The Big Read, sponsored by Vodafone: HubSpot, a proponent of the concept of inbound marketing and creator of a powerful technology to enable its execution, recently announced a move to a new Dublin office and the creation of 320 new jobs over the next few years.
But what lies behind the walls of this new office and what exactly would those new hires do? To understand that is to understand the rise of Dublin tech and – in particular – an experiment Hubspot did three years back.
Like everyone else, HubSpot’s internationalization began in a very unglamorous way – their international manager Jeetu Mahtani started coming into the Cambridge, Massachusetts office at 4am to call people in the UK. It worked for a while, but aside from being unglamorous, it was also unsustainable, and so the Boston-based company began looking for a European home. They looked for a city and an environment that was similar to Boston. They found it in Dublin.
In January 2013, HubSpot opened its European headquarters in Dublin. Mahtani moved here to form a small sales office. He added a few account managers to handle clients, some marketing folk to bring in the leads, support to help the growing customer base, and finance to navigate it all. The team quickly grew to forty people. But the one thing that didn’t reside in the HubSpot Dublin office was engineering. This was the case with most other multinational companies in Dublin. Even when they did have engineers, they were working on localizing core products or working on secondary technology.
Stephen Purcell knew the feeling.
He had been working as a developer for a multinational since the day he graduated computer science in Trinity College. And, while he had been part of a team that was doing engineering in Dublin, it still wasn’t what had gotten him into computers when he was seven. He had started going to various meetups in town to find places where he would feel better as an engineer.
A lesson in serendipity
At one of those meetups a stranger with an American accent approached him, surprisingly knowing Steve’s name. He was working for a company making marketing software. Steve was not particularly interested in such products and eventually went off to talk with other people. He didn’t even ask what the name of the company was.
A few days later he was at another meetup and was chatting to a professor from UCD describing the sort of engineering he wanted to do. The professor suggested that Steve should talk with someone at that same meetup. That person was Sophie Higgs, the office manager of HubSpot’s Dublin office who introduced him in turn to Whitney Sorenson, their director of engineering. Whitney was the same person that had spoken to Steve, two nights prior. He had been sent off to see if it made sense for HubSpot to establish an independent engineering unit in Dublin and had found Steve via Linkedin.
A few days later in April 2013, the two had a beer in HubSpot’s office. That beer turned into a job interview – and a conviction that engineering had a place in Dublin, alongside marketing and sales.
By June 2013, the team was established and four engineers ventured from Dublin to Boston to learn how HubSpot worked: a few dozen five-person autonomous teams were responsible for a vibrant matrix of 200 small software “services” that comprised the HubSpot marketing platform. Two such teams were formed in Dublin; one took care of the e-mail service for the platform, which sends over 1 billion emails a year on behalf of HubSpot users, the other was responsible for the app notification. By the end of the year, Steve became the first Irish tech lead in HubSpot.
Little by little, the engineering team began to grow in size and responsibility. Core services to HubSpot’s product would transfer to Dublin: the mobile version of the platform, resources, website grader, authentication. “They kept on giving us core parts of the product, which most foreign companies would want to keep close in case something went wrong,” Steve says. But that wasn’t the case with HubSpot. Dublin was no longer just a branch, it was a duplicated heart and soul.
Inbound for everyone
That became abundantly clear when in early 2015 Steve got a new assignment: build Leadin, a freemium marketing tool. It had started as a simple WordPress plugin but needed ultimately to be part of HubSpot’s technology stack and central to the growth of the company. Steve’s team spent a lot of time reimagining inbound marketing and exploring how to make it accessible to everyone. Over the next 8 months, they would make all the decisions relating to tech. In September 2015, theLeadin product was presented at INBOUND, HubSpot’s global marketing conference.
There are 30 engineers, product designers, and product managers working currently in HubSpot’s Dublin office. Over a hundred others fill marketing, sales and support roles – their new job openings will cover all these roles. The Dublin office also plays home to HubSpot’s Global Head of Recruiting and the Global Head of Support.
When HubSpot decided to form an engineering unit here in Dublin it was more of an experiment than a strategic decision. And it worked. “It feels like everyone is growing the Dublin tech scene together,” says Hannah Fleishman, who leads the product engineering blog of HubSpot. She is spending a few months in Dublin to distill the knowledge of the engineering team here and help them turn it into helpful content, the thing inbound marketing is all about. “There is a curiosity in people in tech here to see what others are doing and learn from it,” she continues. That interest has helped grow remarkable talent, proving that Dublin is a place for creating tech, and not just supporting and augmenting it. It certainly is a different world to three years ago.
This article first appeared in The Dublin Globe. For more great stories on Dublin's startup ecosystem, visit their website.