Don Brown shares insight into Indiana’s technology community
The pending acquisition of Indianapolis-based Interactive Intelligence by Genesys at $1.4 billion will be the second largest acquisition of a technology company in Indiana’s history should the deal close, which is expected by December. With such big news, speculation arose about what the sale would mean for the future of Indiana’s technology scene, and all eyes turned to Interactive Intelligence CEO Dr. Donald Brown.
Brown was already scheduled to speak at Reimagining the Future: How Technology is Shaping Business on October 12, 2016, presented by the Indianapolis Business Journal and Interactive Intelligence. During the event, the audience submitted questions for Brown about everything from the future of artificial intelligence to requests for insight on the company’s big news. The following are his responses.
What does the sale of Interactive Intelligence mean for Indianapolis’ technology community?
I think that in Indy a lot of people were scared with a number of the bank losses back in the 80s and 90s because they created a net loss. A lot of executive leadership left the community, money left the community, and people were really scared about major corporations being sold.
That mindset changed a lot because of ExactTarget. ExactTarget was a significant technology company here in Indy when the acquisition by Salesforce first went through. I know there was a lot of ‘woe is me, the sky is falling, we’re losing a major tech company, this is going to be really bad’ talk. I think we saw just the reverse, that Salesforce invested in the community. There are a lot of people who are more excited that this acquisition created a net positive for Indy.
Of course, I’m not in a position to exactly control things, but the assurances I’ve been given and my expectations are that the acquisition by Genesys of Interactive Intelligence is going to be along those lines, that overall we’re going to create a dominant company dual headquartered in Indy. Genesys is going to stay, just as Salesforce has, out in Silicon Valley. They intend to invest here because our cost structure is great and our people are great, they stay longer and are more loyal. I am anticipating great things. Of course there’s going to be some amount of turmoil, I’m not naive about that, but there’s going to be balance for the community just as the Salesforce acquisition of ExactTarget has been.
Interactive Intelligence disrupted itself when it decided to create PureCloud. We all need to disrupt ourselves to survive and be successful. For Indiana and our top industries, what are the key opportunities and threats?
The biggest threat in Indiana is that we get left behind by thinking too small. We view ourselves as not as good or as forward thinking as Silicon Valley or other areas. One thing I’ve been preaching to a lot of different people is that we have a lot of advantages in Indiana. No, we’re not California or Boston. That’s okay, we don’t need to be California or Boston.
One of the big advantages we have in Indiana and I think we’ve demonstrated, since the time I’ve grown up from moving here when I was in 6th grade and seeing the transformation, is that we have people that work together. We work together across business, academia, and government, and we are very comfortable in doing that to a degree that is unheard of in other parts of the country. I think we have unbelievable assets and big opportunities, but it comes in that sort of collaboration that has made Indy so successful, it has transformed our downtown. The sort of public-private partnerships we have are wild to me. I could go next week and get a meeting with the top government officials, people like Eli Lilly, IU, Purdue, Rose-Hulman, IU Health, the Kelley School of Business, and take them all out for beers and hypothesize something and walk out of a room with people saying yes, let’s go do it. Where else can you do that? Nowhere that I’m aware of.
I have more of a draw to Utah these days. I bought a house out there. I love the mountains, I love to ski, I love to hike. But I’m exploring a number of new ventures and I keep getting pulled back to central Indiana because of that collaboration, because there are so many unique attributes here along with a confluence of talent. For us, the opportunity aligns in cooperation. The risk lies in not cooperating and letting all the cool things be done by Silicon Valley and Austin and Boston and places we don’t even know about.
Interactive Intelligence has been a pillar in our technology community since its founding in 1994. The company received the prestigious Tech Company of the Year Mira Award in both 2013 and 2014, and CEO Don Brown received the Trailblazer in Technology Mira Award in 2013. For more information about the company’s product and services, read their featured company profile.