Angie’s List founder ’95 shares entrepreneurship tips

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A self-professed introvert, co-founder of Indianapolis-based review service Angie’s List, Angela Hicks ’95 doesn’t fit her own definition of an entrepreneur.
On Friday, Sept. 28 in Meharry Hall, she exuded an aura of success and confidence as she candidly spoke to the assembled crowd during her part of the 175th Anniversary Distinguished Alumni Series.
“I never define myself as an entrepreneur, a risk taker, someone who always has ideas and loves change,” Hicks said. “When I think about the path I’ve taken, it’s sometimes more about just being willing to say yes to opportunities.”
Upon graduating from DePauw in 1995, she took a chance on an offer from her friend Bill Oesterle, who she had interned with previously. The two co-founded Angie’s List, a company dedicated to providing high-quality reviews about contractors, doctors, dentists and service professionals in more than 550 categories.
Starting door-to-door to recruit members for their service, Hicks did not foresee the success of the company.
“Looking back, I don’t think I would have been able to envision the state of our business today,” Hicks said.
Though beginnings may be rough for young companies, Hicks preaches persistence as an ultimate key to success.
“You don’t have to have the best or most creative idea to make a successful business – perseverance goes a long way,” she said.
Hicks’ dramatic success story is an inspiration for many aspiring entrepreneurs at DePauw, many of whom attended her lecture. Freshman Nick Thompson said hearing successful alumni share their stories is helpful in planning his own future.
“[The speakers] definitely inspire me because I know all of them were once in the same shoes as I am now,” Thompson said. “Also it’s encouraging to know that DePauw is a place that can create foundations for good things.”
However, senior Sumeru Chatterjee argued that students can gain a skewed perspective as a result of only being exposed to entrepreneurial success stories.
“Generally, only successful alumni return to DePauw to speak about their experiences,” Chatterjee said. “But in reality, for every success story, there are many, many failed attempts. Hearing only about the successes can create a biased impression that entrepreneurship always leads to success, when in reality it’s very difficult to be a successful entrepreneur.”
The proctor of the lecture, David B. Becker ’75, CEO of First Internet Bank and founder of multiple financial and technology companies, said DePauw gives students the tools to be successful.
“The liberal arts program gives students the ability to think on their feet and creates great team players,” Becker said.
Chatterjee agrees that his experiences at DePauw has prepared him for many aspects, such as his recent internship at Goldman Sachs. But he noted that he felt unprepared within the specific field he worked in.
“My DePauw education did not give me an edge in finance – I was not the top financial analyst there,” Chatterjee said. “However, they were glad to have me on the team because I was a good contributing member, and I knew how to interact well with my coworkers and my boss.”
For students thinking about getting their masters in business administration programs, Hicks recommends getting work experience before applying to business schools.
Hicks started working directly after receiving her bachelor’s degree in economics from DePauw and later went on to earn her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.
Stories like Hicks’s and Becker’s are a nod to DePauw’s ability to prepare students for success in the post-college world, and current students may find it helpful to hear what exactly these entrepreneurs attribute their successes to.
Hicks left those in attendance with one last piece of advice.
“Take advantage of opportunities when they arise – get committed, research your idea, and just do it,” Hicks said.