3 minute read

The company that coined ‘inbound marketing’

From its humble beginnings at a university to generating revenues of up to $674.9 million 12 years later, HubSpot’s story is one that is worthy of being examined. Where did they come from, and how did they do it? We go through the history of the company that changed the landscape of digital marketing forever.

Love them, hate them, HubSpot has revolutionised the way we approach marketing, customer service and communication itself. Starting as a simple concept shared between friends, the organisation has grown to over 3,387 employees worldwide.

There’s no denying that HubSpot is a success - but just how did they get to that level of success? Let’s explore the history of HubSpot from it’s early days in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to where it stands today.

Early beginnings

In 2004, a 37-year-old Brian Halligan met a fellow student named Dharmesh Shah at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Amongst other things, they discussed the potential of technology to enable smaller companies to compete with larger companies.

The idea was simple - since mass cold calling, outbound marketing and advertising was vastly expensive, smaller start-ups could rarely compete in a numbers game against the established, larger companies. However, the internet was quickly changing the game from one of the numbers to one of engagement.

Both Brian and Dharmesh agreed that the way people shopped and learned what they liked was changing because of the amount of time they spend on the web. In addition to this, technology was enabling people to tune out traditional marketing. Television advertising was being abandoned in favour of streaming and online video. Music was being downloaded instead of listened to on the radio. People were simply relying on the opinion of their peers rather than blindly believing traditional marketing.

If companies wanted to compete, they needed to get consumers to market for them, rather than their team of advertisers. Neither Brian nor Dharmesh knew it yet, but they had formed the basis of inbound marketing - and the seeds of HubSpot were sewn.

The founding of HubSpot

A year later, in 2005, Halligan and Shah put their new ideas of engagement over advertising to paper and created a solution for businesses to reach and interact with customers. They entered this solution into MIT’s $50,000 business plan competition and were semi-finalists.

When both men had graduated later that year, Halligan and Shah dedicated themselves to the solution. They created a blog to showcase their ideas and later built an inbound community to help small businesses achieve success with inbound marketing. They called it ‘HubSpot’.

The seeds of success

As the community grew, Halligan and Shah began to package the core ideas of their solution - social media engagement, website optimisation and engagement tactics - for businesses to use. In 2008, Halligan hired a sales representative to begin seeking out and selling these packages to third parties. One of these parties was Schwartz Communications, a Boston-based PR agency.

Schwartz Communications soon saw results. In 2009 Schwartz’s revenues from digital-based services grew by 300%. Based on this success, Schwartz was the example HubSpot needed to prove the value of social media, SEO and detailed visitor engagement reports, and soon after Forrester noted that HubSpot offered something unique.

By the end of 2010, the company’s revenue had grown to $15.6 million - a far cry from its 2007 figure of $255,000.

Building on the momentum

2011 was the year that HubSpot gained the momentum and fame it needed to turn into the multinational organisation it is today. Halligan received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, HubSpot acquired an app store for Twitter known as Oneforty, and HubSpot gained over $65 million in venture capital investment.

By now, HubSpot boasted over 5,000 subscribers, and building upon the buzz generated by Halligan and Shah’s book “Inbound Marketing”, they began to change their focus. HubSpot gradually moved upmarket to target and serve larger businesses of up to 1,000 employees.

In 2013 HubSpot opened its first international office located in Dublin, Ireland, and listed itself as a public offering the following year.

A marketing mega-success

Within ten years since its founding, HubSpot had become a commonplace topic for agencies and enterprises around the world. In 2016 the revenue of HubSpot was reported at $271 million and had 23,226 customers who used the solution.

In 2017, HubSpot acquired Kemvi, a machine learning and AI company built to assist sales teams in understanding their customers more. HubSpot’s last revenue number last reported was at $674.9 million in 2019.

HubSpot Product Timeline

Since its inception 14 years ago, HubSpot has introduced many products to market. Here’s an outline of HubSpot’s product releases.

  • 2006 - HubSpot founded.
  • 2010 - HubSpot acquired Oneforty, and releases multiple free tools as inbound marketing assets.
  • 2011 - HubSpot releases a Twitter tracking feature.
  • 2014 - Hubspot launches HubSpot CRM Free
  • 2016 - Launch of HubSpot Academy, an online digital marketing training platform.
  • 2017 - HubSpot acquires Kemvi and introduces machine learning and AI to their solution.
  • 2018 - HubSpot integrates Taboola, a global pay-per-click native ad network.
  • 2019 - HubSpot acquires PieSync, a customer data synchronisation platform.

Begin your own success story

HubSpot’s rapid growth and success only further demonstrate the potency and relevancy of digital and inbound marketing. The fact remains that if you want to gain customers, generate substantial revenue and build a reputation based on customer service; you have to engage your marketing on their terms.

Inbound marketing and marketing automation are just two of the approaches you can take towards beginning your own success story. Demodia, as an inbound marketing consultancy, has been perfecting these approaches since the dawn of digital marketing.

If you would like to gain a structured demand generation service based on your specific needs, challenges and circumstances, contact Demodia today and start establishing your digital marketing success.

Topics: Inbound Marketing   Digital Marketing   HubSpot Marketing Automation   Marketing Automation