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Scott Dorsey keynotes “Venture Atlanta” forum, discusses “High Alpha” initiative

Venture AtlantaBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

He sold the company he co-founded 13 years earlier to Salesforce.com for $2.5 billion in 2013 and is now focused on bringing a new model for start-up activities to Indianapolis.

Scott Dorsey, Managing Partner of High Alpha, described his latest endeavor during a keynote presentation yesterday that launched the 10th annual “Venture Atlanta” forum. The venue was the College Football Hall of Fame, symbolic of both the competitive environment that entrepreneurs face and the importance of successful champions in every community’s ecosystem.

Attendance for this year’s event, which ends after today’s luncheon featuring Mark Cuban, was capped at 900, according to Jim Forbes, a Partner at TechCXO and a sponsor for the “Venture Forum” every year it has been offered. Thirty-five entrepreneurs, including 18 early stage start-ups, were to pitch their companies over the two days.

Dorsey served as Chief Executive Officer of ExactTarget, a global marketing software company he helped launch in 2000 at the height of the dot.com buddle. Using only six million dollars in venture capital funding, the company grew to 3,000 employees before it was acquired by Salesforce.com.

Now, he is about 30 months into High Alpha which Dorsey describes as “part venture studio and part venture fund” with its base in Indianapolis.

“We conceive, launch and scale enterprise cloud companies,” he says of this latest undertaking. It starts with High Alpha hosting periodic “sprint weeks” where the team vets three to four big ideas and selects companies in which it will invest.

“We move the companies forward and give them a lot of love and support,” Dorsey explained. That includes funding.

High Alpha currently has 21 companies it is accelerating . . . nine that came out of its Alpha Studio initiative and 12 that were selected from external sources.

“Our core values are dream big, expect more, and move fast,” he says.

For those who attended last month’s “Future865” forum in Knoxville, Dorsey reinforced an important point that Wendy Lea of Cincinnati’s Cintrifuse made. It was about established companies which are thirsty for help curating innovative ideas and look to start-ups for their innovation. As such, Indianapolis companies have been key supporters of High Alpha, something Dorsey admitted surprised him.

“It’s not that difficult to get a company started, but it is really difficult to scale it,” he said of his experience at ExactTarget. “The ultimate fluid for scaling is culture.”

Ironically, ExactTarget branded its culture around the company’s distinctive corporate color, one that Tennessee Volunteer fans will love. Yes, it’s orange. Dorsey described the color as “happy and energetic,” something that clearly described the culture he wanted to champion.

For those who aspire to be great leaders of SaaS (software as a service) companies, Dorsey offered five suggestions:

  • Start with the end in mind.
  • Recognize that you are always learning. “You’re never too successful or old to learn,” he said.
  • Value your team and culture above everything. “The culture is always evolving,” Dorsey noted.
  • Be optimistic but never satisfied.
  • Give back; be community-minded.

These seem like suggestions for any successful entrepreneur in any sector.

TOMORROW: Day one of the “Venture Atlanta” formal program concluded with a fireside chat featuring Brad Feld. We’ll share his comments in Friday’s edition of teknovation.biz.


Tom Ballard

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer,
Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.

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