to keep in mind that we were doing the right thing for our customers long-term.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
Remember that building a business is hard work. Much harder than getting a traditional job. But, it’s also immensely fun and gratifying. Stay humble — even if things start to go remarkably well. Stay positive — even if things don’t go quite well. Maintain an intense focus on the customer.
Are you actively involved with any organization or activities outside Hubspot? If so, what role did it play your life?
I’m not involved in any specific organizations. What little time I spend outside of HubSpot (never enough),
I spend writing for my blog (http://OnStartups.com) and teaching others about inbound marketing and entrepreneurship.
How do you strike a work-life balance with family or other activties and professional work that you are involved with ?
I don’t do this well. As it turns out, startups are an all-consuming endeavor. Also, I don’t believe in work-life balance — I believe in work-life harmony. I believe that work is an important part of life — not in opposition to it. I think it’s important for people to enjoy what they do so that it doesn’t feel like you have to “escape” work. Work should not be drudgery. Having said that, now that I’m a father, I’ve been doing a better job of not being overly consumed with work (despite my passion). However, my wife would still argue that I’m not doing a good enough job on that front yet.
How has Jainism played a role in your lives and when you were starting your business? (if it did)
My core beliefs about how a business should be run aligns well with Jain values. I believe in the power of empathy — making sure to understand and respect the perspective of others. I believe in humility — there is always more to learn and more to do. And, I believe in trying to leave the world a slightly better place than how you found it.
How difficult is decision making?
Not very difficult. Once you start with a core set of values, most decisions are relatively easy. I have found that most decisions are about choosing between two or more reasonably good options. It’s impossible to really know what the “best” choice is. Some of the best things that have happened in my life have been as a result of serendipity — not because I chose the “perfect” path. Often, I’ve chosen sub-optimal things simply because they felt right.
What advice do you have for budding professionals?
Always seek to deliver more than what is required or what is expected. When things go well — share the credit. When things go poorly, take accountability — do not blame others.