Globe 100 Innovators | High Technology

Talking in code

Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot tops our list of innovators in high tech

Dharmesh Shah Dharmesh Shah (Illustration by Joel Kimmel for The Boston Globe)
May 22, 2011

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1. Dharmesh Shah, cofounder and chief technical officer, HubSpot Inc.Dharmesh Shah, 43, spent much of 2010 raising $32 million in venture capital for HubSpot Inc., an online marketing platform for small and midsize businesses, bringing its total venture investment to $65 million. But just about every day, he manages to write software code, even if it means staying up till 2 a.m.

“Writing software isn’t work for me,’’ he said. “It’s a calling.’’

That is echoed in an online biography, where Shah wrote, “I still write code as it keeps me in touch with reality and makes me a better entrepreneur. Plus, I enjoy it.’’

An “engineer at heart,’’ Shah said he has “a passion around building things,’’ and that extends to the entrepreneurial community in Boston and around the world.

He built HubSpot from a two-person, 2006 MIT dorm room dream to a bustling 200-person operation in Kendall Square. Before that, he founded Pyramid Digital Solutions, an enterprise software company bootstrapped with only $10,000, which he ran from 1994 until he sold it in 2005. Shah also runs, a prominent blog and community for entrepreneurs. He also maintains small investments in “20 or 21’’ early stage companies.

“It’s important to me to support early stage entrepreneurs,’’ he said, “because many of them have wild, crazy ideas that may not make sense to a lot of people.’’

– D.C. Denison

2. Jeffrey Anderson, chief executive, Quick Hit The big coup in the world of video games last year belonged to a company in Foxborough: Quick Hit Inc., which scored a license from the National Football League for an online football video game. Most industry observers assumed the NFL contract that allowed game giant Electronic Arts to produce licensed football games was exclusive. But it turned out EA's deal covered only console, computer, and handheld games — not games played online.

"We found a space where we could operate, and obviously the NFL felt the same," said Jeffrey Anderson, 44, the founder of Quick Hit.

The company launched its NFL game to the delight of online players. Around three million users now log on and play Quick Hit regularly, he said.

Anderson believes video game production could be a major engine for growth in Massachusetts. To realize that goal, he's on the steering committee for the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute, a recently established coalition of state officials, video game companies, and colleges that train would—be game programmers.

"We have such a great opportunity to build the economy on digital games," he said.

– John Dyer

3. Jason Jacobs, founder, FitnessKeeper Inc. During RunKeeper's first year, founder Jason Jacobs, 34, ran the operation from a loose network of coffee shops in the Back Bay and Kendall Square. At the time — 2008 — the company marketed a single iPhone app that helped runners track, measure, and improve their workouts.

By 2010, however, Jacobs was hitting his stride, adding apps for the Android and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms and working with makers of health sensors, running coaches, and race organizers. The company, 11 employees strong, no longer has to dodge waitresses: It is now securely settled in a South End warehouse space.

Last year "was the year we transitioned from a running app to health platform with inputs from a lot of devices," Jacobs said. Not that the app is doing badly: In the last four months, as RunKeeper has integrated with more devices, the company's user base has tripled to 5 million.

RunKeeper converts many users of its free app to "elite" customers who pay $5 a month (or $20 a year) for enhanced services. A RunKeeper online store now sells a variety of fitness sensors — including Wi-Fi scales and heart-rate monitors — that integrate with the RunKeeper platform.

"We've been able to springboard our original app into a platform with lots of inputs and functionality," Jacobs said. "Our customers are actually using the Internet to get healthier."

– D.C. Denison

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