Don Brown and Molly: An Unlikely Pair

Don Brown and Molly: An Unlikely Pair
October 9, 2012 by Orr Fellowship



Alec Synnestvedt@synndicated:

“Don Brown started his first software company while in his third year of med school, in case you want to feel unproductive.”


Alec, my fellow Fellow tweeted this during the October 8th Informatics class, articulating my exact thoughts. I was sitting in a room with Don Brown, CEO of Interactive Intelligence, whose market cap is $554 million and has been ranked number 8 on Forbes “America’s Best Small Companies” list. Dr. Brown completed his undergraduate degree in physics, and went on to get not one but TWO additional degrees in both computer science and medicine.


Sometimes I sit in the fellowship’s Informatics class, mouth hanging open, wondering how I’m supposed to even try to compare my rookie-status in the startup world to the entrepreneurial giants who walk through the door. This week’s class was no different. Let’s track some stats:


Molly: Music Business degree from DePauw University

Don Brown: Physics and computer science degrees, Graduate of IU Medical school


Molly: Lifelong dream of starting a breakfast restaurant called “Potato Pota(h)to”, specializing in delicious potato dishes. As of yet, no business plan, funding or even semblance of concrete ideas. 

Don Brown: Started three software companies; one before he turned 25. This list includes Software Artistry, which was sold to IBM for $200 million.


Molly: Try to figure out intricacies of the startup world at Courseload, Inc.

Don Brown: A veteran entrepreneur, who has thrice navigated the startup world successfully


By every account, Dr. Brown and I are not comparable. In fact, Don Brown and I will likely never again be placed in the same sentence outside of this blog post. It doesn’t seem logical that we would have anything to talk about. And yet, with the help of the Orr Fellowship, we do.


The Fellowship is great at bringing people with diverse backgrounds into startups in the Indianapolis community. Dr. Brown’s physics and medical degrees and my own music background pay tribute to that fact. The startup world gives us common ground, and we have the ability to discuss everything from Indianapolis’ standing as a leader for software startups in the nation, to stock options, to the best practices for both new and seasoned entrepreneurs. If anything, our diverse backgrounds only add to a more invigorating discussion, encompassing a wide array of viewpoints. 


The fellows have been doing a lot of recruiting for next year’s class of Orr Fellows. One question constantly asked of me is, “What was your major?” When I reply with ‘music business’, I usually get funny looks and the follow up question, “Then how did you get in the Orr Fellowship?” There is a common misconception that you need to be an economics major or have an entrepreneurship background to be successful or happy in the Fellowship. While some of us do have that background, I’ve found that it’s not so much what you did in college that will determine your success in the Fellowship; it is what you’re going to bring to the Fellowship and the Indianapolis community from this point forward. That might be rechanneling the creativity aspects of a music background into a digital textbook industry, like myself, or applying a medical background to streamline software processes, like Don Brown. Whatever the background may be, the Orr Fellowship provides the structural framework for discovery of new industry and new ways of thinking. 






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