Last month, High Alpha announced that Robin Fleming had joined the venture studio as an entrepreneur in residence and that she would be marshaling her 30 years of enterprise cloud technology experience — including recruiting top B2B SaaS talent — to develop a new company.
Robin, who most recently served as senior vice president of technology at Angie’s List (NASDAQ: ANGI), shared her thoughts on lessons learned, why she chose to stay in Indiana, and building a new team and company from scratch, when we sat down to talk in her sixth week on the job.
Robin’s wide range of engineering and senior leadership roles at both startups and enterprise companies is proving useful as she builds her team for the yet-to-be-announced B2B SaaS company at High Alpha. Everything is hush-hush for now; she’s just not quite ready to make the details public. It is, however, in partnership with a Global Fortune 500 company and she plans to leverage leading-edge mobile technology, analytics, wearables, and IoT to prevent workplace injuries. Robin is currently hiring key team members, particularly software developers and engineers, to help her launch the company and its products.
“I loved working at Angie’s list,” Robin said. “And I’m actually a huge fan of IAC — the company that acquired Angie’s List and also owns Match.com, which is where I worked in Dallas before moving to Indianapolis.”
IAC is a leading media and Internet company that owns more than 150 brands and products. “It’s a phenomenal operation that figures out how to make a company successful and then dominates the market space,” explains robin. “Indianapolis is actually lucky to have IAC involved here in the tech community through the combined Angie’s List and Homeadvisor company.”
Looking back over her time at Angie’s List, making decisions fast and iterating faster were keys to success for Robin, who was responsible for the cloud technology organization and DevOps, quality assurance, program management, and data management, including analytics and business reporting.
One of the biggest challenges she and her teams faced was during the big lift and shift from a legacy platform to a cloud based one. It was critical path for Angie’s List to have a more flexible platform where they could iterate more quickly, provide new functionality and drop the paywall, which was monumental from a business perspective.
“I’m really proud of what we accomplished as a pretty large organization,” Robin said. “Making crisp decisions and moving forward with those decisions is very important. It’s a little bit of ‘fail fast and then figure out what you do next.’ It’s hard to do with a bigger company when there are millions of dollars of revenue at stake, but it’s still important that you make decisions, commit to them and move forward. We will embrace that concept in the new company here at High Alpha.”
The new venture at High Alpha is Robin’s first experience being “employee number one” and building her team from the ground up. It’s different than the established teams and processes she lead at Match.com, Aprimo Teradata and Angie’s List where everything from the people, processes and technologies were already in place.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about small teams vs. large teams, managing risk, and everything that’s lead me to where I am today, and one of the key things I’m looking for, besides a diverse group of really talented tech pros, is integrity,” Robin said.
“I’ve always looked to surround myself with people who are straight shooters who are transparent about holding themselves and others accountable. You can’t manage risk if you don’t know about it, so I’m looking for people who can manage up and escalate appropriately. Basically, I plan to hire the smartest people around and stay out of their way so they can do their thing — people who aren’t afraid to dive in and help me make change.”
Of course, with a mission of preventing workplace injuries and making a difference in people’s lives, there’s a built-in recruiting advantage for Robin with the new venture. It’s what drew her to High Alpha in the first place.
“Tackling the issue of workplace safety by leveraging the latest technologies really spoke to me,” explained Robin. “The fact that this opportunity is at High Alpha with the four partners as mentors and coaches, as well as drawing from the vast experiences of the other portfolio companies — who wouldn’t want that?”
Robin chose to stay in Indianapolis following the Angie’s List acquisition despite offers and opportunities calling from a number of other major cities. In her opinion, Indiana has so much to offer and there’s so much momentum in the tech community that it would be a mistake for anyone to “go be a number” somewhere else when they could have such a big impact on meaningful work right here.
She’s constantly asking herself how she can help grow and improve the tech community in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas by being a mentor and encouraging people to stay and be a part of something special — especially other women and young emerging talent.
“I think you can’t help but fall in love with the tech community here,” Robin said. “We have everything you need right here and it’s getting bigger and better every day. The way this community rallies around and supports each other and reinvests in the next wave of big ideas and professionals coming up is not the way it happens everywhere else.”