HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan on M&A Strategy, Lessons from PTC and Groove, and Boston as the “Next Madison Avenue”

3/18/11Follow @gthuang

They are the “Mad Men” of the future—the guys (and gals here in the 21st century) at marketing-tech companies like HubSpot, Constant Contact, DataXu, BzzAgent, Demandware, and Performable.

I’m not a big fan of the show, so I won’t take the analogy much further. But perhaps Brian Halligan, the co-founder and CEO of Cambridge, MA-based HubSpot, could be called the Don Draper of Boston. (Or maybe the title is reserved for his co-founder, Dharmesh Shah.)

“We missed the PC, and the Internet,” Halligan says of the local tech scene. But, he adds, “I think there’s a marketing revolution. I want Boston to be the next Madison Avenue.”

That’s an interesting spin on the burgeoning Boston-New York startup rivalry (and collaboration, if you listen to the kumbaya crowd). I sat down to pick Halligan’s brain last week, as his company is coming off a big venture round—a $32 million Series D led by Silicon Valley investors Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures, and Salesforce.com. Halligan had some unique perspectives to share on where his company is headed—look for an acquisition soon—as well as where he’s been as a tech executive, and how that has shaped HubSpot’s strategy.

HubSpot, which is up to around 200 employees as of this month, makes Web marketing software that helps small and medium-sized businesses turn their websites into search engine- and social media-optimized selling machines. Although you probably haven’t heard of most of its customers, there are a lot of them—enough for HubSpot to generate revenue at a run rate of $25 million a year.

That’s not big enough for the five-year-old firm to go public yet, but it does raise the question of why HubSpot decided to raise the new VC round. Besides the usual platitudes of what the new investors bring to the table (and their track records), it’s clear HubSpot wants to “go big” and dominate the marketing world, which seems ripe for the taking.

One interesting point that Halligan revealed is that this strategy will probably include an acquisition. HubSpot will “try to do some M&A,” he says. “We’ve been looking around, and we’d … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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