Indiana innovators take center stage during ‘Forbes Reinventing America’ summit
Downtown Indianapolis played host to “Forbes Reinventing America: The Innovation Summit” last Thursday at the esteemed JW Marriott Hotel. The event convened over 200 of the nation’s top innovators and business pioneers hailing from all corners of the globe and representing the fields of tech, aerospace, medicine, finance, politics and more. It was an impressive assemblage of talent and intellect with an unprecedented drive for change and development in the Midwest, and indeed the world.
The conference highlighted a colossal wave of innovation sweeping America’s heartland including trendsetters who have used Indiana as their launching pad. The elite squad included industry leaders like Angie Hicks. Scott Dorsey, Gary Bernstein, and the Honorable Mike Pence, Indiana’s Republican governor. With the eyes of the entrepreneurial world locked on the podium, these giants of innovation shared tidbits on their upbringing, the pitfalls they’ve encountered, and the lessons that have paved their paths to success.
“Indiana is a Hotbed of growth, innovation and reform.” – Governor Mike Pence
Indiana Governor Mike Pence commenced the Forbes Reinventing America summit by touching on some of the many attributes that have made Indiana a hotbed of growth, innovation, and reform. During his interview with Forbes Media Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes, Mr. Pence reflected on some of the transformative endeavors taking place in Indiana, his rumored run for the U.S. presidency, and what is in store for the future.
“Fiscal integrity is the foundation of prosperity,” advised the governor, as he commended the tireless efforts of Hoosiers and the Indiana General Assembly for adopting an innovative approach to business that has continued to fortify the economy. Indiana has invested nearly half a billion dollars in infrastructure, and in return has managed to foster the third-lowest debt per capita in the country.
Governor Pence did not solely focus on the pros of the economy. He also touched on the increasing demand for change in the education sector, stressing that there are indeed jobs available, but high demand is for skilled labor. His solution is to continue to promote higher education by bolstering initiatives like the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, a program designed to connect eligible Indiana students with scholarships to participating schools. When questioned about his interest in national leadership, the governor remained frustratingly charming, stating only: “Ill let my future take care of itself.”
“Don’t be afraid to leap and try new things.” – Angie Hicks
Angie Hicks, founder and CMO of Angie’s List, graced the stage at the Forbes-hosted conference, sharing candid bits and pieces of her professional backstory. “I was a shy 22-year-old right out of college, knocking on doors,” she tells Forbes Media Executive Producer and event moderator Paul Noglows. Initially dubbed “Columbus Neighbors” (then located in Columbus, Ohio) Angie’s List has grown from a community-based service outlet to a billion-dollar publicly-traded company, providing trustworthy reviews to two million paid households in the U.S and Canada.
Having been an introvert and a self-proclaimed “math geek,” Angie considered herself too shy to have possibly become the face of a vastly growing tech-oriented company. It has been nearly 20 years since Angie’s List got its start, and Angie Hicks attributes healthy doses of transition and evolution for the company’s immense success. Sticking to their objective of continuous expansion, Angie’s List has purchased a new location just east of downtown Indianapolis to enlarge its current campus, along with plans to recruit another 1,000 employees.
So why Indiana? Angie told audience members that during the early stages of production, large enterprises had strongly urged her to transition the company to the coast, fearing that Indiana lacked in growth potential. She remained steadfast in her belief that small businesses are more likely to thrive in small towns, as opposed to big cities. “Indiana has a supportive microcosm of consumers,” Angie said, adding that Indiana provides the perfect assemblage of venture capitalists who allow small business to progress without causing too much bustle.
“Community attracts talent.” – Scott Dorsey
Scott Dorsey enlightened the audience during the Entrepreneurship Luncheon, inviting laughs and innocent banter. He was joined by Fritz French, Chief Executive Officer of Calibrium and John McIlwraith, Managing Director of Allos Ventures. The Co-Founder and Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ExactTarget (now called the Salesforce Marketing Cloud) shared his personal experiences at the helm of the email marketing and now broad communications platform. Scott, a Chicago native and IU graduate, admitted that he and his co-founders and colleagues knew very little about technology and software. But they were visionaries with a “scrappy” intellect who compiled their business and sales experience to prop up a small enterprise on its feet. Today, Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a globally-charged email and digital marketing hub that allows companies to promote their mission and reach consumers by crossing all channels, from social interaction to online advertising campaigns. With eclectic offices housed throughout the globe (Brazil, Sydney, and London), Exacttarget is the behind-the-scenes driving force that accelerates the sales initiatives of companies like LiveNation and Groupon. Salesforce.com bought Exacttarget for a record 2.5 billion dollars in 2013.
One of the main takeaways from Dorsey is that he is an advocate for learning. He stated that before building Exacttarget, he would fly to Silicon Valley and bring back intel to Chicago’s political leaders and eminent entrepreneurial minds. Dorsey urged owners of startups and large enterprises alike to establish a sense of community. “Everything we can do to make our community more attractive makes our city and state a more phenomenal place to be. Great people will want to come.”
The “Forbes Reinventing America” series has plans to dock its ship in other cities that are revitalizing the idea of innovation and welcome entrepreneurial development. Chicago, Detroit, and Salinas California are next up on the docket.
For more information, visit: http://www.forbes.com/conferences/