Whether it’s for friends and family, a new job, or a different lifestyle, Indiana’s citizens have many reasons why they call this state home. But what about a shot in the dark? Coming to Indiana and taking on a new career in the Indy tech scene with nothing but a belief in what this state can be? Such is the story of Shawn Hurt, who ventured from the Fresno, California area in search of something completely new and exciting.
While he’s connected to technology now, he didn’t start that way. Shawn spent several years in the United States Navy, serving as a Naval Supply Corps Officer in California. He managed a $100 million budget and a supply chain for 73 aircraft. After honorably discharging from the Navy in 1998, he worked as a financial planner for a decade, building his own business one client at a time.
That business inspired his entrepreneurial spirit and taught him lessons that he has always carried. “Everything in the financial industry was about connecting people and building relationships,” he said. “Learning that entrepreneurial process has carried over into everything I do.”
California had many reasons for him to stay, but after more than a decade there — and with a wife and two small children — Shawn decided it was time to look elsewhere to raise his family. “I was looking for a better quality of life, for me and my children,” he said.
Better quality, better life
He stumbled onto several websites that ask series of questions to help people find their ideal living location, their “spot” in the world. Indianapolis is the last place he expected to go: no family, no friends, no connection whatsoever. So, when Indy topped the list, he was unsure.
He didn’t even set foot in the city until his sales coach invited him out for a long weekend at the beginning of a warm April. Four days in Indy were spent exploring everything the city had to offer. He met Hoosiers and discovered the people of this state, and the persona of what Hoosiers were made of. “Everywhere I went, people asked, ‘How can I help you?’” he said. That’s when he fell in love with Indiana.
In 2008, he left his financial firm and moved his family to Indy. He had no formal experience in tech, but he saw how the field was emerging here, and he knew his skills could be easily transferred. “I know business, I know people and how to build sales teams,” he said. “People, processes, and priorities come together to move things forward.”
Brightpoint offered him the opportunity to truly break into the Indy tech ecosystem. At that time, the company was looking for someone to help revitalize their Verizon business. “I didn’t know about tech and cell phones, but I did know how to build teams and businesses,” he said. “We took chances on each other. We learned a lot and gave a lot.”
He worked hard, putting his sales experience and entrepreneurial spirit to use, and quadrupled sales in his business segment. From there, he continued succeeding in the company, even after Brightpoint was acquired in 2012. Shawn learned quickly how sales in tech worked and adapted to find success. Under his leadership, Shawn’s teams scaled two divisions at Brightpoint by several hundred million dollars each.
Overcoming obstacles, grabbing opportunities
As he worked to overcome new challenges professionally, Shawn also experienced a significant personal challenge. He was diagnosed with tongue cancer, which required the surgical removal of parts of his tongue. After a special operation to rebuild it, Shawn had to learn how to speak again. He pursued that with the same spirit he brings to everything else to overcome this challenge.
The entrepreneurial bug in Shawn had grown as he immersed himself in tech. His time at Brightpoint connected him to Misfit Wearables, who would give him his step into the tech startup world. It’s a world he embraced as he learned all aspects of the business. “No matter what it says on your name tag, it’s really about whatever’s needed to advance the cause of the company,” he said. “It’s very much an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality.”
Although Misfit Wearables is based in California, Shawn was able to work remotely and travel. Staying in Indy was important for him and his family. “Here, you have access to football, basketball, baseball, arts, a great standard of living, excellent schools, and almost none of the downside of the big cities where I’ve been,” he said. “For example, traffic isn’t a nightmare. I live in Fishers and can be downtown in 25 minutes.”
More thoughtful, special scene
That desire to stay in Indy continued when the company was acquired by Fossil Watches for $250 million, and Shawn joined a new team at goTenna, a New York-based startup, as VP of Global Consumer Sales. Having lived and worked in tech spheres around the country, he’s seen some of what makes the Indy tech scene special. “There’s more of an awareness and abundance of money in those ‘bigger’ areas,” he said. “So people here are more thoughtful in their approach to business. You used to have to go outside the state to get funding, but that’s changing. There are more opportunities and momentum appearing here now.”
Shawn is excited to remain in Indy for the future, both for his family and his work. “Moving to Indy was the best decision we’ve ever made,” he said. “There are so many great opportunities to explore, and the city is always evolving and changing. Plus, I can’t enough about how wonderful the people here are.”