What is up PartnerUp!
Conner Jeffers, CEO of Aptitude 8 and hapily, joins the show to share his expertise on the Hubspot ecosystem. He explains why Aptitude 8 is NOT an agency, Hubspot’s evolution into being an increasingly robust solution, and how he manages the challenges of running a software-based (hapily) and services-based (Aptitude 8) business at the same time.
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Isaac Morehouse 0:00
Hey what is up partner up? Yes, it is my voice since then it pure it's giving the iconic intro. Jared is under the weather today. So I'm taking this one solo. Really excited about this conversation before we jump in, I just want to throw in there. A little shout out to the partner hacker team, I just was looking over partner hacker daily, the newsletter that we launched a little over a year ago, he number one newsletter in partnerships. And it's just been, it's just been super awesome to see that thing go from nothing to maybe around 6000 members now and putting the content together that every day. And that that is the partner hacker team but they're just acting as kind of curators for like the whole ecosystem. We're just getting more and more all the time. We can't even keep up. All of you out there partner up listeners, people that follow us on social people that are that are reading articles on partner hacker.com just sending us the best stuff that's out there in the partnerships ecosystem. So sending stuff if you want to. To order hacker daily and subscribe, share with your friends get some subscribers we usually do not do CTA is about subscribing to the newsletter, anything on here, but I've been I've been like, just stepping back and realizing what an amazing resource that newsletter is. So I had to shout it out. So enough of that. Now we're gonna get into conversation with somebody who knows a lot about success in really winning in an ecosystem. Connor Jeffers Founder CEO of aptitude eight, now also founder and CEO of happily, which is a software company that took some investment from HubSpot ventures recently. We'll get into both of those. Got her walk me partner up.
Conner Jeffers 1:51
Hello, thank you Lovely to see
Isaac Morehouse 1:54
you as well. I know I've mentioned this on a couple other like events and things we've been on. But you and I actually know each other from from way back 10 I almost 10 years. Yeah.
Conner Jeffers 2:04
Because I feel like you You and I like bumping back into each other. It's just like the world is small manifested into reality of like, I was like, I worked with you or I was I worked with practice for a while as a practice customer as a practice, like advocate. And that's where long before either of us had anything to do with things. Yeah, we're up to now.
Isaac Morehouse 2:23
Yeah, they're closest, you know, the connection is you were way ahead of the curve, at least ahead of me when it comes to marketing, automation, HubSpot, using all these tools, and you were like constantly trying to get me to get practice leveled up and living in the future. I was pretty slow to move on those things. And man, you were man, you were proven right? So well. So it's been just so wild to see, you know, last year when you're like we partner hacker, what what do you what do you do in play in in my playground? Like, what? What is going on here? So I want to get just a little bit of a maybe you could help me fill in the gaps, you know, from back then I know you were working. You were working like a venture studio. And no, you were doing some other stuff as well. When did when did you make the move to launch app to to date and say okay, I want to create it. I was gonna say agency. But I know you don't like the word agency. So maybe I could talk about that, too. So if it's not an agency, what is it and what was the impetus to launch and create opportunity?
Conner Jeffers 3:23
Yeah, yeah. So apps today, today is even different than after today was but app J today is a technical consulting firm. And we do implementation integration and optimization on the HubSpot platform. And we'll talk a little bit about like, what that means and how it's changed. But I think the background for me is when I was first working with you, I worked in sort of venture tech businesses for a while ran growth teams left went to the venture side was an operating partner at a venture studio in Chicago. We built a handful of companies over there, which was super fun. And then I left. I had a business partner we were doing kind of like we basically tried to do it again. Which is I'll tie into the happily story a little bit too. But we were basically starting to hit stop doing these this. I can't Yeah, exactly. That's like the running the running thread is like I can't, I can't control myself. Or I can't focus depending on which way you'd like to call it. But I think when we were doing the venture studio, we left we started a new one we were doing sort of like hey, we'll do consulting and we'll fund the venture studio with consulting. And what we found out is like doing a venture studio without millions of dollars of LPs money is like really, really hard. So that didn't go anywhere. But we started to hit this nerve on the consulting side and we were working with Salesforce Ventures we were doing some stuff with HubSpot. We're basically coming in to early stage organizations and helping them kind of like build their foundational technology stack and operating infrastructure and like how they build all of that stuff. And as we were doing that I started to get more and more acquainted with HubSpot. Well HubSpot was up to and this was Right when HubSpot started, like investing in the CRM product, so HubSpot, the marketing software, right was kind of like, hey, we only do marketing up to like 2014. And then they added sales hub and sales hub started to getting more and more interesting. And so my partner had a baby, he got a full time offer from one of our clients. And I was kind of like, okay, what are we going to do now? And I had always, I was in Chicago for 10 years. And so I knew the model metrics, guys in the global folks. And I like seeing all these people build kick ass companies in the Salesforce ecosystem, and always felt like I had missed that wave was really late to that party. And HUBZone started looking really, really interesting. And I sort of started seeing them move in that direction, and really start behaving like a marketing software company and really start behaving like a CRM business and sort of saw that starting to happen. And so with aptitude, a originally we did HubSpot work. We did Salesforce work, we worked with like outreach and Marketo, and all that stuff and the GTM stack. And then our HubSpot practice was just kind of like the fastest growing the most interesting and when HubSpot launched operations hub and custom objects, like everything vaulted ahead really really quickly. And all of a sudden HubSpot was kind of this product that we could build really cool stuff on top of and we weren't limited by as much functionality and so we kind of doubled down on HubSpot itself. And so today, app to date works with anybody basically you either have to have HubSpot, or you have to be interested in HubSpot moving to HubSpot. And then we can go spot curious of sock curious is a term that we like to use for sure. And if you are if you are a HubSpot user or if your HubSpot curious app today helps you integrate implement and optimize the HubSpot platform. So that's what we're up to there.
Isaac Morehouse 6:44
It's been amazing to watch the HubSpot evolution is someone who you know, throughout my kind of entrepreneurial career over the last 10 years, I like used it early on almost 10 years ago, I think you set it up. It was like okay, it's a marketing automation stuff. And they sort of had like, CRM ish type stuff, but I still needed Salesforce and it was kind of like, Yeah, whatever. And then kind of didn't use it, and then use it again. And I've used it on and off. And every time I come back, I'm like, Oh, wow, this is like really good. Now to the point with partner Aker. We didn't ever we never used Salesforce. We HubSpot was our CRM and like, never felt like we were missing something. I mean, it's just oh, this is this is actually they they are in the game. And that's a really hard move to make when you're doing a platform that's like trying to be multiple things to multiple different right. That's that's very, very hard. So like I'm very interested. We'll put a pin in this for a second to get into your I'll HubSpot has done this because I know you've got some some really interesting opinions on kind of the epochs of HubSpot, and then what that means for partners as well bid agency. Why when I said in when we were chatting before, I was like, Hey, I'm going to ask you about starting an agency. You're like, Yeah, we don't use the word agency. Tell me about that.
Conner Jeffers 7:54
Yeah, so and I think anything agencies are great. So I won't I won't denigrate agencies, I think there's a lot of people, even in the HubSpot ecosystem that are kind of like we're not an agency agencies are dumb. And I don't think that's true at all. I think that like there's kind of this bad rap. But I think an agency is an organization that you work with in order to generate kind of an outcome, right? So you go to an agency, because you want more leads, you want more opportunities, you want more closed revenue. And ultimately, when you think about working with an agency, the primary reason you're working with them is because you're trying to buy some kind of growth, whether it's revenue growth, or lead growth, or marketing growth, or whatever. And the primary product that an agency sells is that we have some expertise on how we should access that. But what we have that you don't have is capabilities to be able to go and help you grow revenue, and we have some expertise. And we can do all those things. Up to date, by comparison is none of our customers buy leads or revenue or growth from us at all, that we are effectively a construction company or an architecture company. And we really come in and we help you say, Okay, you want to build a building, you want that building to have electricity, you want it to be 100 floors, you want it to be commercial grade, like we'll help you figure all that out, we'll do all the plumbing, we'll do all the electricity, we'll wire up everything, we don't build buildings, all this is kind of a CRM metaphoric.
Isaac Morehouse 9:10
I got you though it's, it's, it's the difference between like, Hey, you want us to build you a stadium that can accommodate 20,000 people on game day, and everyone will have a great experience, and it's going to maximize the amount of revenue you'll get from them from concessions and all these different things.
Conner Jeffers 9:27
We'll do that we're not going to be we're not going to drive the 20,000 attendees there for you. Right. That's right. That's a separate thing we're gonna tell you to do with us. And there's, and I think the difference there right is and I think that I don't think you can do both. I think you either are really good at construction, and you're really good at building stuff and you really understand how that works. Or you are really good at marketing services. And often what we see I think, especially in the HUBZone ecosystem is there's folks that are really good at drawing people to the stadium and they know how to play like okay, we need to fix a couple of these chairs. We might need to let like ads if we think we should change the concession stand It's like they're really good at that. And I think what we see is so like, we have the largest technical consulting team in the HUBZone ecosystem, by and large, because those are the only people we have, like everyone that works here is either a developer, a, like a support resource, and our people ops team or operations team, or their technical consultant. That's everybody, there is no one else. And so we don't have account managers, I don't have content creators, I don't have marketing strategists, like I have nobody except for technical consultants. And so what we see in the market, like on the hiring side is we have a lot of people that like, Hey, I'm a technical consultant, I'm inside of a marketing agency or, you know, a Reb ops firm or whatever. But I primarily want to build stuff. And I like to architect stuff. And I like to solve those kinds of technical problems. And I mainly do that here, but I do it from the lens of, hey, we have to solve this problem in order to get to this next place. And they're kind of this bridge, as opposed to they're the main show and the main event. And that's kind of where we focused
Isaac Morehouse 10:56
that clarity of, hey, we do not do this. And these are two separate things is so it's just so refreshing to hear you say that because all of a sudden, I'm having these realizations of the times that I have worked with agencies in the past that have basically said, We'll do both of these things, right, we'll help you, we'll drive that growth. And then we'll salute and and I found one of the one of the two things happens, either, I'm thinking, great, I'm gonna see my traffic and my leads and my everything go up into the right. And I'm paying them to do this. And instead, I'm like, well, all they're doing is spending all this time thinking around, if making the operational efficiencies, I'm there, I paid them for growth, because they told me they could do that. Or the other may go out there and they get some activity churning. But our whole process is a mess. No one can track or measure anything. And it's almost like the more it grows, the worse it gets. And then you're like, is the growth I'm paying for real growth? Like, okay, our numbers are up, but our revenue is the same. Sorry, I just getting crappy leads? Or is it because we're dropping those somewhere in the end? You can't tell because this. So here's the question for you. And then we'll we'll kind of get more into the partnership stuff. I know, this is the poor girl podcast, but I can't help you can add on some of this, you know, marketing and early company stage stuff. Do you think there is a sequence that makes most sense? So if we're sticking with a stadium analogy, is it like, Hey, wait till you're selling out? And everybody's complaining about lions at the concession stand? And then bring in the architects to make everything efficient? Or is it like, no, no, we do that from day one. Set up everything, right? Because to me that a big investment? Yeah, definitely. I think the cost of fixing it gets higher, the longer you go, but on the other hand, is like a scrappy bootstrapping type founder. I'm like, I don't want to worry about any of that stuff and tell us
Conner Jeffers 12:35
here's where they're gonna have to survive. Like, I think that that's really the question like, if you're in survival mode, like how effectively you're surviving, like, doesn't matter. You're just like, I'm eating, I'm drinking water, like, I'm not dead. This is great. And like, every day, it's that problem. And someone's like, oh, well, we could get like the water a little bit faster and these things and you're like, do we have water for tomorrow? And I think that that's a very different mindset. And I think what we've done, and we certainly started of, like, let's work with lots of really early stage companies, and we totally still do some of that. But I would say most of our work is these days, like larger scale organizations migrating from a Salesforce or a dynamics or, and trying to like, implement and build something new. And they're wanting all of the benefits that come with that. But they have a marketing team. They have an internal sales team, they're not trying to outsource some part of their core function. They're trying to build and migrate and create something new. Or we often see like, very capitalized organizations trying to get up and do stuff. And I tell folks all the time, especially if like, Hey, we're really early stage, we're really scrappy. We're not really focused on building this thing into this repeatable infrastructure model. We're really just trying to get something going right now. And my answer is like, don't work with hyper technical stuff. And I think that that's one of the reasons you've seen, HubSpot grow so effectively at that lower end of the market as well is because it's fast to get up and running. And you can do a lot of stuff yourself out of the box. And that makes it a default choice for a lot of these really early stage hyperscale companies, because when you're changing things so quickly, and you're like, This is my business process this week, and next week, we might do something completely different. You really need something that's hyper flexible.
Isaac Morehouse 14:12
Yeah, yeah, there abouts ability to, to scale all the way up is just massively impressive to be something that you truly can use when you're a three person company and you're just going out of the box all the way up to I mean, I don't know what the upper limit on HubSpot is. But it's been it's been pretty cool to see that. So this kind of takes me into getting into the HubSpot ecosystem a little bit. You guys are like the fastest partner to ever reach HubSpot elite certification. So that signals to me that you're all in you've you invested heavily in like crushing it within that ecosystem. What what has HubSpot done so right in building this partner ecosystem that like that makes you able to build such a thriving business on it that made like, what have they done that others have failed to do? What do you see from your vantage point? And not necessarily in the early days, but like even now, like we had to do we, you know, in recent times to keep that. So thriving.
Conner Jeffers 15:13
Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest thing for me was like, how it's not a super partner centric, like as an organization. There's some like 43% of HubSpot customers are attached to a partner, like they have a partner in their portal. And that's nuts. That's like a crazy number. And I think what they do as an organization is and I was just, I was literally just talking to a Salesforce partner like a week ago who's starting to look at the HubSpot ecosystem and some of this other stuff, and he's like, Salesforce, never cares about us. And we've like become a HubSpot Gold partner, because we're just adding marketing hub to our Salesforce customers. And like, we source way more revenue for Salesforce and HubSpot. And we feel like how's that, like, cares about us more, which feels odd. I think they're this very partner centric organization. They care a lot about how partners work in their ecosystem. They have dedicated partner managers to folks, they have partner events, like partners is is a core constituency to HubSpot that they care about as much as customers and employees. And I think that that really manifests in how they approach the market, how they build things, how they do stuff, and you see it have like, they have the the in HubSpot, you can switch seamlessly between all of these different customer accounts. It's in the product in the way that they like have mechanisms for you to get access and open up features to you as a partner, you have direct lines into into HubSpot at large and I think that they are I think some of the HubSpot partners, when they get frustrated with some of the changes or things that are happening writ large, I think that it comes from a little bit of like, it kind of is like I've never been out of the country. And it sort of feels sometimes, like things are gonna be really bad with other people like you, they don't care and you have issues and like no one takes you seriously, it doesn't mean that you're always getting a better outcome. But I think that absorb really has been very partner centric. And they've really worked as the partners are a key constituency we care about and not just like a means by which for us to acquire new leads.
Isaac Morehouse 17:10
You know, one thing that I have noticed, and you probably know this much, much better than I but HubSpot is really good at giving the answers to the test. So when it comes to people that are interested in partnering with them, it's not like, okay, here you go, go do these things. And then you could fill out this form that is if they literally are like, here's every step like you feel like it's, you know, a tutor that wants you to pass the test, right. So because I was just talking to a friend who's a kid, I was poking around and learning more about their ecosystem over the last several months, especially, it's talking to a friend who runs a really small agency, and that he was showing me like they sent him this whole, you know, like way, way down market stuff. He's a one person agency right now. And he's gonna hire a few people. They sent him this whole spreadsheet checklist that's like, here you go, here's all the things go ahead, you fill it out, it's a little workflow you fill out when you've achieved this, and this and this, and then I and it's like, every single step, we want to show you exactly how to succeed with us, and give you all the answers to the test. And like, there's just something to your point, like, it just it feels like wow, they want me to succeed. And that's like a that's like a cultural thing. You know, it's like,
Conner Jeffers 18:21
it's, I think it is so cultural. And it is so embedded in how they approach things that I think it's very, we want you here, we want you to be a part of this. And I think it's really interesting, because when you think about how they've adapted from, like that, approach an angle that's like, it's weird for people, because they'll come in, they're like, this is like a very weird kumbaya type of space. But I think that there's times that are weird, right? Where like, Hubzu will come to us and be like, hey, like, they're running this event right now, as an example, where they're doing like the partner to partner showcase. And the partner partner showcases like partners, showing other partners, things they've built and how they built them and like doing knowledge, share and transfer. And when we first came into the house, that ecosystem, it was a lot of this, like, why would I come to something and give my competitors the secret sauce? That feels really weird to me. And I think what's really interesting is that attitude, which to be fair, like, I think as they've evolved from we have a whole bunch of marketing agencies and those marketing agencies do completely different things to completely different customer segments. And the only similarity is they use HubSpot to do it. Now shifting to like, these are partners that are vying for the same deal on the same opportunity and the same implementation work. Some of that hasn't been necessarily completely adapted over. But I think that like that attitude in the beginning, was met that has that have like yeah, just come on down. Like
Isaac Morehouse 19:47
is HubSpot carbon for Salesforce. If your Salesforce How worried are you? I mean, I just looked up their market caps like 194 billion to 21 billion so they could be like, ah, little hubs. Yeah, that's cute, but like, you know what my friends he gave Coleman always says, Would you rather put your money on the guy that looks pretty ripped because it used to go to the gym, but it hasn't for a year or the guy that doesn't look that great, but he's been going to the gym every single day for the last, you know, six months. Like, it's about that direct. Like,
Conner Jeffers 20:12
I think I finally I think it's that? Yes, I think the answer is yes, I think that helps. I said, Hey, we need to go build our core CRM platform, they are crushing in the lower end of the market. And to your point, they've kind of become this default choice for like early stage startups. And what we're seeing happen is the upper end of the market, lots of people have Salesforce fatigue, lots of people are frustrated with how much they spend on the software, the team internally to support it, the external services and consultants that they get in order to make it work and feeling frustrated by by what they're getting. And those customers for a long time have been looking for something else and for a long time, there just wasn't anything like your option was like you go Salesforce or you go with like the CRM module of like sage or net or NetSuite like it's worse. And I think that those customers are drawn to HUBZone. I think what's happening and what we see us doing in relation to the ship to like, what's our relationship with Amazon at this point, like we are a cosell partner, our job with HubSpot, sellers, HubSpot prospects and customers like my lead form 100% of the inbound leads on the episode a website are Hey, I am a HubSpot customer or I am HubSpot curious. And I want to build this thing. And I want to do it in HubSpot and I want to make it work. Can you help us show us how it's possible? And what's happening is that shifting from Oh, well, the feature doesn't do that or whatever. It's like, yeah, we can do that for it. And I think that's how the shift happens is the product has achieved parity, the market sentiment is still tipping.
Isaac Morehouse 21:58
This might be sacrilegious to say on the partner of podcasts. But I wonder I'm just thinking out loud here. If there's a way in which the a certain type of partner centric approach can really harm your ability to go down market, I'm thinking about you know, Benioff being like, you know, for every for every dollar that we make our partners make whatever the big, big investment is partner ecosystem for Salesforce, which obviously has been massively successful. But one of the things I noticed being one of those early stage startups, one of the things that makes you not want to use Salesforce is because immediately, you know, I'm not going to be able to set it up myself, I'm going to need to hire a third party. Because it's complex. It's complicated. Now, that's great for the robustness of that ecosystem that like you've got these, you know, solutions, partners, and everything involved. But if, but it really limits that, like, if you can't do it out of the box, self serve that first rung, those first couple rungs on the ladder are not available to you. So it's kind of like how do you combine that like plg, you know, early self serve user with pay, super users need all kinds of stuff. They need all kinds of supports around you. Yeah, just kind of kind of thinking out loud about that.
Conner Jeffers 23:09
No, I mean, I think I think what's interesting, right, and I just I just trying to find them the number and I can't find it. But like there are Salesforce partners that source billions of dollars of services revenue surrounding the Salesforce platform. And Salesforce is dependent on the likes of Accenture and Capgemini. And slalom to retain and expand that fortune 500 customer base. And that is like a massive percentage of sales versus net revenue. And so when Salesforce looks at the product, and they look at how the product works, and they look at who they're building and who they're solving for the avatar of who Salesforce is building features for is the senior architect at Accenture that manages the Pepsi account. And how can we give that person the functionality and ability to deliver something for Pepsi global in all of these different pieces like that, that's what they're building for HubSpot, by contrast, is building for the VP of Marketing, the VP of sales, the Rev ops leader, and increasingly, this technical operations person who maybe is doing some coding, maybe building some stuff stringing together systems cares about the API, but I think that you see that in the way that they build product and what the features do and how they work. And there's certainly some things that can sometimes be frustrating there and I think that some people are like, well, Salesforce is infinitely extensible and can build everything under the sun. And I think that's right. And I think that if you are a fortune 500 company today HUBZone is not on the table for you. But if you're most anyone else like
Isaac Morehouse 24:50
it absolutely is and you metaphor that the companies that only the fortune 500 companies tomorrow, yeah, right. And I think upside is catching up in that arena fast.
Conner Jeffers 24:58
The extensibility is crazy. The end code that I've been sharing recently is like back when I did Salesforce work, the number one thing that we had to teach our teams and had to teach our developers to do is just because you can build that thing doesn't mean that you should, because if you can build it, and it works, it might not be usable for the end user. And we used to not care about that in HubSpot at all because you just couldn't really build yourself into a corner that's changing. We're running into situations where like, oh, we can code it, we can build it, we can string together some CMS pages and some serverless functions and some coded actions and some CRM guards. And we can like build this thing that's really intense. And then we have to be like, Oh, wow, this isn't usable, or maintainable. And like that's starting to happen. And I think that the opening of that means that Amazon is really nailing this end user usability extensibility concept, while also allowing for a high degree of customization and tailoring for some of those up market customers, which is really where we like to play.
Isaac Morehouse 25:52
So when I feel like we there's so many things on my list that we have it just breezes by. I'm having so much fun. This is like, this is education. So you mentioned that you have this kind of the four epochs of HubSpot, that you've gotten mapped out. What walk us through that. And yeah, there's kind of like a parallel like four epochs that you seeing happening moving from like affiliates to agency. Yeah, yeah. So yeah, so I love a good framework. So
Conner Jeffers 26:22
this one's new, new for me. But it's, it's cool. We're, we're getting excited about it. So I think when you think about about HUBZones, I break HubSpot into like four different epochs here. So the first one is kind of HubSpot, the marketing software. So HubSpot was was started in 2006, that this marketing software they had, I think, originally, the first product was just like a blog builder. And they were like, Oh, we have landing pages, we have email marketing. And we like added more and more functionality. But the HubSpot as a marketing software company, was true from 2006 to 2014. And in 2014, they launched the CRM, the first version of sales hub, on the CRM side, which sort of came out of an acquisition and they put it in. And at that point in time, I sort of break into like second epoch, which is SMB growth software. So SMB grow software is like sales, marketing, and the original version of sales hub, which today is like where they bundle a lot of the CRM and the sales acceleration stuff was like email tracking. So literally, it's a Gmail plugin, track your emails, and you could schedule emails, and like, that was it sold product. And the original CRM had, like, Oh, now we have a company record, before we just had contacts. Now you have like a company record, and you can put them in, and you can create a deal, and you can like move it through some stages. And that was it. And that was SMB grow software, where they were like, Okay, we're going to take on Pipedrive, we're going to take on Zoho, like, we're gonna do some stuff at the at the base level of the market sales and marketing. Then in 2017, they launched Service Hubs. So now you have like what I called like the the SMB CRM as like the 30 POC and that SMB CRM is really, how do we build on, we have basic service functionality, we have basic sales functionality, we have pretty advanced marketing functionality, and we're continuing to invest there. But we're really building this all on all in one out of the box, you're a small business, you need your sales marketing service, you should use our product, and that's who we're solving for. And increasingly, a lot of these upper end customers are using marketing hub plus Salesforce to sell bigger and bigger stuff. And then I think in 2021, when we think about like, when did things really change for episode eight, and when did we start saying like, Whoa, there is a lot of opportunity in the HubSpot space was really in 21. And in 21 of us, I added custom objects. So now you're not limited to companies, contacts, deals, tickets, like you can build whatever you want any object for anything under the sun, and operations hub, which now you can add code inside of HubSpot, and instead of being limited, so that basically did two things. One, your data model is no longer limited to what does HubSpot give you you can now build it for whatever you want. And your automation functionality is no longer limited to what is HubSpot give you you can go do whatever you want. And so when that happens, it sort of opens up this big platform possibility. And that's really where I think like current HubSpot epoch is like mid market CRM platform. And now you can build whatever you want on top of HubSpot in order to make it work. And so I think aligning to those. When we think about like epochs of partners and what partners exist in each one of these is originally I was I wasn't that complicated. So you couldn't do that much services on top of it, like hard to do like your blogging platform. People maybe could sell content services. Thank God the partners, the original HubSpot partners, were affiliates, like their job was like we're a marketing agency. We refer people to HubSpot, we get a check. And that's why HubSpot is original model. And it was this way for 10 years, right? 20,000 2010 more than 10 years, what 12 years. 13 years. They were old. Enough it is it doesn't 10 They added like hey, we launched the partner program all affiliates who resell HubSpot, and that's it. Then what started happening is a lot of these partners started to figure out hey, I can not only can I resell HubSpot, I can sell services on top of HubSpot. And not only do I make the commission from selling the software. I'm now getting customers on and I'm doing content marketing, and I'm doing blog creation. I'm doing email marketing. And you had this rise of like the HubSpot agency. And most of them were not like branding or selling themselves as we're HubSpot experts, you should work with us. They're going to market and saying we're a marketing agency who works with automotive companies. And in order to work with us, you have to buy HubSpot. And now you have this rise in the marketing agency. And what's happened is we're entering this like, next end when right when we got into kind of epoch, I think I'm three told you it's a new framework, I have to like keep tabbing between these these years. But when we got into like epoch three, where we saw as this rise of like these, this Reb ops type partner who's like, Oh, we don't just do marketing services, we do like some sales service stuff, we do some service service stuff, we like help you build stuff on top, and we're gonna like help you grow and power your flywheel and do all this stuff. And you had a lot of these Reb ops firms start to come out of the woodwork. And some of them have grown a lot of the traditional agencies and started to pivot away and started to say, hey, we want to be robots, too. We don't just want to be marketing services companies. And what's also started to happen. And I honestly think this is in the last year. So when custom objects came out. And when operations hub came out, we did this like operations hub playbook of here's all this cool stuff you can do with operations up and that was this mega mega viral content asset. Because everyone was like, why would I? Why would I write code and HubSpot workflow action? Like? Why is that interesting? We were like, here's all this cool stuff you could do with it. And so I think now you're starting to see the very initial parts of technical consulting partners that are starting to come in and say, Oh, we can help a company build really cool operational infrastructure and deliver remarkable, amazing customer experiences. And we can do that on top of HubSpot the platform. And that's what we do, as opposed to coming in and saying, We can help you use HubSpot, the feature set to accelerate your growth and help you do all these things. And so I think as HubSpot has changed, partners have adapted and pivoted and modeled themselves after it. And some of that has been reactionary, but a lot of it has honestly been HubSpot going to market and saying, This is what we need now. And you guys need to look this way. Because that's the type of partner we need to accelerate and grow.
Isaac Morehouse 32:12
What an amazing rundown. I love that. Your I hope you got some visuals that will be coming out at some Yeah, we'll
Conner Jeffers 32:18
do well, we'll take some of the stuff we have internally make it into a big blog post, I'm sure
Isaac Morehouse 32:23
Oh, I love it. I love it. You said that that guide when they came out with the you know, custom objects and all that stuff that you aptitude eight made that kind of guide to absorb and everything I could do with it. And it went viral. I just immediately like heard that was like that right there. That is that is when you know you are running your ecosystem first approach effectively is when you come out with a new feature. And it's not I'm sure HubSpot had content about it, too. It didn't really well. But when companies that are servicing your ecosystem, they're introducing content about how to use your product that's going viral. Like that's the ultimate right, like, and you see this at any of the really thriving communities. I mean, how many people just make a living just writing content about cool things you can do with notion or whatever gets Yeah, like totally. Did you Okay, so let me ask you. Do you work with other vendors? Like do you do implementations? I mean, I'm sure as you're building out people's stack for them. Yeah. You're pulling in all kinds of other? Are those like Jeff formal partnerships with any anyone else? Are you trying to get certified by any other vendor? Yeah. And HubSpot. So what does that look like? How do they compare?
Conner Jeffers 33:37
Yeah, so we totally do. So two that come to mind immediately really been like three, right? So we have like Thinkery, which is the data integration platform, I think that they would hate calling themselves that because they also kind of have the like, anti thing. But sorry, I don't remember what the specific specific game kind of like an iPass, I've fast solution. And then high touch, which is sort of a data warehousing to CRM Sync tool that we've used on a handful of occasions. And where we really look at it as like, those are companies that typically, either they approach us or we have more often than not like we're running into a client problem. And we're looking for a solution. And we're trying to build a thing. And the thing that makes us excited to work with any of those partners is when they can really accelerate our ability to provide value back to that customer. So for us, it's it's, Hey, look, we know how to do really, really well, we know the problems that really, really well. We're not like a typical in house customer buyer, right? Like we're coming in, and we're really solutioning something and we're trying to figure out that solution. And if the the faster you can help us validate that the solution we're trying to build for our customer is viable, the faster that we can steer them in the direction of working with you. And the more of those we do, the more we start integrating you into the content that we do the case studies that we do, and that sort of compounds and accelerates over time. And I think that those are kind of like the ways that we think about it, and then We've had a really interesting run with stripe where like at the outset, Stripe came out and said, We're gonna build this big partner program. They went out at everybody they possibly could as a partner and they got, we're really into big logos, a big consulting firms. And then a lot of that didn't work out as well as they may be anticipated. And they've kind of pivoted back to, oh, we need partners that are smaller and scrappier, and hands on keyboard and technical and helping the mid market and not these like like we're not Salesforce, basically, like we're stripe, we don't need slalom and Accenture. We need the aptitude eighths of the world, right. And so that's what we're looking for. And so we've kind of had a similar relationship with them. And we'd love to see that relationship get to kind of the HubSpot level for sure.
Isaac Morehouse 35:41
So when you're at this phase, I think it's really interesting for for those out there who are running partner programs and kind of trying to trying to be in those conversations. When companies like yours, you're at that stage with customers where you're running into a problem. And you're like, Okay, what what can we what solutions are there out there? What software exists for this? And you start kind of doing that initial opening round? I mean, it's not like you've never heard of some of these already. But like, what are in those earliest phases of trying to discover who you might want to work with? What are like the first things you're coming across? I mean, are you literally like, going to just doing Google search and looking at what kind of content you're coming across? Is it word of mouth? Like? Yeah, is it that makes somebody come across your desk as a potential solution for a problem you have with a customer?
Conner Jeffers 36:26
I think it's word about I think internal, its internal word of mouth first, like the first thing that we'll do is like you see it just like in our internal teaches, like trust
Isaac Morehouse 36:33
is the new data or something.
Conner Jeffers 36:35
That's true. I think what happens, right, that we see is like, internally, someone is like, Hey, has anyone ever acts? And like, in our internal team chat, someone will raise their hand, like, oh, actually, I did something similar like that with this client. Here's what they did, I could ask them what tool they were using. And we kind of go through that process, I think next is you'll go from, you'll start to ask anybody that you think has the degree of expertise, right? And then they're going to kind of tell you some stuff. And then last, we'll actually sort of start to formally research stuff and go through those pieces. And I think, when you capture that demand, and I think especially from somebody that is a one, like when I think about this, like with happily as an example, we divvied this out, because like partner distribution is our core strategy. And so we think about a lot of like, is this a one to one opportunity? Or is this a one to many opportunity. And if it's a one to many opportunity, like it is not a sales process, like you are not trying to run somebody through a demo and everything else, because like they don't, they don't have a whole bunch of needs that you're trying to like demonstrate how you can capture, like they have a specific pointed problem for one particular use case. And once you validate that their one particular use case is solvable, they will open up to all the other things that you might be able to do. But what we find like Sofer, I'm rambling a little bit, but hopefully you're not in the right direction. Perhaps what you is like if you are a HubSpot partner, and you are asking about a happy app, or if we have a customer who installs something and they're connected to a partner, we go reach out to that partner and pull them in the conversation is immediately led, show you how this can do the thing you are trying to do and solve that problem. And once we validate that use case, we can start exploring all sorts of other stuff, because you're talking about a technical buyer with a pointed problem who's looking for a pointed solution, which is very different than a business buyer, evaluating options and trying to compare and contrast you to a bunch of other stuff. And I think if you immediately go into a demo type of environment with that business buyer, they're going to get lost. And they're like, Well, what problems do you solve? Why should I care, whatever else, that solution buyer is, like, show me that you can do the thing I need to do. And the longer it takes you to do that, the faster I'm going to get up to speed with an alternative. And then I'm going to show you how to use that alternative, not just for this solution, but for every other solution I come across.
Isaac Morehouse 39:05
Man, when you were talking, I got so excited Connor because I asked you, you know, Hey, how are you? You have a problem with the customer? How are you deciding you know, which software tools you want to go look at as possible solutions? You said three things in the first two first was in our internal team slack in your trusted community of people, you know, you're saying, has anyone ever X and and then next you're like, hey, who has the expertise on this? And then you're like, and finally we'll do some formal research. I have been Jared and I have been on this kick lately of this idea that we've moved from the house economy to the Hulu economy. And in the house economy. It's like how do I solve X? Right? And that's that's mostly Google. You're doing product comparisons like GE to your you're trying to get the information about how to solve something. Now that informed there's just so much information that people have switched to asking Who Who do I I know that I can ask about this. And your first two things were who questions? Has anyone here done this? You're asking who on your team, as run across this before? You're asking who has the expertise? And so like, that is where that and again, I mean, it's it's right into our thesis with partner hacker like trust is the new data. We're just overwhelmed with all this information. So being in those conversations, or partnering with those who already are in those conversations, right, like, that's where it matters. It's those personal connections, those nodes of trust that nodes
Conner Jeffers 40:29
of trust is like, a really good way to think about it.
Isaac Morehouse 40:33
Yeah, yeah. You're you're you're just feeding my little narrative so much. It's right. So okay, we haven't even gotten to happily so I want to I want to round it out. chatting about chatting about happily really cool to see this announcement. And recently, um, there's only a couple of months ago, I believe that HubSpot ventures invested in happily, which used to be called aptitude, eight labs or eight Labs, which was your, as you mentioned before, you just can't help yourself doing these little
Conner Jeffers 41:01
lab I was just I'm always just trying to do a studio again, like that's,
Isaac Morehouse 41:06
like all I'll show you to relive the studio days. But talk to me about that, that that was kind of that was really interesting for me to see that. HubSpot, investing in that and seemed like, it just seems like a really interesting that you've got this consultancy over here. And then you've got HubSpot is this big company over here. And they invest in you starting another company that's complementary but independent to after to date that is essentially building your own. As far as I understand it, maybe you can explain but building your own apps and solutions on top of HubSpot. So what what made you feel like this was a necessary next step, besides your obsession with just the route to recreate the tears you're sharing. So the
Conner Jeffers 41:51
happy story really starts with, with a we went and we participated in one of the hubs, I was doing app accelerators, where they were really inviting people who were entrepreneurs or partners or whoever to like come and build apps on top of HubSpot. So we came up with an idea which was is now associate just one of our most prolific apps. It's kind of all over the place with with 1000s and 1000s of users and Associates, basically a VLOOKUP, inside of HubSpot. So all it does is it lives in a workflow, you add a you add a record. So let's use an example of like a ticket, right? So you have a form on your website, someone submits the form, you have a field on that forum called order number that creates a ticket and all associate does is it lets you go and say, Okay, take this ticket, go search my database of the deals table, find a deal that has a deal ID that matches the order ID in this ticket and link them together. But what that does is it allows somebody who's like an admin, to do stuff that normally you would need code to do. And they can start building like really complex relational databases and all sorts of really cool functionality on top of HubSpot using associate and so the our first foray into it was like, here's the thing we need, we need it pretty frequently, we should build it. And so we built the app. And we put it into the app accelerator and we got a bunch of users, and then everything broke. Because I know how to build one off products. And what we do adapt to data is like build a solution for one customer in one portal. All of a sudden, I now had 50 customers and they all were sending me requests and all the requests, were getting backlogged and you had a customer being like, hey, my thing didn't run. And I was like, oh, no, that's true. It's because you're in mind behind the guy who submitted 200,000. And you're like, I don't know that guy. Like, why is it mind running now? And you were like, well, we have like one cue, I don't really know is the answer, because that gets really complicated. And so we sort of really quickly outstripped what we thought associate like what we could do. And so I went to the marketplace. I met with tons and tons and tons of people who were building stuff in and around the HubSpot ecosystem, and stumbled across DAX and Tyrone, who are now my co founders on on the happy side, and they were running a company called App chemist. At nights and weekends, they were building HubSpot apps. So DAX is kind of like a serial entrepreneur was doing 100 billion things as he always does as anyone who's ever met him. And Tyrone was leading technical m&a at KPMG. They were kind of nights and weekends building HubSpot apps on the side, met them and was like, Hey, you guys are building really cool stuff. Here's our vision of the future of like, I think that there's going to be a huge ecosystem of people building apps and products in on top of and around HubSpot, HubSpot, growing like crazy as a CRM product. There's tons of opportunity to add value to people in that ecosystem. We should do this together. And so we acquired app chemists, we rolled them in to eight, we built out a labs and we sort of started to build all these products. And so that's what we were doing for the better part of 2022. In that process we have like right now, I think we have like 30 I don't know we have somewhere between three and 4000 installs across all of our portfolio of apps and We started talking to HubSpot ventures. And they were telling us how Hey, we really think that somebody needs to go and build this this app studio in the HubSpot ecosystem. We're really excited about companies like app fire, which is in the Atlassian ecosystem or bolt commerce in the Shopify ecosystem. And we really need to draw people in to come build stuff on top of HubSpot. The difficulty is, we can't really invest in a partner. Because there's a lot of concerns there for a whole bunch of different reasons. And we don't typically lead investments. So we look for somebody to have like a lead investor, like Sequoia or an a16z. And then like we write a tagalong check that's kind of like our jam. So we don't really know how this would work. And so the conversation I had with them was, well, what do we spin this out? What if you guys lead it? And what if we do it as a separate company, and we sort of go really heavy in the HubSpot ecosystem. And so we all got really excited about this idea. We spun it out as a separate company. And so now happily is out here building HubSpot apps and our plan is to build a whole bunch of stuff on top of HubSpot for HubSpot, errs, HubSpot partners and HubSpot customers.
Isaac Morehouse 46:13
So for you personally, how I was going so far, I asked you this as someone who, who ran with similar afflictions, I just I you know, I had a bootstrap, basically services company, right, not not software business that was, you know, running along. And then I tried to build a software platform that was venture backed, and run both the same time, I did it a lot worse and a lot more messy than you did, I made a lot of a lot of mistakes there. But just the the difference is in the incentives, when it's like, Okay, we got to, you know, bring clients every month we're running our we're running our business, our services business, versus what are we trying to invest in and build the software company? Like, does that just fragment your brain? Or are you just right in your sweet spot jumping between those two?
Conner Jeffers 47:04
It's definitely hard. I'll say like my years of consulting with multiple companies at once, and like context switching and code switching all the time. And I, I don't know I have some I have some superpowers that are a little few and far between. But one of them that I go that I could do that I get greetings from from other people is like I can I can pretty quickly jump between different contexts. And I think it's just like lots of training of, I was a freelancer, I was a consultant, I built the services business. I'm like serving multiple customers at one time and jumping between, you know, business model a business model C and having those conversations. So I think, one I'm good at that. And that's been a little bit helpful. They're totally different. I think the other piece is like, I have an incredible leadership team on the aptitude aid side, and they run the majority of the business on a day to day basis and do a really bang up job. And so on the happy side, Dax and Tyrone are amazing. We've really built out a pretty solid team on the happy end. And I think about my, my job. And my role is I need to build, maintain and manage a really strong relationship with with HubSpot, the mothership. So I spend a lot of time doing that. I really need to know what HubSpot, the product is capable of to both know what types of software we need to be building but also what kinds of services that could theoretically be provided. And I also need to really understand the HubSpot customer, and what the HubSpot customer wants and needs and what problems they're trying to solve. And that scales to both businesses, I think to bring it all the way back to like when I tried to do the studio on my own for the first time. Our problem was, we were trying we started like four different separate products and companies and solutions that had completely different markets, completely different segments, completely different solutions. And like you can't manage all of that. But when I think about what's really become interesting is it's almost given me this like counterweight where when something comes in, we really think about it and are like is this is this that absolutely a problem? Or is this a happily problem? Like who's better suited to actually handle it? And the lanes are pretty distinct? We really look at it as like, is this a problem that is a one to many we're building a product, we're going to support that product, it's going to be installable by a user, it's going to be configurable by a user like really needs to have lower level requirements in order for it to be largely successful, or are we building something that's specific to one company, one organization, one distinct problem set, and that really helps us guide it towards the organization best suited to solve it?
Isaac Morehouse 49:34
Yeah, yeah, if Jared were here, I think he would probably he loves to say this brain is operating in your zone of genius. And that's where you have multiple layers of value creation all happening simultaneously with a single activity or action. So like, your ability that you know, I'm guessing the reason that these two very different business models and businesses can can work at the same time. They both enhance It's your ability to live in market like to stay so up to date. So you know, the needs of people who are trying to build out their their Reb ops and everything in HubSpot, you know, on the HubSpot stack. But you also know, the builders who are building apps, they're right you know their world because you're one of them, right? And then you know that people are looking to buy new buyer use new apps in outside and these things just like feed each other, they each one makes you better at the other thing. And that's like where you get that. That's so interesting. You mentioned that there with the the lab because that was one of the I think one of my own realizations was you know, trying to create spin off a software product from a services business. I did have all of these earned secrets, but they were for a market, a very small niche of the market, that behaved totally different, and from the market as a whole. And I took those assumptions, I built a product that turns out, serve that niche brilliantly, and they loved it. But nobody beyond that niche, because all of my live in market knowledge came from this tiny subset. And I underestimated how different they were from the rest of the market. But finding the way where they layer on top of each other and saying, Look, we're serving the same market with different solutions, right, like everybody in this HubSpot ecosystem that those things can can actually be additive. So you're you're not actually pulled in two directions. Like if every time you have a meeting or do something for happily, it probably actually makes your work at up to date more valuable and vice versa. And that's that, you know,
Conner Jeffers 51:29
that's not the pitch anyway. That's, that's all I think it's true, the majority of the time might help you justify this decision to yourself, you know, is it true? Or does it does it really just reinforce my feedback loop? I don't know. But feel feels good.
Isaac Morehouse 51:47
I love it. I love it. This is absolutely awesome. I feel like we could have we could have gotten all the more we'll have to get you back again. And what were like if people want to dive into some of the content you're putting out there is LinkedIn the best place to
Conner Jeffers 51:59
LinkedIn man, LinkedIn is the place to go. I only have the one the one outlet personally, we have like newsletters and stuff across all of our other channels if you want to check those out. But yeah, follow me on LinkedIn. I talked about this stuff all the time. If you're interested in this stuff, reach out. I'm exceedingly accessible. I often get like, whoa, you replying to me really fast, you're actually going to talk to me and again, I'm happy to so feel free to reach out
Isaac Morehouse 52:24
exceedingly accessible. I like to watch to the chagrin of
Conner Jeffers 52:27
all of my loved ones.
Isaac Morehouse 52:31
Trust me, I can relate to that. My wife's like, Have you ever thought about not doing the zero inbox thing? God are so awesome to talk with you. Partner up. Peace out. We'll see you next time.
Conner Jeffers 52:44
Absolutely. Thank you.