Sometimes, if you’re Scott Dorsey and Bobby Schnabel, have deep Indiana University roots, and personify the best of Cream ‘n Crimson ideals, you come back to give back.
Dorsey, a renowned entrepreneur and Kelley School of Business graduate, and Schnabel, who guided what was then the IU School of Informatics and Computing to unprecedented growth as dean from 2007 to 2015, are keynote speakers for the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering’s Student Recognition Celebration. It’s set for Thursday at the IU Auditorium.
The graduate ceremony starts at 9 a.m., with the undergraduate at 1 p.m.
For Dorsey, the managing partner of High Alpha, a leading venture studio that launches, scales and invests in enterprise cloud companies, the return to Bloomington is more than a chance to connect with students, faculty and friends.
“I hope to explore how we can accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship across the IU ecosystem,” he said.
Dorsey has done that at High Alpha. Over the last eight years, it has launched more than 35 software companies, made more than 75 venture investments around the world, and raised more than $250 million to fuel the innovation economy.
Previously, Dorsey co-founded ExactTarget and served as its CEO and chairman while guiding it from start-up to global marketing software leader. ExactTarget was acquired by Salesforce in July of 2013 for $2.5 billion. Dorsey then led the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and its world-wide workforce of 3,000 before moving to High Alpha.
All of that gives Dorsey a unique perspective in what founding a successful company requires.
“Being a founder can be challenging and rewarding,” he said, “so it’s important to make sure you have a passion for, and a unique understanding of, the market you hope to serve. Lean into customer validation calls and be a good listener. Most importantly, surround yourself with talented people who complement your strengths and gaps, and who will help you reach your full potential.”
Dorsey’s difference-making impact goes way beyond business. He’s an acclaimed community leader with multiple accolades. That includes the Mitch Daniels Leadership Prize, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, American Business Awards Executive of the Year, TechPoint Trailblazer in Technology, MS Society Hope Award, and Indiana University’s Distinguished Entrepreneur Honorary Designation through the Kelley School of Business. He’s also a two-time recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash, an honorary award given by the governor of Indiana for exemplary service to the state of Indiana.
Dorsey also is on multiple non-profit boards, including The National Venture Capital Association and Global Advisory, and as chairman of Nextech.
His contributions to the Indianapolis sports community include serving on the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee and as a board member for the Indiana Sports Corp.
He credits his time at IU for preparing him for all of that.
“IU helped me build a strong foundation for business and life,” he said.
He also met his wife, Erin, at Indiana University.
“She’s been my greatest champion every step of the way.”
Schnabel grew up wanting to be either the second baseman for the New York Yankees or a mathematician. Math won and the Luddy school, as well as the University of Colorado and countless students over the years, have benefitted.
Half a century of higher education, leadership and getting things done centered on the importance of location.
“I only did things in places I wanted to go,” he said. “That’s a luxury. Many people don’t have that luxury.
“Do what you want to do in a place you enjoy, a place that works for your personality. For me, it meant there was no way in the world I would live in a big city.”
He now lives in Boulder, Colorado, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the Flatirons range.
Schnabel said career paths are hard to predict, and the best approach is to be open to possibilities.
“When I started, I wanted to be a college professor. I had no clue I would end up in leadership positions, and start non-profit organizations. The opportunities were there, and I had wonderful people to work with.”
In so many ways, he and Dorsey still do.