Tech startups are often known for their dramas, but we’ve rarely seen anything like what’s gone down at HubSpot this week.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based purveyor of content marketing tools, which bills itself as the “world’s leading inbound marketing and sales platform,” seems to have lost control of some of the most important members of its A-team.
Take Mike Volpe, for example. Volpe was HubSpot’s Chief Marketing Officer until earlier this week. Late Wednesday the company announced that he had been “terminated for cause following a determination that Mr. Volpe violated the Company's Code of Business Conduct and Ethics in connection with attempts to procure a draft manuscript of a book involving the Company.”
Who Did What?
HubSpot also announced Joe Chernov, the company’s VP of Content, had “resigned before the Company could determine whether to terminate him for similar (like Volpe’s) violations.”
And as if two likely errant execs aren’t enough, HubSpot's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Brian Halligan, has “been appropriately sanctioned by the Board” for failing to notify them about the actions of Volpe and Chernov “in a timely manner.”
The Boston Globe reported on Thursday evening that “sanctioned” in Halligan’s case refers to a reduction in his total compensation package by an “undisclosed amount”.
But the Boston Globe has reported something that’s far more disturbing than the loss of jobs and dollars. It seems that HubSpot’s external law firm, Goodwin Procter, investigated what Volpe and Chernov had allegedly done and “handed over the results of their investigation to law enforcement agencies”.
That suggests that something illegal has occurred.
It's a far cry from a year ago, when HubSpot was happily prepping for one of the most significant IPOs in the marketing technology world since Marketo went public in 2013.
Now Back to the Book
So back to the already infamous "Disrupted." Lyons, according to his LinkedIn profile, worked at HubSpot from April 2013 to last December.
If this tweet is any indication, Lyons impressions of the company were less than enthusiastic.
Inbound marketing: advertising under a new name? Interesting observations by Dan Lyons. pic.twitter.com/IcORMaxa8z— Tristan Lavender (@TristanLavender) July 30, 2015
Here’s a promotional paragraph for the book taken from Hachette Books' website.
“His new employer made the world a better place...by selling email spam. The office vibe was frat house meets cult compound: Shower pods became hook-up dens; Nerf gun fights broke out at lunch; and absent bosses specialized in cryptic, jargon-filled emails. In the middle of this sat Lyons, old enough to be his coworkers' father.”
Could this be Lyons talking about himself at HubSpot?
Lyons, we should note, is a prominent, fun-to-read writer who has not only worked at Newsweek, written a few books, including Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs, a Parody (2007), but also, a once widely read blog, “The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs”. More recently Lyons penned the script for the May 2015 episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley and worked as the editor of ValleyWag.
Leaving the latter gig he wrote, “I sold a book, Disrupted, which I need to deliver by the end of this year. It's a memoir of my ridiculous attempt to reinvent myself and start a new career as a marketing person inside a software company during the second tech bubble. It's funny! If you work in Silicon Valley, you will relate.”
So. Many. Questions.
All of this being said, and assuming that Lyons’ book is indeed about HubSpot, there are still plenty of questions. What were Volpe and Chernov so worried about? What did they do to break the law? And then, of course there’s the one that won’t go away, how does it apply to their employer’s (HubSpot’s) business?
We have reached out to HubSpot and others and will update this story as we learn new information.
(If you have a tip to share about HubSpot, contact the author at [email protected] or call 973-744-8164.)