How Indiana's Biggest Tech Acquisition Created The Venture Studio Model

After Scott Dorsey sold ExactTarget, he wanted to help other tech founders live out their dreams. Shortly after, the Venture Studio was born.

Article by
Tatum Lynch
Picture of High Alpha sign with the tech company Salesforce in the background.||Picture of High Alpha sign with the tech company Salesforce in the background.||Picture of High Alpha sign with the tech company Salesforce in the background.

All founders have the same dream, but only a few get to make it a reality. Back in 2000, Scott Dorsey, Chris Baggott, and Peter McCormick set out to transform cloud marketing through software. Thirteen years later, Salesforce announced the acquisition of ExactTarget, the largest exit ever for an Indiana tech company.

It was an historical occasion and an immense win for the Indiana tech community. And when you ask the founders how they did it, they will give you one answer: their people. 

When building the company, the founders knew it was important to hire talented, hungry people into their organization. 

I wanted to create a company that people wanted to be a part of and a culture that people could make their own.
Scott Dorsey, Managing Partner at High Alpha

The founders were tremendously successful. The culture became so significant to the company that the employees named it Orange, representing the company's primary color. Even with employees across the globe, their culture was a unifying force so strong it still holds today.

Back in August, Scott Dorsey–Managing Partner at High Alpha and former CEO of ExactTarget–decided to host “Re-Connections”: a huge celebration marking the ten-year anniversary of the Salesforce acquisition. More than 1,000 people RSVP’d, and more than 100 people flew in for the event. Employees, customers, and investors together again–some for the first time in years.

“The turnout was a strong testament to the relationships that we built with each other. Our company no longer exists, but our culture does.”

Scott Dorsey (middle) pictured with Chris Baggott (left) and Peter McCormick (right) at Re-Connections

After the acquisition, Scott was appointed the CEO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. He stayed on for a year to lead the integration and reinforce Salesforce's commitment to Indianapolis. Soon afterward, Scott re-connected with serial entrepreneurs and former Salesforce executives Mike Fitzgerald and Eric Tobias and designer-turned-founder Kristian Andersen to reinvent how companies are founded and funded. 

On April 14, 2015, High Alpha and the venture studio was born, a model that combines company building with venture funding. Through their own entrepreneurial experiences, each Partner witnessed the impact breakout companies can have on individuals, families, communities, and entire industries, and they were bullish on creating a new and better way to support founders.

After building ExactTarget, I had learned so many valuable lessons and built an incredible network. I wanted to leverage that to help other founders and entrepreneurs and give back to the Indiana tech community after all they had given to me.
Scott Dorsey, Managing Partner at High Alpha

Eight years later, High Alpha has started over 40 companies and invested in over 80 founders, creating hundreds of tech jobs for people in Indiana and the country. And the Partners have no plans of slowing down.

With the recent advancements of AI come new ways for people to work and a new set of companies to start.

“When we started ExactTarget, the internet was just coming of age and the opportunity was to think about how marketing could be transformed through the internet. The possibilities were just infinite, and that was intimidating but very, very exhilarating. I think we're in the same place today with Generative AI.” 

While he enjoyed reflecting on everything they built with ExactTarget, Scott is even more excited to look to the future and continue building a community of founders and creating breakout companies.

My hope for High Alpha is that we serve the Indiana tech community even more and make an even bigger impact than we did at ExactTarget. As entrepreneurs and investors, it is up to us to make a better future, create a lot of jobs, and produce value for everyone.
Scott Dorsey, Managing Partner at High Alpha

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