Day 3 at Inbound13: Data is complex, we need more women, and water is transformative


Day 3 at Inbound13 started with hardcore data, included amazing advice about making marketing great, inspirational #boldtalks — one of which highlighted the need for more women to jump into building businesses and startups, important hiring tips from a very tough interviewer, and an emotional story of a life turned around that has resulted in saving countless other lives in the process. So many great things happened on Thursday that it’s taken me this long to put it all together in this post, between coming back home, prepping classes, a full day of new student orientation and student meetings. So lets get right to it shall we?

Lesson 1: Champlain College Students are AWESOME. Alright. I know. I did this for each post! Today’s post is dedicated to Brittany Leaning a 2012 grad who started interning for Hubspot last summer. Flash forward one year and Brittany was responsible for the Hubspot Social Media Command Center at Inbound 13. They trended on Twitter for all three days with #inbound13, had over 70k mentions, and pretty much rocked the social conversation. She managed a team, kept them motivated and clearly had a great time. I might also mention she was responsible for inspiring the amount of orange Toms that all the Hubspotters were wearing. You can follow Brittany on Twitter at @bleaning. You really want to. Trust me.

Lesson 2: Big Data is Complex, somewhat overwhelming, and fraught with challenges. Do you know Nate Silver? If you do, you know Nate is a statistician (pretty famous for polling and transparency). From Deadlinedetroit.comWe listened to him first thing in the morning right after a late night listening to One Republic.  Ordinarily math is hard. After a late night, and early in the morning it is even harder. But even with that Nate’s points were quite interesting. Some of the big takeaways from his conversation that I will remember include the importance of understanding that overreliance on technologies — especially things that are programmed, like GPS software, or competitive chess, or political forecasting — can get us into trouble. We need to remember that after all people programmed that software. So it could be that the information we are getting is actually a bug in the software. That is the challenge of so-called “big data” which Nate said is better termed “rich data”.

There is a widening gap between what you really know and what you think you really know

There are three different dimensions to rich data:

  1. Big Data Bias:  We can’t possibly process all the data that is available so we get filtered data. Just look at media as an example. They report on a very small slice of information, and it is often skewed to a narrow view.
  2. The Signal to Noise Ratio: As the amount of information increases, the complexity of relationships in the world increases. Relationships, interrelationships, cause, effect…yikes!
  3. Feature or Bug?: Even artificial intelligence has its limits!

Silver suggests that we cope with this by:

  1. Thinking probabilistically. Much like the weather service in forecasting hurricanes. They need to be able to convey uncertainty.
  2. Know where you are coming from. Know your biases and what your gaps might be. He showed two great examples, one of the path of the fleet from Japan that attacked Pearl Harbor. They sailed through the gap created where we had no observation points. The other example was of those people who are more aware of their gender bias and more willing to admit it are less likely to actually discriminate. Those who believe they have no bias are more likely to discriminate.
  3. Survey the data landscape. Make sure that you have a quantity of data, high quality of data, and you have a variety of data. If you are missing one, you won’t have the full picture.
  4. Try and err. You get your competitive edge when you try something, and experiment and make this an ongoing “life long” process.

Finally, have you ever thought what it took to get our economy really growing during human history? Clearly Nate has. There were three things that made the industrial revolution happen:

  1. Accumulation of knowledge (Context)
  2. European enlightenment (Culture)
  3. Marketing economy (Competition)

Consider these the three Cs of the economy!  Oh, and a great shout out to Nate for him calling out the academic community for taking too long to publish in academic journals. Because it takes 1-2 years to publish something, there is little help provided to society — so we should replace them with blogs! Now there’s an interesting thought.

Lesson 3: We need more Women. This was a theme that was prevalent in several talks at Inbound. But perhaps most startling for me was from a short, but sweet #Boldtalk from Katie Rae the managing director of Techstars in Boston.

No slides. Just 15 minutes of awesome.

Her main points were simple. 1) Start up ecosystems are fundamental to the health of any economy, and 2) We need more women entrepreneurs.

We talk about being an entrepreneur by creating a very scary image: 24/7, bad ass, boy culture. You can’t be an entrepreneur unless you are a 19 year old college drop out. Almost everyone fails at it. In truth, about 20% of startups are successful. And not all startups create such a culture.

It was perhaps this point which was an “aha” moment for me:

Women calculate risk in a fundamentally different way than men do. Guys will go for the big risk big reward. Women will calculate their chances of winning, and if they don’t think they have at least a 20% chance of winning, they’ll go do something else. The marketing of this gets women to opt out before they get started.

So what does this mean for a start up culture? Rae recommends we:

  1. Change the way we talk about start ups.
    • We have to get real about the chances of winning. It is much higher than 1%!
    • We have to get real about what it really looks like inside a start up.
    • We need to expand the circle of people who want to play in this game.
  2. Set up a structure that allows people within startups who are similar to each other cooperate and learn together. People get better at what they do when they compete with and learn from others who are closer to their skill level.
  3. Change the funding gap. Only 4% of venture capital is going to teams that include women. We MUST do better!


Lesson 4: It isn’t really that hard to be a GREAT Marketer. Really. Just ask Rand Fishkin. CEO and Founder of Moz (formerly SEOMoz) had a great presentation about being a great marketer.  You can look at the whole thing right here: Here’s the cliff note version:

Great Marketing is:

  1. Transparent
  2. Authentic
  3. Fun
  4. Empathetic
  5. The Exception

Now…go over to his presentation and look at his examples. They are super cool.

Lesson 5: To work at Hubspot you might need to get past this guy…and he is no pushover. Marketing students in colleges all over the country take note! Mike Volpe, the CMO at Hubspot gave a great presentation on “How to Build and Manage an Inbound Marketing Team”.  And wow I certainly got some great insight that I will add into my Marketing Capstone Curriculum for sure.

His process is definitely not traditional. He screens fast and has some deal breakers right at the top. He uses the internet to find out information about potential applicants and asks a set of tough situational questions. No “where do you see yourself in 5 years” questions for Mike. No. He goes straight to either a Funnel, Lead Scoring or Website Homepage scenario question.

So how does he start his hiring process? This is what Volpe outlined for us.  It starts with a simple scan of the digital application resume:

  • No AOL or Hotmail or paper resumes. Yep, that’s right. If he sees you have an AOL or Hotmail email account you automatically go in the no bucket.
  • Demonstrated track record of success and growth. That means putting results down in your resume/LinkedIn profile.
  • Demonstrated domain expertise and Inbound Marketing experience

Then, he opens up a browser and proceeds to look up a candidate online to see what content they have. He is specifically looking for:

  • A strong LinkedIn presence. He will especially look for mutual connections (so if you want to work at Hubspot you should make friends with Hubspotters!)
  • Decent sized digital footprint
  • Decent quality digital footprint

If he likes what he sees, then you’ll get an in-person conversation where he’ll provide you with a set of questions so he can really gauge your fit. Questions that start something like this: “Pretend you are the CMO for this company, and you have to decide what your marketing team should focus on. What do you do?” He said that the best people ask a lot of questions to learn more about the situation, then based on their experience they dive in and start providing their answer.

I really like this approach actually. It tells the candidate a lot about the company culture and what the expectations are, and it helps the hiring manager to really gauge where a person might fit. If they are great on strategy but not so much on number crunching, they’ll have a better handle on the overall fit of the individual.

So marketing students, take note. Build your digital footprint, gain experience through internships, and be prepared for scenario-based questions!

Lesson 6: Water is Transformational.  I can’t possibly do justice to Scott Harrison’s presentation about his life story and building Charity Water. Honestly I tried to take notes, but I wasn’t very successful. While Hubspot hasn’t posted it yet, Scott spoke at LeWeb back in 2012, and this is pretty similar to what we watched on Thursday. It’s about 50 minutes long. And it is so worth it. Grab a tissue. At the end of the presentation Scott asked all of us who attended HubSpot if we would do our own campaign. Many of us stood up, myself included. I’ll be starting mine shortly. Will you? Watch this and then click here to go to They are a great charity, and I love their structure — they offer a 100% model: Always use 100% of public donations to fund clean water projects. Overhead comes from a completely different pool of donations from foundations, private donors, and sponsors.

So go ahead now. Get comfy. Grab your tissues. Watch this presentation. I’ll be back another day with more blog stuff.