HubSpot (NYSE:HUBS) says its mission is to help companies grow better. That's great, but as an investor who owns the stock, I want to know how to tell when HubSpot itself is growing better. What measures should you and I be looking at? CEO and co-founder Brian Halligan appeared to answer that question in comments he made earlier this month during the second-quarter conference call with analysts.

"Expanding functionality within our own products isn't enough," Halligan said. "We've been building a platform that enables our customers to connect all of their front-office applications into HubSpot. This will enable us to truly manage and orchestrate our customer's entire end-to-end customer experience for them."

Translation: For HubSpot, growing better means growing the ecosystem of partners that integrate with its platform, and then encouraging its 65,000-plus customers to use it more often.

A chalk wall at HubSpot's annual customer conference.

HubSpot has made a business of getting others to plug into its platform. Image source: HubSpot

Investing for growth ...

The strategy appears to be working. Halligan told analysts the company now offers "10 integrations we built, more than 300 integrations built by our app partners and many, many more lightweight integrations." The average customer integrates five different third-party applications into its HubSpot environment.

Financial results suggest a correlation between the growing number of companies integrating with HubSpot and its ability to produce sustainable growth at high margins. Gross margin, in particular, has improved every year since 2014, and sits at a six-year high of 80.7% as of this writing. The only question is whether the company can keep it up. Halligan has a strategy to do just that, but you'll need to look at HubSpot Ventures to see it clearly.

... And returns

First unveiled in a December 2018 blog post, HubSpot Ventures is a $30 million venture capital fund. To quote the company:

Portfolio companies must, among other criteria:

• Align with our mission to help millions of organizations grow better
• Have potential to deliver unique value to the HubSpot community
• Be building a leading SaaS-based product
• Embody the values in HubSpot's Customer Code and Culture Code
• Be raising a Seed, Series A, or Series B round with a notable lead investor

That second bullet point stands out, because it speaks directly to what Halligan wants when he talks of HubSpot creating a larger, more vibrant ecosystem. What better way to do that than to invest in companies that either can be made to or are already integrating with the platform?

The bottom line

We'll need to see more deals to know how serious HubSpot is about using its checkbook to beef up the number of integrations available on its platform. In the meantime, it's worth noting that all four of its 2018 investments -- Grow, Crystal Project, Blissfully Tech, and Lorem Technologies -- offer HubSpot integrations. It's a good bet the next one will too.