Kelley professor Todd Saxton will serve as president of the Board of Directors for the Venture Club of Indiana in 2015, the organization has announced. Saxton, an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, spearheads the entrepreneurial education and engagement efforts of the school’s Indianapolis campus.
The Venture Club of Indiana is celebrating its 30th year as the state’s leading member-based, volunteer-led organization focused on entrepreneurship. The Venture Club hosts an ongoing series of luncheons, workshops and other events designed to bring entrepreneurs, investors and the professional community together; it also organizes the annual Innovation Showcase along with Verge and VisionTech Partners.
By getting involved in the Venture Club and encouraging Kelley students to participate, Saxton helped add “future entrepreneurs” to the venture community, and he is eager to expand the club’s reach as it begins its fourth decade.
“It’s a great time to have an innovative idea and entrepreneurial ambition in Indiana,” Saxton said. “For startups, money equals momentum. Both nationally and in the state, venture investments through September have already outpaced 2013 totals. Funding, expertise and professional resources are out there for entrepreneurs, and the Venture Club creates a community where those connections can be made.”
As 2014 comes to a close, the Venture Club’s leadership looks forward to another productive year focused on steering startups toward the resources they need to grow, diversifying Indiana’s economy.
“I have complete confidence that the Venture Club of Indiana will be in good hands under Todd’s leadership,” said Isaac Willett, the club’s 2014 president and a partner at Faegre Baker Daniels. “Todd’s insight into the key issues impacting entrepreneurship and investment today are sure to translate into a banner year of programming to come.”
Saxton said it takes unique talents to develop a compelling venture idea, coax risky investments from pragmatic investors and lead a new company to success. Exposing students to practicing entrepreneurs and real-world challenges is essential -- and vice versa.
In addition to his work with the Venture Club of Indiana, Saxton is also director of the Discovery, Innovation and Ventures Enterprise, or DIVE, an effort to match teams of Kelley School Evening MBA students with local startups to help grow new businesses and provide hands-on consulting services. Students will begin their next round of DIVE projects this month, with several of the participating companies referred through the Venture Club.
“In the Venture Club, we see veteran entrepreneurs mentoring new business owners, and I want our Evening MBA and Business of Medicine students to learn from their experiences as well,” he said. “But our students, through these interactions and programs like DIVE, provide meaningful help and feedback to the venture community as well.”
The Kelley School of Business Indianapolis is also involved in a number of other entrepreneurial endeavors, sponsoring events like the Midwest E3 Summit and Innovation Showcase, and partnering with DeveloperTown, the Speakeasy and the VisionTech angel investor network.
For his part, Saxton is also an adviser to VisionTech and a number of Indy startups firms like Diagnotes Inc. and PERQ. He also serves on the board of Marlin Jackson’s Fight for Life not-for-profit organization providing social-emotional learning programs to deserving but underserved youth.
Highlighting these efforts, Saxton stressed the importance of experiential learning in fields like entrepreneurship: “Our students have incredible raw talent and a superior grasp of business fundamentals and theory. But what really sets them apart and helps them build momentum in their careers are the lessons they learn outside the classroom. This is particularly true in the entrepreneurial domain.”
Looking ahead with the Venture Club of Indiana, Saxton sees the region’s entrepreneurial community thriving as it builds on strengths in life sciences, digital marketing and health informatics, while taking advantage of emerging opportunities in areas like food entrepreneurship. Saxton is joined on the Venture Club Board by Kelley Evening MBA alum Ben Pidgeon, who will succeed him as president in 2016. He looks forward to working with more former students as colleagues, as the next generation of Hoosier entrepreneurs begins to make its mark.
“We’re part of an economy where two of every 10 U.S. companies are less than a year old, and start-ups are responsible for the vast majority of new job creation once they hit their growth phase. The Venture Club’s mission is certainly a keystone in economic development,” Saxton said. “It’s our privilege to help entrepreneurs live their dreams and build their businesses and facilitate deal flow for early-stage investors. And it’s my pleasure to encourage Kelley students to join their ranks.”