After ExactTarget founder Scott Dorsey sold his company in 2013 for $2.5 billion—a record for an Indiana tech company—throngs of former employees used their newfound wealth to launch central Indiana tech ventures.
Meanwhile, ExactTarget’s buyer, San Francisco-based Salesforce, continued to grow the Indianapolis operation, eventually moving into the state’s tallest building and rechristening it Salesforce Tower.
The meteoric rise of ExactTarget was a turning point for central Indiana’s tech community. Initially focusing on email marketing, the firm launched in 2000 in the humblest of circumstances, operating out of $200-a-month space in a Greenfield business park. But no tech firm has had a greater impact in building the region’s reputation as a national tech hub.
And that impact continues to grow. Dorsey, for instance, went on to launch local venture studio High Alpha with local entrepreneur Kristian Andersen and former ExactTarget executives Mike Fitzgerald and Eric Tobias. It has since raised more than $135 million in capital and launched about 20 tech companies, including MetaCX, Zylo and Lessonly. Most of them are local.
“High Alpha is matching big software and technology ideas with founders and leaders who want to build companies and families here in Indy,” Dorsey said. “My hope is that, ultimately, High Alpha will create even more high-tech, high-paying jobs than we were able to accomplish with ExactTarget.”
Dorsey also went on to bolster the state’s talent base by launching the not-for-profit Nextech, which focuses on helping Indiana’s K-12 students (especially minorities, the poor and other underprivileged groups) learn about computer science.
The organization was reconstituted from the ExactTarget Foundation, with a new name and a new mission. Among many other accomplishments, it has so far equipped about 1,500 Indiana teachers with the knowledge and curriculum to teach computer science. Internships are also made available to central Indiana high school juniors and seniors.
Dorsey thinks there’s a crying need for such efforts, because, until recently, only about 20% of Indiana schools even offered technology courses as an elective.
“I really believe that developing talent from diverse populations is one of the big keys for us to continue to build a robust, thriving tech community,” Dorsey said. “We’re working hard to make an impact throughout the state.”
Over the years, he has also brought his tech expertise to bear in some surprising fields, including the sports community. He joined the board of the Indiana Sports Corp. in 2009 and served as chairman of the Marketing and Communications Division of the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee.
Dorsey became chairman of the Indiana Sports Corp. in 2013 and kept the job for seven years. Among other accomplishments, he helped bring Techstars, a sports tech accelerator, to Indianapolis.
“I have a deep passion for tech and a deep passion for sports, and I always wanted a way to fuse the two,” he said. “We’ll be looking to really build a hub around sports tech innovation.”