Tracing the DNA of Indy’s Martech startup boom

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The big bang for a burgeoning tech hub is sometimes hard to pinpoint, but for Indianapolis it was definitely the $2.5 billion acquisition in 2012 of ExactTarget, a locally funded email marketing automation company, by sector giant Salesforce.

Since then, tech startups have exploded in Indiana’s capital. Accelerator TechPoint lists 350 startups in the 2 million metro. Much, but not all, of the activity has been around sales and marketing tech, a booming sector.

ExactTarget wasn’t Indy’s first tech startup success. Angie’s List moved to Indy in 1996, just a year after being founded in Columbus, OH, and IBM spent $200 million to purchase Software Artistry in 1999. (Bob Compton, the prime mover of Software Artistry and investor in several dozen other tech companies, is considered the Johnny Appleseed of the Indy tech boom.)

But after the Dot.Com 1 bust, economic leaders in a lot of towns were leery of tech startups, and Indy was no exception. Local firms that weathered the bust continued to show steady growth, and then came the ExactTarget deal.

The more, the merrier

Back in the real world, Indy keeps landing deals:

Canopy, a SaaS platform that can identify and alert sales and revenue leaders to risks and opportunities that might impact their pipeline, raised $2 million in seed funding in 2020.

Pattern89, an AI and tech marketing company, raised $2 million in growth capital funding to gain more insights into the elements that drive advertising success.

SmarterHQ, an advanced segmentation and orchestration engine for enterprise eCommerce, was acquired in November 2020 by retail marketing tech company Wunderkind.

Money always helps

What’s driving this growth? In 2018, VentureBeat talked to former ExactTarget execs about the tech startup climate in Indy and found that the SaaS deal brought more than just an enormous influx of capital to town. But it was an ENORMOUS influx, and it’s fostered a climate that embraces risk.

ExactTarget’s leadership DNA can be found in a slew of Indy marketing SaaS startups, Including Sigstr, Zylo, and Conga. And this success has fueled ongoing interest from coastal tech giants; Salesforce and Infosys have been steadily adding more jobs year after year.

If you’d like more insight from an ExactTarget founder, the Fast Frontiers podcast interviewed Scott Dorsey this past December.