Don Brown speaks at first-ever TechPoint Tech Thursday on the road
Last week, Interactive Intelligence hosted TechPoint’s first-ever Tech Thursday on the Road. A capacity crowd of 120 attendees gathered for networking on a patio at the company’s headquarters on the northwest side. Interactive Intelligence CEO Don Brown was the featured speaker.
Brown is a self-proclaimed “public school kid from Indiana.” His parents hailed from the hills of Kentucky. His father retired from the military after 20 years of service and the family moved to the north side of Indianapolis where he attended Crooked Creek Elementary School, Westlane Middle School and North Central High School. He graduated from IU, where he received a dual degree in computer science and medicine.
He has founded three companies: Interactive Intelligence, Software Artistry and Dealership Programming. The most recent is Interactive Intelligence.
Brown led off his remarks saying, “For better or worse, you guys are going to be subjected to my abbreviated life story … And I’ll impart on you a few nuggets of entrepreneurship I’ve accidentally learned along the way.” As it turned out, his remarks were chock full of “nuggets of entrepreneurship,” stories and comments that are telling of his professional journey and the wisdom gained. Here are some favorites:
My buddy said, “What if I got you one of these new-fangled computers? I could get you something called an Apple 2E.”
Dealership Programming (Brown’s first company) grew around a product a friend in Bloomington asked him to produce. The friend’s father owned a string of car dealerships and needed a tool to help compute finance payments. This turned into Dealership Programming. By the time he was halfway through medical school, the business had taken off and he split time between 12-hour shifts at the hospital doing vascular surgery rotations and 4-5 hour sessions of computer programming.
“We ended up being some combination of good and lucky.”
A “combination of good and lucky” is a theme that reappears throughout Brown’s professional journey. He sold his first company for $800,000, a sum that at the time felt like an enormous sum of money. In fact, he could be “set to retire at age 29.”
“One lesson of those I’ve learned (which is a very small number) is don’t start a company when you have no freaking idea what you’re doing.”
Brown advises against starting a company in the way he started Software Artistry, a company that eventually sold to IBM. In the late ’80s, Software Artistry was the first software company in Indiana to go public.
“We were a bunch of stubborn Midwestern types … It was arrogant as all get out, but we were naively optimistic. But we had the attitude that if you work your asses off and get good people, it’s amazing what you can do.”
The founding team of Interactive Intelligence was made up of “stubborn Midwestern types.” Three companies in, Brown maintains that if you associate yourself with good, quality people and work on good, quality products, incredible things happen.
“What advantage do we possibly have here in Indiana? We have an attitudinal advantage that is tremendous and invaluable. People are not afraid to stick to something they believe in. If they’re treated well, they’ll commit to it and weather the ups and downs.”
When asked why Interactive Intelligence is headquartered in Indiana, he referenced the people – employees who stick around through tough times (and good times, too).
The newest Interactive Intelligence technology is PureCloud, a second-generation cloud offering using open source components that are shared with companies like Netflix and LinkedIn.
Interactive Intelligence is hiring. You can view their jobs page here.