Startup Blog

The 4 Disciplines of People Ops

Posted Mike Volpe on 3/21/17 9:00 AM

We’re hiring a VP of People Operations at Cybereason, so I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes someone amazing at that job. It is a very very hard job because to be a truly great people ops executive, you need a broad set of skills spanning product management, marketing, sales, and customer success.

Why I Joined Cybereason as CMO

Posted Mike Volpe on 9/28/16 10:18 AM

After taking a year to explore the Boston tech community and figure out what I want to do next professionally, I learned a lot about myself and the ecosystem as a whole. One big hole in our ecosystem is pillar companies - companies big enough to make large acquisitions, create enough wealth to spur new angel investors and serve as training grounds for people to grow their careers and then spin off and start new companies. We have a couple companies on the verge of being like this, but we need more and I want to help build another one.  That is what I plan to do as CMO at Cybereason (official press release).

12 Great Growth Marketing Presentations from Growth Camp

Posted Mike Volpe on 6/13/16 12:21 PM

Last week was Growth Camp, where 200 people came together to share tips on how to grow faster and more effectively.  Each presentation was just 15 minutes, forcing the presenter to boil down their talk to the most essential elements.  Here is a list of all the presentations with links the slides on Slideshare for each one.

Why I Joined the Board of Attend

Posted Mike Volpe on 1/26/16 10:00 AM

Today Attend is announcing that I have been elected to their board of directors.  There are a lot of reasons I’m very excited about this new role - in many ways it is the perfect company for me to dive into - so I thought I’d share how I think about the opportunity for the company.

What's Next for Mike Volpe?

Posted Mike Volpe on 11/23/15 9:00 AM

tl;dr: I'm not sure what I am up to, but I am all in on Boston tech and am launching open office hours with a diversity component.

After a pretty crazy summer I have been doing a lot of reflecting on what I want to do with the next decade of my professional life. 

So, what's next?

Who I Voted for in BBJ Most Admired Companies - You can Vote TODAY

Posted Mike Volpe on 1/14/11 11:42 AM

Boston Business Journal has a “most admired” companies list that they compile, sort of a “people’s choice awards” of the business world.  I thought I would share who I voted for and some of the reasons why.  (You can vote today if you want.  Please do, and please consider HubSpot for your vote.)

Organization Chart 2.0 - An Org Chart Experiment at HubSpot

Posted Mike Volpe on 9/29/10 12:31 PM

We have a pretty flat culture and organization at HubSpot.  No vacation policy.  No offices.  Limited layers to the organization.

organization chart org chart 2 resized 600

Startup Marketing Tips from 3 Years at HubSpot

Posted Mike Volpe on 6/29/10 12:30 PM

At the Atlassian Starter Day I had a chance to share some of my thoughts on startup marketing based on doing marketing at HubSpot and helping to grow the company from 5 people to over 160 people and nearly 3,000 customers over the past 3+ years.

Building a Business in the Cloud - List of Tools

Posted Mike Volpe on 6/13/10 7:20 PM

Next week I am the day 2 keynote speaker at the Internet Technology Summit in Orlando where they have asked me to talk about how we have built HubSpot to 160 employees and 2,800 customers using the latest technology tools.  I am going to talk especially about how the vast majority of our company activity is conducted in the cloud, and the cultural implications of that.  I have blogged way back in January 2007 about the disruptive effects of Google Docs, and do feel that the availability of tools like these affects how you should start and build a company.

Attract Customers Cheaply

Posted Mike Volpe on 2/7/09 1:53 PM

The key to having a successful business is to attract customers cheaply and then quickly monetize those customers at a multiple of what they spent to acquire them.  At least according to David Skok from Matrix Partners (and investor in HubSpot) - that link is to an interview in the Wall Street Journal.

I agree.

Too often startups make their strategy too confusing and complicated.  This is because they don't have the answer yet.  Most really successful businesses have a pretty simple model at the core.  Google, Ebay,  See?

Marketing Comes Before the Product

Posted Mike Volpe on 2/5/09 11:29 AM

cart before horse marketingSeth Godin is a smart dude.  This article talks about how you should start marketing before you have a product.  This is something I have talked about a lot at HubSpot on our blog, in webinars and in interviews.

For startups, you used to spend 1-2 years building a product and then hire a marketing guy or gal.  Now a marketing pro should be part of the founding team.  Build an audience of fans, beta testers, future customers.  No product required.

Start Marketing Before You Have a Product

  • Start blogging before you have a product.
  • Start engaging in social media before you have a product.
  • Start SEO before you have a product.
  • Start building your database and capturing leads before you have a product.
  • There is nothing stopping you, and it makes product launches easy.

HubSpot started marketing before we had finished the product.  Its one of the reasons we got to 1,000 customers so fast.  You should try it too.

PS - If you want to get started, there's a free trial of inbound marketing software at (if you're lucky - it goes up and down as we test some things).

Flickr Photo credit:  

HubSpot 1K Celebration

Posted Mike Volpe on 1/26/09 12:24 PM

hubspot 1k party officeHubSpot is having a 1K Celebration to celebrate our first 1,000 customers.  We're doing an open house in our new office.  Come by, meet the team, have a drink, play some foosball.

Thursday, Feb 19, 7pm
1 Broadway, 5th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142

Registration is REQUIRED.

3 Reasons Why Cuil is Not Cool

Posted Mike Volpe on 7/28/08 5:32 PM

Cuil is a new search engine that just launched with lots of buzz in the startup world.  It is supposed to be a "Google Killer."  I don't get it.  I think it sucks.  Here's why:

  1. They lie.  They claim to have the "world's biggest search engine" yet when you search for some simple terms, Google returns a lot more results than they do.  "Search Engine" yields 378 million results in Google and 165 million in Cuil.  "Startup" yields 57 million in Google and only 40 million in Cuil.
  2. They are solving the wrong problem.  I don't need my search engine to crawl more web pages.  I need higher quality, more targeted results.  I need less search engine spam.  I need more personalization.  Cuil does none of this.  Crawling the last 0.1% of webpages Google misses is like including the microscopic dust particles under my bed during a search of my house.  Who cares!!!
  3. Their results suck.  Search for "Cuil" in Cuil and you Search in Google for "Cuil" and you get a bunch of results that make sense, including a news article and Cuil itself.  Search for "Cuil" in Cuil, and you get results like "Properties for Sale in Cuil Mhuine, Ireland", "The Shire of Cuil Choluim" and "Download Chase Around the Windmill".  What a joke.

What do you think?  Is there anything about Cuil that is actually Cool?  Leave a comment...

HubSpot 2nd Birthday

Posted Mike Volpe on 7/23/08 9:42 AM

We went out to Kings for some bowling last night to celebrate HubSpot's 2nd birthday party.  I had a lot of fun, and I think most other folks did too.

Here are some HubSpot photos on Flickr, or watch the slideshow below.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Child CEO, Should Hire a Real CEO

Posted Mike Volpe on 2/6/08 7:52 PM

I have thought for a while that Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook Founder and CEO) is certainly a very smart guy for starting Facebook and bringing it to its current level of success.  But I also think he is crazy for not selling at least a portion of his personal holdings - just to take some winnings off the table and make sure he is set for life.  Zuckerberg could do this with about 1% of the company, and still have a gigantic stake in Facebook.

The other thing that I find surprising is that he, and the investors, think he is the best CEO for the company right now.  They have hundreds of employees and are thinking about going public. Now, when I was 23, I certainly thought I was capable enough to lead a huge company through and IPO and manage all of the employees.  But, I was wrong.

4 Reasons Why Mark Zuckerberg Should Hire a New Facebook CEO

  1. Mark Zuckerberg will have trouble building a team.  The job of the CEO is to build and hire a great team.  Many really qualified VPs will have trouble working for a 23 year old.  No matter what your knowledge of social networking, there are just larger corporate issues you have zero experience with, and I think being 23 makes it a lot harder to hire a great management team.
  2. Mark Zuckerberg will have trouble pleasing Wall Street.  Wall Street (those folks you need to deal with after an IPO) can be hard to please.  One thing that they value is experience and seniority.  The current Facebook CEO has neither.  Having a gray-haired person in charge makes Wall Street feel good, and makes IPOs smoother.
  3. Mark Zuckerberg will lose touch with the customer.  Facebook is no longer for college students.  It is growing by over 250,000 users per day, and the biggest demographic is people not in college.  This is a very different audience with very different needs from college students.  One very valuable skill that marketing and product development people hone over many years is the ability to understand customers that are not like themselves.  I do not think a 23 year old can do that.  And it is critically important that the CEO has the pulse of your target market.
  4. Mark Zuckerberg has the wrong skills for the next phase of Facebook.  Facebook has crossed the chasm.  It is now going into the mainstream and has well over 60 million members.  Facebook is not about innovation, being scrappy and developing cool new stuff anymore.  Facebook is now about monetizing page views, a proper management structure for growth, and building profits.  Mark is clearly a good founder and startup CEO.  That role almost never overlaps with the roles of a mid-stage growth CEO.

Disclaimer - I have not met Mark Zuckerberg.  I have no idea how truly smart/stupid, mature/childish he really is.  This article is an opinion based on a little work experience and watching an episode of 60 minutes.  And of course, I am also jealous!

For some other commentary on Facebook, see this article about the top 10 Facebook career mistakes and the classic "Cool Wand" Facebook story.

Is Cisco Crazy for Buying WebEx?

Posted Mike Volpe on 3/15/07 2:43 PM

Cisco is buying WebEx. I don't get it. Sure, a lot of Cisco customers could purchase the WebEx product (a lot of them probably do already, WebEx claims 65% marketshare), and I am sure Cisco will be able to grow WebEx sales at a good rate. But Cisco will also have to absorb WebEx's employees, and is inheriting technology that is not that good and is about a decade old. There are a lot of other much smaller companies that have better and newer technology. If Cisco is looking to really get leverage from their customer relationships and distribution, why don't they buy a small startup with newer/better technology than WebEx, and then use the Cisco brand and channel to really supercharge the sales? Why would they bother to pay $3 billion for WebEx (with $380 million in revenue), when they could pay $25 or $50 million for a startup with better technology? The only reason I can think of is that Cisco needs the $380m in revenue and $50m in profit from WebEx to meet its growth goals.

Is Web2.0 Another Bubble?

Posted Mike Volpe on 1/9/07 3:06 PM

Is Web 2.0 Another Bubble? The new 'cool' topic to discuss seems to be is if the current excitement and innovation around "Web 2.0" is a bubble or not. In fact, there was a WSJ article interviewing Todd Dagress (Boston VC) and David Hornik (Bay Area VC) My favorite quote from the article... "By the way, the combined cash flow of Spot Runner, LinkedIn and Facebook is less than that of one Costco store. " - Todd Dagres, Spark Capital Yeah but, Todd, isn't is about growth and margins? Would you prefer to buy a Costco store rather than your recent investment in I don't think so. (BTW, I LOVE Costco. I would buy every product in my house from them if possible. But that does not mean I want to invest or work there.) As someone who lived through the 1999-2000 bubble - and was in San Francisco, aka 'ground zero' for the bubble - I really do not think we are even close to a bubble right now. A lot of the craziness we saw in '99 is NOT happening today, such as:
  • There are no huge launch parties spending VC/investor money on booze - I went to a bunch of really expensive "launch parties" for all kinds of dot-com startups in 1999, which were basically booze and appetizer fests paid for with VC money (the VCs went and thought it was a great time)
  • No one is spending millions on stupid advertisements - No one is buying SuperBowl ads like (let's ignore and no one is spending millions on 'partnerships' with AOL, Excite/@Home, etc. People are paying per click with Google instead, whichi has no long term committment and is infinitely scaleable
  • There are no huge Series B VC rounds - One of my old startups ( raised $26m in a Series B From Hummer Winblad and Oak Investment Partners, with very little revenue and no profit. While there is a lot of angel and serties A activity, the investments seem to max out at $4-6m, which is far less that the frothy investments and crazy valuations of the real bubble in 1999.
What is happening today is a huge amount of innovation using a new generation of development tools and social paradigms around the web. We are seeing a lot of entrepreneurs try new things and create value through building things not possible or not conceived a while ago. But, this is not a bubble. This is actually a good thing. And yes, many of them fail. Startups always do. but some succeed. And that is how the world changes. Sure, maybe valuations are a bit high and maybe a hot sector is attracting more attention than it should, but that is not a bubble. A bubble is pure craziness that will lead to a horrible burst / crash. We're not there. At least not yet.

West Coast Bias in Top Blogs

Posted Mike Volpe on 1/2/07 3:26 PM

It is surprising to me that in so many Web 2.0 blogs you see and feel a real bias toward the Bay Area in their coverage of new and interesting technologies and services. I mean isn't one of the whole points about "web 2.0" and the "social web" supposed to make your geographic location meaningless? Have we all forgotten that we read "The World is Flat" just a couple shourt years ago? I can hire programmers in Russia, have curtomer service reps in India, marketing people telecommuting in all 3 US time zones, and a headquarters in Bermuda or the Grand Caymans to save on taxes... but I can't get Blog coverage if I'm not in Silicon Valley? Come on guys... practice what you preach. Here are some examples of what I am talking about:
  1. In Michael Arrington's coverage of tons of music reccommendation engines such as Pandora, iLike,, MyStrands, and Qloud he never mentions in any of his articles a company called Goombah, which is based on the east coast. While it is not clear if what Goombah has is that much better or different than all the rest, at least mention them
  2. In this article Richard McManus neglects to mention ZoomInfo (Alexa ranking of ~1900, a pretty big company) in his article about potential Google competitiors. ZoomInfo has been around longer, developed cooler stuff and is much larger and more established than most of the other companies in the article.
Maybe this all just goes to show that the "social web" has not gone as far as we all might think, and that being geographically close to people does build better relationships, at least in 2007.

Who Will Beat Goolge?

Posted Mike Volpe on 1/2/07 3:00 PM

I am not sure if there is any company out there right now who really has a good shot to unseat Google as the king of search. But, that doesn't mean it's not fun to talk about. Check out this article on the Read/Write Web. At a minimum it is a good summary and categorization of the players out there who have a shot at beating Google, and maybe you'll get lucky and discover the next Google. Some of my thoughts...
  • The article missed a bunch of companies, of course, since it is not possible to name everyone, especially in the Web 2.0 world where things seem to pop up overnight like mushrooms. One notable company (Alexa ranking of ~1900) missed in the vertical search space is ZoomInfo. They are building some nifty stuff and the ability to search on people, rather than documents that mention people is useful since many times different documents are referring to the same person, and you want to find all information related to a single person. And many times this with the same or similar names to others. Just try to find yourself or some business colleagues on ZoomInfo... and then try the same thing on Google. The problem gets worse if you want to find your friend Jane Smith or Dave Jones...
  • Google's strategy in search should not be to be an innovator. Their innovative activity should be focused on things like spreadsheets & documents, Gmail, and other services that could unseat Microsoft. In search, they should just focus on taking the best of what these upstart companies produce and copying it. They have a huge market share in search and a really powerful brand. As long as they do not fall too far behind, they will not lose much ground.

Don't Sell to the Wrong Customers

Posted Mike Volpe on 12/31/06 3:23 PM

I was reading OnStartups, Dharmesh Shah's blog, and thought there were some really good comments about startups needing to find customers that are similar to each other is right on. Too many startups try to hedge their bets and be all things to all people, and end up spending a ton of time creating features and solutions to serve a large diverse group of customers and are really more of a consulting company than a product company.

Focus on a specific market segment, serve that one well, and then grow from there. Certainly, if you are a believer in the Innovator's Dilemma, then you will say that startups rarely begin with the right strategy and need to evolve business models over time, which is also true. However, this does not mean you pursue multiple business models at the same time. It means work hard on one model and one type of customer, and them make small changes over time as you get feedback from the market.

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