Intrapreneurship: A Driving Force Within Companies

This post originally appeared in my column on Inside Indiana Business.

“Intrapreneurship,” the application of entrepreneurial practices within the confines of large, established corporations, is steadily becoming a commonly-used term. Many of Indiana’s largest companies encourage intrapreneurship within their walls. This simply means that taking risks with innovation is encouraged, whether in small teams or individuals. Many companies without the budgets of these big firms are also experimenting with intrapreneurship, some relying upon it as a source for new business ideas or growth strategies for old ones.

“According to the Kauffman Foundation, it’s not small companies that are responsible for economic growth, it’s new companies,” says ClearObject John McDonald. “Companies less than 5 years old are responsible for nearly all of the [net] new job growth in our economy. That’s why introducing intrapreneurialism into existing companies is so critical, it’s the engine that fuels the creation of new opportunities and new businesses from within.”

Memory Ventures, a company which relocated to Fishers from Los Angeles, encourages their employees to take risks, even allocating funding and a time limitation on experimental projects. Many of these projects don’t result in success, but that’s a key part of the ethos of intrapreneurship.

“A lot can be learned through failure,” says Anderson Schoenrock, CEO of Memory Ventures. “When given a concise budget and time frame, the money spent is worth the outcome – which means it is successful if it flies or fails.”

Startup tech companies rely upon intrapreneurs to compliment their fast growth companies. In fact, this characteristic is highly sought after when assembling early stage teams. This is due to the fact that those individuals have a rare mix of corporate experience and existing business connections alongside the risk-taking and trial-by-error mentality of an entrepreneur. Tech startups live or die by experimentation. For example, user experience issues need to be resolved urgently, with intrapreneurship being key to the success or failure of these companies.

Becci Medhurst, an Australian serial intrapreneur, moved to the U.S. in 2016 to continue her work within startup companies. She is VP of Operations for Kenzie Academy, a tech apprenticeship school focused on education, mentorship, and job placement here in Indianapolis.

“Today’s intrapreneurs are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs,” states Medhurst. “Emerging tech ecosystems are generally very supportive of founders and emerging companies, but should look to take a step further in strengthening the support of our future tech leaders who are taking the risk and getting behind these new startup ventures as early employees.”

It surprises no experienced intrapreneur to discover that First Internet Bank CEO and Chairman David Becker encourages his employees to take risks. Becker is a serial entrepreneur who has stayed engaged with First Internet Bank through intrapreneurship.

“I have no problem if one of our employees takes a risk and fails, in fact, I encourage it,” shares serial entrepreneur Becker. “I just don’t want them to make the same mistake twice.”

This is something she hopes to tackle with Kenzie Academy, fostering innovative tech leaders who will be able to take an idea, build a successful team around them, and produce a profitable and scalable product/solution.

“These are the sorts of employees who will commit their time, invest their skills and benefit greatly by building their careers alongside the success of the companies they work for,” says Medhurst, who recognizes synergies between Australia’s emerging startup ecosystem, and what she’s witnessed here in Indy.

Cultivating intrapreneurship within a company may create surprise outcomes, such as growth and creative problem solving. Given the start of a new year, perhaps it’s time for more companies to experiment with celebrating intrapreneurs.

Give me the Walkers

Give me the doers, give me those that take action and follow their dreams. Give me those that know what they want and go after it. Talking isn’t enough. Give me the walkers who are doing it.

“Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.

The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”  – Nolan Bushnell

Entrepreneurs – true entrepreneurs – know how to get shit done. Period.

And it’s not just entrepreneurs, it’s people who create and do epic shit every day. This could be the simple action of caring for special needs child (for which there is nothing simple), it could be loving a person that is challenging to love – and it’s all about making a difference in the lives of others. It all comes down to action taking. Doing.

There are a lot of people that talk and love to talk into delirium. I may listen initially, but I have no time for them.

The stories that I write are about people who do. It’s my choice to focus upon businesses that have created by someone who saw a need, have a passion, and is helping others. They are making a difference. They’ve done more than talk – they’ve been a walker.

Having a dream and doing something about it are entirely 2 different things. Attract people into your life to help facilitate those dreams and ideas, create it, work at it, do it. Walk it.

Give me something to write about.

Why We Should ALL Be Coaches

As a teenager, I was too young to join the gym as a member, but old enough to be hired as an instructor. This was my first paid coaching gig. (I am sure my brother would attest that bossing him around wasn’t coaching.) At the time, I hadn’t identified it in this manner, but clearly instructing and leading others is a form of coaching.

A young Kara Kavensky
Look at the attitude at such a young age…my poor brother never had a chance.

While I wouldn’t yell at the participants, I am bossy and confrontative, as early personality tests indicated (and as evidenced by said brother). Last I checked, these are dynamic and critical leadership skills (insert polite attention-getting cough with power stare, which I have perfected). Instructing hip hop classes at the age of 15 to a room full of people twice my age didn’t phase me. It was fun. The best part was getting to know the personalities in the room.

Through my first career in sales and marketing, I was a personal trainer on the side. Coaching skills were applied daily in both jobs. What I learned was that even though I was meeting with people with both jobs for a small window during their week, we all were being our best, drawing common ground from strengths, not weaknesses.

It was these encounters with people that were powerful. I explored how to have that sense of empowerment all of the time, not just in the moments when it was required.

My Pilates studio, which I’ve owned for over fifteen years, is a networking hub. As a trainer, I was truly coaching others as well as sharing stories. Most all of my clients would confess that they loved coming to class for the stories as much as the workout. Every hour of every day was like a “girls night out” (even with men in the room).

Now, as I’ve transitioned to being a writer and a pitch coach, the focus is heavily upon cultivating and nurturing strengths in others. This is just like training a body, but through stories instead of Pilates equipment.

When I dig into my line of questioning during an interview, I am able to strike to the core quickly by asking a few simple questions. Frequently I will ask what drives them, as I uncover their true passions. The bottom line comes down to love.

We value what we love.

Once the love and passions are revealed, the story takes shape. The magic of these encounters is that by talking about someone’s passions, it rekindles their flame for their work.

This is the core intention of coaching: by pulling out the best of a person, you are empowering them. Assisting my clients or article subjects by creating the most effective means of expressing their passion is my job.

Recently my best friend sent me a note that read: Don’t ever be afraid to shine. Remember, the sun doesn’t give a f*ck if it blinds you.

I’m all about blinding people.

Todd and Kim Saxton, IU Kelley School of Business Professors Extend Their Passion Beyond the Classroom

saxton 2What do two high-energy individuals who are passionate about their work do for fun? The answer: invest in startups, consult with business owners, mentor, hold Board positions, support charitable organizations, travel, ski, boat and train for triathlons.

Todd Saxton is an Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship for IU Kelley School of Business, 2015 President of Board of Directors for the Venture Club of Indiana, and Indiana Venture Faculty Fellow. Kim Saxton is a Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing at IU Kelley, leads Lean In Circle for women MBA students, and hold s a PhD in statistics. The popular professors both instruct an unusually high number of classes per year, more than double the average.

Not only are Todd and Kim committed to education, they are involved beyond the scope of their jobs and have immersed themselves in the venture community, walking the walk of the talk they talk during lectures. For example, fifteen years ago, Todd sought opportunities to strengthen the relationship between Kelley and the Indianapolis venture community, so he joined the Venture Club of Indianapolis, of which he is now President. Both Todd and Kim are involved with numerous other organizations, including being board members for Marlon Jackson’s Fight for Life organization which facilitates social and emotional learning programs for kids.

Entrepreneurs at heart, neither set out to be educators, but eventually tapped into their natural talent in the area, as both have parents that were teachers. The two met as employees of a startup company providing competitive analysis for potential acquisitions outside of DC.

The appeal of IU’s MBA program brought them to Indianapolis. “We were looking for a program that would work with the needs of our growing family,” shares Todd. IU won out over several schools, including a couple Ivy League options.

saxton 1Now that their girls were older, Todd and Kim have made a commitment to each other and set new goals to celebrate turning 50. After years of taking their daughters to kids’ triathlons, they decided to train for their own Ironman. No small undertaking, this fits right in line with their “all in” modus operandi.

Everything that Todd and Kim do is done with intensity and tenacity of purpose. An Ironman race is the pinnacle of a personal fitness challenge. Supportive and dedicated, the time spent training only brought Kim and Todd closer. Together, they are a team, and they are both coaches as well.

Todd and Kim are people of initiative and action, engaging and energetic. Whether it is triathlons, corporate ventures, the entrepreneurial community, or teaching, the Saxtons are fully engaged. Their passion for what they do shines through.

“There is an entrepreneur inside of all of us, depending on circumstance and provocativeness, it can come out at any time,” states Todd.

This article originally appeared on March 2015.

David Becker, Chairman and CEO of First Internet Bank

David Becker Photo

6th Annual Inspire Awards, College Mentors for Kids’ Lifetime Achievement Award recipient opens up about his business experience and who has mentored him.

“They can’t eat you.” This valuable piece of advice from David Becker’s grandfather is possibly one of the most unforgettable phrases of truth in business. Shared when Becker started his first company, “Remember, whatever happens, they can’t eat you. You as a person will always survive and you can start over.” These words of wisdom set the stage of an already independent thinker, solidifying the fearlessness to step forward.

Growing up in Speedway, Becker had the unique experience of living near the track when crews rented out the surrounding garages of homes during the month of May. “As kids we were allowed to stay out until the drinking was well under way and the language turned south,” fondly recalls Becker.

After 7th grade, Becker’s family moved to Monrovia, where Becker graduated from high school. “I thought we had moved to Green Acres,” shares Becker. It was here in Monrovia where Becker developed an appreciation of land and space, influencing his current home built on 150 acres.

Becker opted not to accept a highly-coveted spot with the United States Coast Guard Academy, instead attended DePauw University. He listened to his gut again 4 years later, deciding not to enter law school, just 3 weeks before graduation. “It may have been impulsive, but I just knew where I was supposed to go, or more so where I was not intended to go,” shares Becker.

His first job was with General Electric Credit Corp. “This experience was like a working MBA,” states Becker. He quickly hit the ceiling, stagnating where he could have coasted for years, but that didn’t fit his style. Confirming this feeling, Becker met CEO Jack Welch during a company seminar in Chicago. Welch concluded his speech by asking if there were any questions. In a sea of suits, only one arm raised: Becker’s.

No one ever questioned Jack.

As Becker’s boss, seated next to him, was covertly yet frantically trying to get him to lower his arm, Welch called on him. After answering Becker’s proposed question, Welch called him up to the stage.

“No one ever raises their hand to ask a question. I commend you for being brave enough to ask. And it was a GOOD question,” said Welch to Becker off to the side of the stage.

This event confirmed what Becker already knew. He was not meant to be a sheep. He was a shepherd, having absorbed as much as he could at GE, he sought his next experience.

It was through the challenge of finding an adequate computer system for credit unions in Indiana that Becker found himself launching out on his own. After working with the Indiana credit union trade association during the deregulation phase of the early 80s, Becker wrote a biz plan on how to solve to their problem. The solution was simple, and outlined in his business proposal.

Upon presenting the business plan to the credit union, it was clear that they had no idea what to do with a business plan and could not even figure out who should read it nor what to do with it. Evident that this was going nowhere, Becker promptly quit his job and formed the company on his own. He would solve their computer problem: the credit unions would become his clients.

Becker found a guy in Michigan to sell him what he needed at wholesale. Without first solidifying capital, Becker immediately got into his car and drove straight up to Michigan to forge the deal, arriving at 9pm. The meeting wrapped up at 1am, and with his brain in overdrive with what he was taking on, he drove home during those early morning hours.

“I think the most influential mentors in my life were my parents and my grandfather. My grandfather (with a 7th grade education) was one of the most successful businessmen I have ever met in all kinds of different industries and my parents instilled me in from a very early age that my only limitation in life was me and my belief in myself,” shares Becker, “They gave me a lot of independence as a child and taught me the responsibilities that went along with that independence. I have always felt that if I put my mind to something and worked hard enough, I could accomplish almost anything.”

This conviction held true, for several tech companies later, First Internet Bank was started. It’s ironic that he runs a tech-based, banking business. During his DePauw days, Becker would pay a frat brother to punch in his codes for a computer class. “I hated computers, I swore I would never do anything with computers,” says Becker.

Not only that, he used to make fun of bankers. “They love widgets and something tangible,” states Becker, “First Internet Bank is intellectual property. Acquiring capital was next to impossible without a brick and mortar location.”

Becker’s oldest son, Jason, said, “Dad, the last thing I ever thought you’d be is a banker.”

“My style of management is a massive change for the conservative banking industry. The mantra at First Internet Bank is ‘the only constant is change’,” shares Becker.

The traditional banking model focuses on maintaining status quo. “A local bank did a year-end shareholder press release talking about the great success they had growing their assets almost 5% over the past year, we grow more than that on a quarterly basis,” states Becker, “We are changing the way consumers handle their financial needs, practically on a daily basis.”

David Becker has kept his NASDAQ-traded First Internet Bank headquartered here, in Indiana. In NYC, Becker was asked, “Why are you headquartered in Indiana?” and Becker’s response was, “Why not?! I can be anywhere in a couple of hours, the midwest work ethic is good, it’s a great place to live, and the cost of living is hard to beat.”

Throughout Becker’s career, he has always given back. Whether this involves his countless charitable work, assisting the entrepreneurial sector or commissioning artwork, Becker gives his time and efforts to bettering our community.

“I like bouncing both ideas and problems off others to get different perspectives. I think I get more out of the conversations than they do.” says Becker.

Becker’s positive influence in our community cannot be understated. When Mayor Goldsmith started the High Tech Task Force, Becker was immediately on board as a member. It was on this task force that Becker first met Kyle Salyers, Senior Vice President, Health Catalyst, a healthcare data and analytics company.

“David is tremendously busy, yet he always makes him himself available. Always. He listens, asks questions, and leads you down an intentional, thought-provoking path. Becker exhibits great humility. He somehow makes you feel like he is the one learning and growing from the relationship. This builds great confidence and gratitude in the people around him. But ultimately, he simply takes a genuine interest in people, and for that I am grateful.” shares Salyers.

According to College Mentors for Kids, “The Inspire Awards are an opportunity to connect with other business and community leaders who value mentoring in the workplace and community.”

Entrepreneurial communities are successful because of people. People like Becker, and a few others on that High Tech Task Force had the foresight to attract high tech companies to Indianapolis. Since that time, you can track, like a family tree, the influence and impact those individuals have made for our region.

“David Becker takes the time to grow the people around him. In turn, you feel an obligation to do the same, and pass along support and knowledge to others without ever asking for anything is exchange. This is how entrepreneurial communities grow, and our community has benefited greatly from David’s example in this regard” said Salyers.

At the 1999 launch of First Internet Bank, which received huge international media coverage, a reporter from the BBC  asked, “What do traditional banks have that you don’t have?” to which Becker replied, “long lines in the lobby.”

“I think I have always been an out-of-the-box thinker, because I never knew there was a box,” says Becker.

This article first appeared in Townepost Network, February 2015

Bankers Aren’t All Boring…

David Becker PhotoThe indelible statement, “they can’t eat you”, spoken to David Becker when he started his first business by his all-knowing grandfather, while it may be an obvious truth, instills confidence to leap into the unknown. The bit of advice is truly powerful, simplistic, and hilarious – all at the same time.

As a storyteller, every once in a while I have the pleasure of meeting a kindred soul who can’t shut up. This was the case with David Becker.

Before the Launch Fishers’ Failfest event last November, I overheard several tech geeks discussing how surprised they were that Becker was a keynote. I wasn’t clear what the big deal was, aside from having a CEO of a NASDAQ-traded company address a group of entrepreneurs and techies. My first reaction was, “big deal, he’s a banker – let’s hope no one starts snoring.”

(let me first and foremost apologize to any and all of my banking friends – you know all too well the stereotypes of how bankers are thought of: conservative and boring)

After listening to Becker speak, I made a point to approach him for an interview. He graciously accepted my offer, resulting in one of my favorite articles I have written to date. (note: ONE of…again, don’t freak out if I have written about you – you know I love everyone I have focused upon, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have written it!)

First of all, you never know the personality of a banking executive once you get them in an interview. Years ago at a party hosted by one of my neighbors, I experienced my most socially awkward situation ever, which is saying something.

The event was a couples’ Valentine’s Day party, and I attended alone since my husband was overseas on a business trip. I walk into the kitchen to get a drink and introduced myself to a couple. I asked them the basics: where they live, their occupations, and the answer I received was “CFO of XYZ bank” Ugh. Dry couple on first glance, and I couldn’t think of a more boring job than that, truly. (not just a banking executive – but a CFO! For the love of God…) So as I am fumbling for my next question and looking desperately around for someone to rescue me, the CFO drops his beer cap, and in a moment that seemed to move in slow motion, I noticed that as he bent over, his silk, leopard print boxers were showing between his corduroys, and turtleneck / sweater vest ensemble. His wife noticed my eyes pop out of my head and my jaw drop before I could regain my composure, she leans over her seemingly forever bent-over husband, and says, with both hands in claw position, “he’s an animal, grrrrrr” emphasized with a perfect purring sound. Ice broken. Faith in humanity restored, we talked all night!

So given this nearly embarrassing experience, and many more that I can’t possibly share in one sitting, I knew I could handle anything this banking CEO could dish out.

What transpired with Becker was an honest recollection of his childhood and entrepreneurial exploits, with perhaps his best story being his first job out of college working for GE financial, highlighted by meeting Jack Welch. Becker is fearless, yet thoughtful, and a pleasantly surprising addition to the banking industry. The industry could use more like him, just like “Princeton could use a guy like Joel….” (work with me here, you HAVE to get this movie reference….)

Article on David Becker, CEO and Chairman of First Internet Bank:

FailFest Blog

I want to first express my gratitude to all of the amazing people that I meet, and especially those that loving share their stories with me. This trust means a great deal to me and I am so grateful to write about so many fun, interesting, and incredible people!

Ok, now to discuss FailFest!

For the main article I wrote on FailFest, please visit

On November 19th, Launch Fishers played host to a variety of speakers who really don’t use the f-word. And by f-word, I mean “failure”

While I enjoyed all of the speakers that I listened to, I am going to share my notes from Susan Baroncini-Moe’s presentation. Here are the highlights from my notes on her speech:

6 steps to transform failure into success

  1. let yourself feel the emotions – let it go (give a time limit)
  2. acknowledge your successes – from the experience, spin your view – fresh perspective
  3. analyze mistakes – clear plan, clear goals, strategy in place
  4. strategize the future
  5. take action

ok, so maybe I only got the necessary 5 steps…


you can transform failure into success you decide what happens next, most importantly – failing doesn’t make you a failure – you decide who you are going to be tomorrow.

My favorite quote came from a guy who has a sign on his desk that reads:

“Fucking up two things at once does not count as multi-tasking.”

Best gratitude moment: John Wechsler thanking his mom for his spinal column.


Kara Kavensky

Kara Kavensky