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Are HubSpot and Constant Contact turning into rivals?

Posted by Scott Kirsner  July 23, 2010 08:19 AM

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About a year ago, Apple issued a press release to announce that Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, was resigning from Apple's board.

"...[A]s Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses with Android and now Chrome OS," Steve Jobs said in the release, "Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest."

I have a hunch we could see a similar thing happen locally, with Constant Contact and HubSpot, two companies that help small and mid-sized businesses with digital marketing. Constant Contact, based in Waltham and run by Gail Goodman, is publicly-traded, and best-known for its subscription service that helps companies manage their e-mail newsletters; HubSpot, headquartered in Cambridge and run by Brian Halligan, helps companies use social media (including blogs and Twitter) to build their customer bases. Goodman sits on HubSpot's board.

HubSpot offers as part of its subscription service an e-mail marketing tool that makes it simple, the company says, to send "a single email to just a few leads or a personalized email offer to your entire database of contacts." In May, Constant Contact bought a small California company specializing in social media, and now offers webinars and an e-book on "35 things you should know about Facebook, Twitter, and other networks."

When I spoke to Goodman last month, she acknowledged that what was once a clear boundary between the two companies is now a bit fuzzier, but she said she didn't have plans to split from HubSpot's board. Goodman, in fact, was over at HubSpot's Kendall Square offices last week to give employees a talk about leadership.

Halligan acknowledges that the two companies have been edging closer together over the past year, but says that HubSpot sells to a "slightly bigger company," with a monthly subscription fee in the $500 range, while Constant Contact targets individuals and small business owners who pay an average of about $30 a month.

As for the question of whether there's a growing conflict with Goodman serving on HubSpot's board, Halligan says "it has definitely come up, but she doesn't seem particularly worried about it, and I'm not. We'll see how it goes down the road."

Goodman joined the HubSpot board in March 2008.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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