Just read an excellent blog posting by Brian Halligan, founder and CEO at HubSpot, the leader in inbound marketing. Entitled “8 Lessons From HubSpot’s $32 Million Round with Salesforce, Google, and Sequoia”, the blog’s ostensible purpose is to act as a set of do’s and don’ts for wannabe tech entrepreneurs. It’s a very good post with lots of valuable insights from a business that has defined a new marketing service category and, putting their money where their mouth is, leveraged their own technology to grow their user base from zero to over 4,000 businesses in a mere four years. Impressive stuff.
Accolades aside, the lesson that really resonated with me was number 7, “Partner with Asteroids”. Quote:
“I had dinner a couple of weeks back with Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox. He said that a big part of his job was navigating his spaceship through the asteroid field of potential competitors. Part of that statement motivated me to partner with Salesforce.com and Google on this deal as they are asteroids that could blow up our spaceship or could accelerate it if we can hitch a ride. Too early to tell if this decision is a good one, but it feels right.”
Good decision Brian. Co-opting the momentum of two SaaS juggernauts rather than going head to head with them is a great idea. There is no question that your assessment of Google and Salesforce.com as potential ‘asteroids’ who might wrest the Inbound Marketing opportunity away from HubSpot at any time is wholly accurate. Better to align your interests with theirs and, in doing so, explore opportunities to make their scale and momentum work for you.
HubSpot has learned the most important play in the Asymmetric Marketer’s book: Identify you most likely ally (or competitor) from amongst the ‘software superpowers’ and find out how to make what you do work for them, all the while quietly (formlessly) nurturing your own aspirations for market and ultimately, multi category, domination. This is a tried and tested approach that has helped propel numerous businesses from startup to multinational cross category aggregator, organizations like Microsoft, Oracle, Google and Salesforce.
HubsSpot seem to get it. I’m going to watch how their Asymmetric strategy plays out with interest. I suggest that all superpower aspirants do the same.