Dynamic Leadership Brings Startup Success for TinderBox Founder/CEO Dustin Sapp

Thursday, November 05, 2015
Dustin Sapp at TinderBox.

Award-Winning Alumnus: TinderBox Founder/Chief Executive Officer Dustin Sapp, a 2001 computer engineering alumnus, was the first recipient of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's Indiana Vision 2015 Dynamic Leader of the Year award.

Dustin Sapp and dynamic leadership have seemed to be synonymous since he took his first entrepreneurship class on campus in the late 1990s.

"As a junior, engineering management professor Tom Mason told us that if we wanted to get an A grade in his class, we had to get our idea funded. So, my team wrote a plan and built a business and Dr. Mason introduced us to venture capitalist Bob Compton, who agreed to fund it," says Sapp in reflection.

That innovative idea, NoInk Communications, became the first of three Indiana tech startups launched by the 2001 computer engineering graduate. The mobile sales software enterprise was purchased by Silicon Valley-based Everypath in 2004. A year later, he helped launch Vontoo, which developed software for sending audio marketing messages to phones. It was acquired by Ohio-based One Call Now.

In 2009, Sapp founded TinderBox, which has become a leader in sales productivity technologies. The Indianapolis-based enterprise attracted $7 million in venture capital investment this fall to fuel the company's continued growth and product innovation.

Sapp's ability to take innovative ideas from startup to success earned him the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's first Indiana Vision 2015 Dynamic Leader of the Year award, presented at the chamber's 26th Annual Awards Dinner (November 4) in Indianapolis. The event was attended by more than 1,500 business and community leaders.

The award highlights the dynamic and creative culture component of the chamber's Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan, emphasizing the importance of entrepreneurship in the state's economic future.

Besides his career success, Sapp was also chosen because of his efforts to promote Indiana's start-up community and his role in mentoring up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

As TinderBox's chief executive officer, Sapp is responsible for technology strategy and day-to-day business management. The firm is transforming how companies sell by making it faster and more effective for sales teams to create, deliver, and track the assets they need to sell-everything from the first presentation to the final contract.

"As a founding team, we had all experienced the pain associated with managing proposals and contracts in our own businesses. They're time-consuming to build, difficult to share and manage, and almost impossible to track," Sapp says. "Surprisingly, there had been little-to-no innovation to streamline sales content, so we decided to build a solution that we would want to use in our own companies."

The results have been remarkable. Indianapolis Business Journal cited TinderBox in 2013 for being one of Indianapolis' most promising companies. In 2014, TinderBox doubled its annual recurring revenue, added more than 200 new customers (growing to nearly 500 worldwide), and doubled its workforce (to 60 employees). Customers include Angie's List and Orbitz for Business. More success has come this year, including this fall's $7 million equity capital deal.

"Our original goal was to create a solution that would drive value in the companies that we'd been involved in," Sapp says. "When we shared the initial version of the product with other local companies in Indianapolis, we were overwhelmed with feedback and requests to purchase the service. Within 100 days of conceiving the idea, we were generating revenue."

Sapp received the Rose-Hulman Alumni Association's Distinguished Young Alumni Award in 2011 and was the first Entrepreneurial Fellow at Rose-Hulman Ventures.

"One of the things that attracted me to Rose-Hulman is that students are pushed beyond engineering and are taught to be business and community leaders," he states.