Boston talent wars descend into Internet geekery and philanthropy

By Erin Griffith , written on October 10, 2012

From The News Desk

Every startup has its own twist on attracting developer talent, be it hiring assistants to wait for the cable guy at your apartment, or chocolate fountains and indoor treehouses, or spending $1 million to acqui-hire your company.

HubSpot is a Boston startup with a well-known recruiting technique: They have all the perks -- shopping sprees, unlimited vacations -- plus a $10,000 referral bounty. There are a few caveats, but it's been a success thus far, with 15 bounties paid out since launching the program in January 2011.

The marketing software company is up to 403 employees in its Cambridge offices. A newly announced Dublin office aims for a headcount of 150 in the first three years. HubSpot has been soaking up engineering talent in Boston as quickly as it can in its road to going public, which has given rise to one of the more difficult realities faced by smaller tech ecosystems. Outside of Silicon Valley, there's little talent to go around, and poaching can breed resentment. Just look at how nobody but Dave McClure would talk on the record about it in New York.

A recent poaching scuffle in Boston could have turned ugly after HubSpot snagged Matt Ball, an engineer at a a smaller Boston marketing software startup called Bzzagent. The company's CEO, Dave Balter, did what any bitter ex-employer would briefly consider and then immediately decide against. He revenge blogged it.

In a post on titled "How to Get Revenge on HubSpot When They Start Stealing Your Engineers," Balter recommends Boston startups enter all of their engineers into HubSpot's referral program. "If nothing else, you should get the referral fee if they take one of your people," he wrote.

It's kinda funny and kinda passive aggressive, thanks to a few digs on HubSpot as having a hippie, fratty culture. (Have those two cultures converged? I feel old.)

HubSpot Chief Product Officer David Cancel responded in the comments section with his own barb: "Focus on your environment, your tech stack and making your product interesting to Engineers and no one will leave."

Gauntlet, thrown. That's where the memes began.


I personally was hoping this kerfuffle would escalate into some nerdified "Beat It" style dance-off in a public square. But disappointingly, the Boston tech community found a way to turn it into a meme battle with charity donations attached. Bo-ring!


Just kidding. This is awesome. The memes eventually escalated to the point of ridiculousness. So much so that HubSpot publicly offered to pay Balter the $10,000 bounty for their engineer, even without the referral.


An oversized check was printed. But once the two parties met, a different name wound up on the check. HubSpot and Balter together donated the $10,000 to another Boston startup,, to provide free programming classes in Boston.

The lesson here (I think) is that if you blog passive aggressively at a large company, your Internet fight might become a philanthropic meme war. And this, friends, is why the Internet is awesome.