My recent podcast guest, Scott Dorsey, is a highly talented entrepreneur, investor, and startup advisor. One endeavor that Scott co-founded and serves as managing partner for is High Alpha, a venture studio that conceives, launches, and scales enterprise technology companies. Before beginning High Alpha, Scott co-founded ExactTarget, a provider of digital marketing automation and analytics software and services, where he also served as CEO and Chairman.
Clearly, Scott has ample experience and expertise in the startup arena, and I was eager for the opportunity to sit down with him and pick his brain for some pearls of wisdom.. I began my interview by asking Scott a bit about his background, particularly his midwestern roots. I learned Scott was born in Northeast Ohio and grew up in Naperville, Illinois. He attended Indiana University Bloomington and received a bachelor’s in marketing from the Kelley School of Business then later received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern in 1999.
Hearing Scott talk, you can just tell he is proud of where he comes from: “I’m such a Midwesterner. Good heavens. Born in Ohio, grew up in Chicago, and now in Indy. But I love the Midwest and love Midwest tech.”
And Scott doesn’t just speak of that love but shows it through his giving back to the local community of entrepreneurs. Alongside his co-founders Kristian Andersen, Mike Fitzgerald, and Eric Tobias, Scott has used his resources at High Alpha to raise two funds and continues to launch new startups in the Indiana area.
One of the things that I love about Scott is that he’s an entrepreneur who’s now helping to teach and inspire other entrepreneurs, which is so important, especially in this part of the country. Scott, ever humble, explains his mentality when it comes to giving back: “It’s a privilege to be able to help others. Techstars has a great kind of mantra, give first. And to give first is to help others with really no expectation of return. I try to live that to the best of my ability.”
Speaking of giving back, when you think of the employees and their families, and the influence you’ve had not just in Indianapolis, but in the whole state, as well as on people around the globe, when you look at the thousands and thousands of customers you now have, I bet when you were first starting out, you weren’t thinking of that degree of influence that you would have globally, were you?
“We definitely weren’t… The vision and the potential impact became apparent over time,” Scott admitted. “We started ExactTarget at a pretty challenging time [early 2001] after the internet bubble had blown into millions of pieces. We were a classic against all odds story. Three first time software entrepreneurs starting a software company in Indy, none of us had a technical background. We were just hoping to take it one step at a time. Build a simple product, see if we could find the market, generate some revenue, hopefully get some funding, and hopefully build a viable business that thankfully, we were able to do.”
Well, you clearly succeeded. Now, can you give entrepreneurs thinking of following in your footsteps any particular words of wisdom or advice?
“For entrepreneurs that are building companies, I always encourage them to think about community impact and think about building those partnerships with civic leaders because they really want you to be successful. They want you to create new jobs and bring more kind of high tech, high paying jobs to your community. And through open partnership and collaboration, often you can find ways to get an extra boost or get some support from government leaders maybe in a way you didn’t anticipate,” Scott shared.
Scott later challenged us to think of it this way, keeping the big picture in mind: “You can not only build great companies and produce a great financial return, but you can also have a transformative impact on the community in which you live. That’s probably the most rewarding aspect, to be such a contributor to your local economy and your local community that you can move it forward. That’ll have long-lasting impact.”
This is our last episode of season 1 of Fast Frontiers. We would love for you to check out the full season, and let us know who you’d like to hear from on season 2!