How swimming, performing and writing at North Central propelled RJ Talyor to top of Indianapolis’ tech scene
Excellence doesn’t require expertise. Sometimes, it simply requires a desire to learn, work and compete. RJ Talyor (North Central ’98) didn’t plan on being one of the most influential figures in the booming Indianapolis tech scene. Instead, curiosity and competition led him to the front of the line. Today, as the founder and CEO of Pattern89, Talyor reflects on how his involvement in Washington Township provided him with the tools to lead something new.
A competitive swimmer, Talyor still recalls ending a long championship drought in the Marion County swimming meet. He remembers championship performances for Counterpoints. It was the validation of his writing in a freshman English class that had a surprising, lasting impact as well.
“I had the opportunity of taking advantage of a lot of things when I was at North Central,” Talyor recalls. “It’s that legacy and tradition that creates a demand for excellence.”
Talyor attended DePauw University and earned an English degree. He was fascinated by entrepreneurship and surrounded himself with classes, internships and fellowships to pursue something stimulating. He landed a job at ExactTarget in the early days of what became a foundational company in Indianapolis. He knew he wanted to be there, even if he didn’t know exactly how.
“My first job at ExactTarget was a deliverability consultant and I didn’t even know what that was,” Talyor reflects. “The thing that set me apart was I read the legal document that was vital to my job. Suddenly, I am the most intelligent person in the room. You take the time to read it and suddenly people think you’re a, quote, ‘expert.'”
He worked with the company for over a decade, rising to become a vice president, and helping with the transition during the acquisition by Salesforce. He started when the company was just 60 employees and the development of new technologies and products was blindingly fast. Talyor credits an incredible culture when reflecting on how ExactTarget became embedded in Indianapolis.
“There was a moment about five or six years into my tenure when we stopped apologizing for being from Indiana,” Talyor said, reflecting the stigma of the Midwest in a tech community largely centered on the East Coast or in California. “We figured out that the strategic advantage we had with clients is that we were from Indianapolis. We were honest. We worked hard. We could compete.”
The audacity of ExactTarget’s success inspired Talyor and the entrepreneur in him was itching to create something new in the space. Pattern89 became that, a company that uses cutting-edge data science tools, unparalleled advertiser data and a strong team of paid social experts to build an innovative platform. If he could survive Counterpoints practices in the student center, swim meets, or writing a Junior Spectacular act for critique and peer review, starting a company was a natural risk to take given the confidence instilled in Talyor while at North Central.
“I really wanted to do it myself,” he said. “We are a little over a year-and-a-half into the business and we are focussed on bringing artificial intelligence to marketers… We have the data science to answer questions for the clients.
“It’s a dream job. I am really thankful every day that I have this opportunity.”
With new clients coming in the door, it’s not much different from the swim meet in 1995, or Junior Spec in 1997. Talyor put himself out there to win, and he has.