Influential business and civic leader Bill Oesterle to receive Trailblazer Award during Mira Awards gala
TechPoint will honor influential entrepreneur and business leader, civic and political organizer and Indiana talent champion Bill Oesterle with the Trailblazer Award during the 23rd annual Mira Awards gala presented by Salesforce on April 23.
The 1,200 seat event sold out of general admission tickets last month, but people interested in attending may join the waitlist and they will be contacted if more tickets become available.
The Mira Awards celebrate the best of tech in Indiana each year, including recognizing people, products and companies for their outstanding achievements. The Trailblazer Award specifically recognizes visionaries whose contributions have had lasting and significant impact on the state and its technology ecosystem. Trailblazers are among the tech community’s most inspiring and influential players. They are innovative risk-takers whose achievements and bold leadership are catalysts for growth and success.
Oesterle, who is best known for co-founding Angie’s List, which preceded Internet-based crowd-sourcing by a decade, is also a pioneer in the effort to attract and retain the best talent in Indiana. He co-founded the Governor Bob Orr Indiana Entrepreneurial Fellowship in 2002 in an effort to reverse what was then popularly referred to as “Brain Drain,” and more recently co-founded TMap in 2017, which morphed into MakeMyMove in 2021, to address unique opportunities in workforce development.
He is also an outspoken champion for human rights and equity. In 2015, despite political and business backlash, he led what became a national charge to change state legislation that he considered discriminatory toward the LGBTQ community. He has invested millions of dollars to revitalize neglected areas of Indianapolis, including the former Angie’s List campus, which is now known as Elevator Hill, the 38th Street Corridor in Midtown and other historic buildings in Indianapolis.
“Bill’s career has had many chapters, but a common thread has been a vision and conviction for improving Indiana and creating opportunities for Hoosiers,” said Mike Langellier, TechPoint president and CEO.
“He saw a big opportunity for Angie’s List and grew a market leading company here. He saw the need for transformational state political leadership and championed Mitch Daniels’ election. He saw the need and opportunity to attract and retain talent and instigated the Orr Fellowship and TMap. He saw the intent and impact of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and pushed back. He’s a visionary, and he took risks—both professional and personal—that benefited our community and inspired others, including me,” Langellier said.
“Bill Oesterle has been one of the most important and impactful Indiana business leaders in the modern era, but he’s so much more than that. He has been one of our state’s most constructive and influential citizens,” Daniels said. “He once worked for me, but for many years, I have felt like I’ve worked for him; his ideas and insights have shaped my own, and I owe him a bigger debt than I can ever repay.”
Oesterle tackled important issues and counts many influential leaders as friends and peers. But he had a bit of a “Pied-Piper” charm and silliness that endeared him to people at all levels. He dressed up in a checkered jumpsuit and feathered hat for annual Indy 500-inspired “Derby Day” at Angie’s List; gave employees a half-day off the first 70-degree day of the year; and insisted that employees play as hard as they worked.
“Working with Bill is fun but challenging. He makes everyone around him better. He forces you out of your comfort zone and helps you to do things you didn’t know you could do,” said Mike Rutz, who met Oesterle as a fundraiser during the Daniels campaign, led the Angie’ s List sales team and co-founded TMap and MakeMyMove with Oesterle. “And then you race homemade derby cars down a hill into a pile of hay bales.”
A short list of Bill Oesterle’s accomplishments:
- 1995 – Oesterle and Angie Hicks launched the company that would become Angie’s List and grow it to a national, home services ratings company, then to a publicly traded company, which would later be acquired for $750 million by IAC and be renamed Angi. At its peak, the company employed about 2,000 people.
- 1999 – Angie’s List moved into offices on the Indianapolis’ near-East Side where it invested in additional property as it grew, eventually encompassing a four-city-block area.
- 2002 – Oesterle founded—along with Angie’s List executives Scott Brenton and Angie Hicks—the Orr Fellowship to address the state’s entrepreneurial talent shortage issues. More than 500 young leaders have gone through the program, most of them remain in the Indiana tech ecosystem in management and leadership roles.
- 2004 – Oesterle convinced Mitch Daniels to run for governor and ran his unconventional, but successful political campaign.
- 2011 – Angie’s List becomes publicly traded.
- 2015 – Outraged by passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which he considered discriminatory toward the LGBTQ community, Oesterle led local opposition to the legislation, including cancelling a $40 million expansion project.
- 2017 – Oesterle and business partners purchased a long-vacant bank on 38th Street as headquarters for TMap, which used big data to track people with an Indiana connection who left the state and entice them to return to careers in Indiana.
- 2017 – Oesterle and others joined the effort to revitalize the 38th Street area and launched community gatherings to promote a sense of community.
- 2018 – Oesterle and a group of investors purchased the former Angie’s List campus, which is now called Elevator Hill, seeking to create space for entrepreneurial development.
- 2021 – Oesterle, Rutz and Evan Hock launched MakeMyMove, building on TMap data but focusing on recruiting remote workers to communities across the U.S., including Indiana.
- 2021 – Oesterle is named by the Indianapolis Business Journal as the 28th recipient of the Michael A. Carroll Award, an annual recognition of an individual who has demonstrated the former Indianapolis deputy mayor’s qualities of determination, humility and service.
John Chuang, Oesterle’s Harvard graduate school classmate, friend, and an investor in Angie’s List, MakeMyMove and Oesterle’s property development ventures, recalls a meeting with an equity firm that was willing to invest significant dollars in the young company but wanted Oesterle to relocate to the Coasts. The investors said point blank that they didn’t think there was enough talent in Indiana to enable the company to succeed. Oesterle refused, found other investors and never stopped telling the story of how he proved them wrong.
“Bill knew very well that we could build and rapidly grow a strong tech company right here in Indiana, even though that was not a widely held belief 20-25 years ago,” said Chuang, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Boston-based Aquent. “He has this incredible faith in people and likes to bet on them accomplishing something great together, even if the odds aren’t in their favor or the so-called experts say it’s impossible.”
A Lafayette, Ind., native, Oesterle began his professional career in 1987 as administrative assistant to Governor Robert Orr of Indiana with responsibility for international trade and relations. In 1988, he was appointed director of corporate Affairs for the Hudson Institute, a public policy research institute located in Indianapolis, Ind. He was a partner with CID Equity Partners, a Midwest-based venture capital firm from 1994 to 1998.
He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School in 1992, where he was awarded a Horace W. Goldsmith Fellowship. Prior to graduate school, he attended Purdue University earning an honors degree in economics.
Oesterle serves on boards of directors at The National Bank of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, LawnGuru and Masonite Corporation. He shares six children and three grandchildren with his wife Kristi.
Previous winners of the Trailblazer Award include Justin Christian, Kristian Andersen, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, John Wechsler, Angie Hicks, Scott McCorkle, Chris Baggott, Bobby Schnabel, Don Brown, Scott Dorsey, Bill Godfrey, Robert Compton, Jo Ann Gora, Scott Webber, Wil Davis, Michael McRobbie, Mark Hill, Scott Jones, David Becker, Lilly Endowment Inc., and Martin Jischke.
In addition to the Trailblazer Award, TechPoint will present awards for products and services, individuals and companies including the new Talent Impact Award, Community Impact Award, Tech Education Award, Rising Entrepreneur Award, Exceptional Employer Award, the TechPoint Foundation for Youth Bridge Builder Award, Tech Product of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Service Partner of the Year, Large Enterprise of the Year, Investor of the Year, Startup of the Year and Scale-up of the Year.
Visit https://miraawards.com for more information about the 23rd annual TechPoint Mira Awards, including this year’s class of nominees.
TechPoint is the nonprofit, industry-led growth initiative for Indiana’s technology companies and overall tech ecosystem. The team is focused on attracting talent, accelerating scale-up companies, activating the community and amplifying stories of success. For more information, please visit www.techpoint.org.