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What do you do after launching a successful digital marketing software company, scaling it to 2,000 employees, taking it public and then selling it to cloud-based CRM leader Salesforce for $2.5 billion in cash?
If you’re Scott Dorsey ’99, you do it all over again. Except this time it’s not just one company but nearly a dozen and counting. Dorsey has evolved from the inexperienced entrepreneur he was in 2001 to the sage mentor who now coaches fresh entrepreneurs.
“I loved building a high-growth software company in the Midwest,” says Dorsey of his 12 years with Indianapolis-based ExactTarget. He recently launched High Alpha, the first venture studio that is one part startup studio and one part venture firm, and hopes to enable other tech entrepreneurs to experience the same lightning-in-a-bottle success he had with ExactTarget.
“High Alpha is a platform to leverage our experience and expertise to help entrepreneurs build and scale their own companies, and hopefully have more breakout successes for Indianapolis and ultimately the Midwest,” he says.
Simply put, High Alpha is a company that creates companies. Through its venture firm it invests in High Alpha Studio companies, which are incubated in Indianapolis, and seeks out big, disruptive ideas from strong teams across the country.
“We invest in the most innovative and determined entrepreneurs all throughout North America,” explains Dorsey. “That gives us a broader view. We’re meeting really talented entrepreneurs, we’re seeing emerging trends in cloud computing and we’re able to mix that together with the companies we’re incubating right here in Indianapolis.”
Though many budding entrepreneurs look to him as a leader in the technology field, Dorsey once thought he would go the management consulting route.
“I’m convinced I would have taken a different path had I not been at Kellogg during that pivotal time when the internet was coming of age,” says Dorsey. “The school was very quickly adapting their curriculum to the internet era by building entrepreneurship and internet business models courses. I became completely inspired and determined that my future was going to be around entrepreneurship and technology.”
He was also determined to create that future in the Midwest, specifically Indianapolis. “So much capital has been concentrated in New York, Boston and Silicon Valley, but investors are now searching everywhere for the best teams and most promising technologies, and they’re willing to travel.”
Dorsey notes that there are “a lot of emerging cities leveraging universities and other strong talent pipelines that help build great companies and attract more capital.” He also believes that as computer science education becomes more accessible, a more diverse crop of entrepreneurs will spring forward. To encourage this, NextTech, the nonprofit that originated from ExactTarget’s foundation, creates and implements computer science curriculum throughout K-12 schools in Indiana. He’s positive that such initiatives will create a more diverse, well-rounded field.
“Compared to 2001 when we started ExactTarget, there are so many more tools and frameworks available, so it’s a lot easier to start a company today,” says Dorsey. “As a result it creates a lot more competition and the bar is a lot higher for what enterprise customers expect from early stage software companies — and I love it.”