He became famous by creating a blog; his work is data-driven and based on statistical analysis; and he has disrupted the world of politics by applying science and information to a field where pundits and practitioners traditionally relied on an inefficient and outdated mix of voodoo, superstition, and intuition.
Is it any wonder that everyone at HubSpot loves Nate Silver, and why we’re psyched that he's doing a keynote speech at our INBOUND conference in August? Apparently we’re not alone in our Nate Silver fandom, as Fast Company just placed this 35-year-old “freelance data scientist” at the top of its 2013 “100 Most Creative People in Business” list.
Also on the Fast Company list, at #10, is another INBOUND keynoter -- Scott Harrison, the founder of charity: water. Indeed, the list is filled with people that we’d consider “inboundy,” from Jackie Wilgar, the EVP of marketing at Live Nation, to Aneel Bhusri, the co-founder and co-CEO of software maker Workday, to Ruzwana Bashir, the co-founder and CEO of Peek, a site that is rethinking travel.
Why We're Excited About This List
To us this reflects a growing awareness of the huge tectonic shift that's taking place in how people work, shop, and learn, and in how companies do business. It's a signal that the old way of reaching customers (via guesswork and wishful thinking) is being displaced by data-driven analysis, and that we're entering an age where companies start by listening to customers, and finding ways to connect with them emotionally.
Harrison's organization -- charity: water -- is a non-profit whose goal is to bring clean drinking water to people in developing countries. It’s a cause we believe in, and an organization we admire for its "inbound" philosophy -- spending zero dollars on traditional marketing, building awareness by creating great content and using social media, and being extremely transparent and metrics-driven. For what it’s worth, charity: water uses HubSpot software. So we're doubly thrilled to see Scott Harrison and his organization getting this recognition.
"Scott is such an inspiration, not just because of what he is accomplishing but because of his quasi-magical ability to make being in his sphere incredibly fun and rewarding. People get excited about charity: water because they deliver such a consistently awesome experience, whether it's with their core mission, or their website, events, storytelling, and trips to see the projects get built," said HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan, a long-time charity: water fan.
Harrison's response to the recognition was typically modest: “I'm honored and humbled to be in such great company," he responded when we reached out to congratulate him on making the Fast Company list.
Nate Silver, King of the Nerds
Silver, the top pick, also personifies the power of inbound thinking. He began his rise to fame by creating content that drew people to him. He started out by playing around in his spare time using statistics to spot promising minor league baseball players. He later moved into politics, launching his FiveThirtyEight.com blog to predict the outcome of presidential elections.
In 2008 Silver correctly called 49 out of 50 states. In 2012 he got all 50 correct, plus had the satisfaction of ticking off big-name political pundits like “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough. Before the election Scarborough called Silver “a joke” for predicting an Obama win, and made a public bet with Silver on the outcome. When the dust settled, Scarborough paid up and offered an apology. Silver took a “cool nerd” victory lap, doing all the morning shows, where he was hailed as a kind of quant superhero.
But Silver’s triumph was about more than just one nerd winning a bet. It was an indication of a bigger tectonic shift, a signal that the old ways of doing business (via guesswork and wishful thinking) was over, displaced by data-driven analysis.
Fast Company’s Jon Gertner says Silver’s story proves that “a skinny supernerd with a big data set and a killer algorithm can be a swashbuckler, too,” and shows that “we have arrived at a moment when data and creativity are bound together in the same vocation.”
You will get no argument from us at HubSpot, and it's exactly why we're excited to see folks like this getting serious recognition from other companies and publications. We believe the same mix of data and creativity makes for marketing that people can actually love. Gertner paints Silver against the wider backdrop of an approach to business that we call “inbound” and that we see sweeping across industries, led by Amazon, Google, and others.
“By vacuuming up the exhaust from web users,” Gertner writes, “such companies have made extraordinary gains in efficiency, trend-spotting, sales, and … research that sometimes translates into societal rather than corporate advantages.”
Does all of this start to feel like a movement? It does to me. And while I have no idea what Silver and Harrison will talk about at the INBOUND conference, I'm pretty sure it’s going to be creative, and amazing.
Let's celebrate creative, inbound-minded people out there. Who would you nominate to the list of the most creative inbound thinkers?