BY ERIC FLOWERS | BEND CORRESPONDENT
Dan Hobin spent the first chapter of his professional life riding the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley where he sharpened his management skills as an executive at startups like Beyond.com and the popular self-publishing platform SmashCast. His career path took a turn, however, when he and his wife came to Bend for a wedding more than a decade ago and fell in love with the town. Hobin saw not only mountains and rivers but a small city on the verge of emerging as a tech hub. Rather than wait for the boom, Hobin jumped in at the leading edge of the curve, founding the search marketing firm G5.
With just a handful of employees, the start-up focused on a few niche industries including self storage and multi-unit housing. G5 had a simple goal: push their clients’ websites to the top of the search results on popular browsers. Since that time, the company has grown from a dozen or so employees to more than 100 associates. It has been named one of the country’s best small employers by Inc. Magazine and continues to grow rapidly while maintaining a culture of creativity and experimentation. In addition to his day job, Hobin is a founder of the Bend Venture Conference, a community-based source of seed capital for local start-ups, and a member of the OSU-Cascades board.
Oregon Business spoke with Hobin about the evolution of search engine optimization, digital marketing and the intersection of work and play in Bend.
What’s behind the name G5?
Originally G5 related to getting our clients listed in the top five results of Google. At the time, 80% of consumers clicked on the top five search engine results. Since that time we have expanded our services to other areas of digital marketing, or what we now call Digital Experience Management.
You built a business around SEO before most people had heard of the term. What lead you to focus on that area?
SEO was actually a popular term to people in the industry — just not the average business owner. We were early at taking what was happening at the large enterprise level and bringing it down to smaller businesses. We are always trying to keep our clients on the cutting edge, which is why we have launched next generation mobile products, responsive design websites and Reputation Management tools.
What is the secret to staying ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing technology sector?
The secret is constantly testing with data and not chasing rainbows. There is always "the next new thing" that promises to get you more customers at a lower cost. The reality is that many of them do not work. We test new technologies and roll out the ones where we see promising results.
You’ve been in Bend for a decade — long enough to see the boom and the bust. What’s your read on Bend’s current economy? Do we have a future in tech?
When I moved to Bend I thought it was on the verge of taking off as a small tech hub. I was a little early. Ten years later it is actually happening. There are several new cool tech start-ups gaining traction. I am very bullish on the Bend tech scene. With bandwidth and the right people you can build a great company anywhere. Bend seems to attract amazing people who have the right priorities.
G5 has been focusing a lot on social and mobile marketing. Can you put the smart phone revolution into perspective with other historic technological innovations?
The smart phone is changing the world and will change every business. We have entered the age of the customer where the customer has more power than ever before. With smart phone in hand, the customer has access to more information about your products and services than ever before. He or she also has the power to rate and review your business to the whole world in seconds. Take very good care of your customers. The age of smoke and mirrors is over.
G5 has earned a reputation as one of the best companies to work for in Oregon and beyond. What’s the secret to keeping your employees happy and motivated?
We try to push the importance of maintaining balance in your life. That is not easy. Our primary core value is to work hard, play hard, and live life. Living life is the most important. I believe people appreciate our values.
You recently invested in a restaurant venture. Is that a hobby, side project, diversification or something else?
My brother-in-law opened Drake in downtown Bend with an amazing chef. I am just a small investor.
What’s your ideal three-day weekend?
We close our office at 1 p.m. on Fridays in the summer to take advantage of where we live. So my ideal two and a half day weekend is golf Friday afternoon followed by dinner with family and friends. Then I chase my three boys around this outdoor playground we live in — whether that is camping, fishing, biking or just hanging at some lake.