3 Tips for Nailing Your Startup Pitch and Getting Funded

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of startup pitches – the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are a million different ways to piece together an effective pitch, but the following are consistent feedback points that I always coach entrepreneurs on when helping prepare them for fundraising. Here are my top three tips for nailing your pitch every single time.

1.) Establish a target for your startup pitch.


Before you present your startup onstage, introduce yourself at a networking event, or arrive at your potential investor meeting, you need to do a little backward planning to ensure you make the most out of your pitch. Ask yourself – what is my number one desired outcome? What do I want to happen after I deliver my pitch? Regardless of where you’re pitching or who’s hearing your pitch, having the desired outcome – or a target – in mind will help you remember why you’re pitching and zero in on what you came to achieve.

As you’re thinking about your target, specificity is key. There’s a big difference between a target of meeting key contacts and a target of securing three meetings with three investors in the e-commerce industry within the next week. The latter is much more specific and thus, much more effective. To ensure your target is specific, you can use the SMART goals acronym.

S – Specific. Can you define your target using clear, precise language?

M – Measurable. Can you measure the impact of your target in quantifiable criteria?

A – Agreed Upon. Is the rest of your team on board with this target? Does it make sense based on your quarterly and yearly objectives?  

R – Realistic. Is your target reasonable, given your startup’s current traction?

T – Time-Bound. Have you set a time constraint to help hold yourself accountable?

Follow these guidelines and you’ll have a specific, clear target that will keep your pitch on the right path towards success.

2.) Hook your audience of venture capitalists or angel investors.


There’s a reason clickbait articles get so many clicks, and it’s not rocket science – it’s a hook. Whether you’re writing an article for Buzzfeed or you’re up on stage delivering your pitch, you have one chance and one chance only to grab your audience’s attention, and you do so with a catchy, juicy, irresistible hook.

How do you know if your audience will take the bait? Here are a few key elements of a good hook that you can incorporate into your own pitch.

Effective hooks are…

  • Genuine. Your hook should be catchy, but make sure it’s honest. If you don’t have the numbers you currently want or a highly-emotional story to open with, that’s alright. Find an angle that accurately reflects your startup and go from there. Authenticity is appealing, no matter how it’s delivered.
  • Emotional. Attention – please read the following disclaimer: not all hooks have to be emotional, however, some of the best ones often are. If your startup solves a problem that could be considered more personal for the consumer, rather than professional, consider using an emotionally-charged hook to capture your audience’s attention.
  • Direct. The opening lines of your pitch are not a good place to beat around the bush. Be direct. Don’t waste time introducing yourself and over-explaining your background (at least in the beginning), get started and hook your audience by jumping right into the action.
  • Creative. Some of the catchiest hooks use an out-of-the-box format to break the norm and jar their audience’s perspective. You can do this by asking your audience a question, telling a narrative, using a fun fact or statistic or using second person narration to put your audience (“you”) in your customer’s shoes.

The key to a successful hook is to break the norm. By interrupting your audience’s everyday thought patterns and challenging their assumptions of what a pitch might be, you’ll be able to not only hook their attention, but keep them hanging on your every last word.

3.) Don’t just talk about startup traction, show it.


Now that you’ve hooked your audience’s attention, your next job is to continue building excitement around your startup. It’s this stage in the pitch where a lot of startups fail, because they simply tell the audience who they are, what they do, and where they’re headed. The best entrepreneurs know, however, that in order to truly get investors on board, they must show how they’re changing the industry and making an impact.

So, how do you show traction in your pitch? There are a few different ways.

  • Social proof. Use testimonials or positive customer feedback to show how you’ve made an impact.
  • Authority. Demonstrate authority in your field by highlighting media attention, certifications, and/or other recognizable awards and achievements.
  • Numbers. Investors want to know every detail about every number in your records before they’ll invest. A few good numbers you might want to highlight in your pitch:
    • Market Size and Value
    • Revenue Projections
    • Profit Projections
    • Funding and Budget Allocations
    • Current Customer/User Base

You don’t have to incorporate all three of these elements—social proof, authority, and numbers — into your pitch in order to be effective. A solid approach is to pick your top three most impactful traction points to highlight in your pitch, and focus on those. A quality over quantity approach is always more memorable when it comes to demonstrating value.

Keep these tips in mind as you’re crafting and practicing delivering your pitch. Get clear on your target, craft a juicy hook, and demonstrate traction to set yourself apart from your competition and deliver a memorable, investment-worthy pitch.

You can apply this method to any field, including open source projects.

Check out one of my favorite pitches of all time on our startup pitch resources page. http://vergehq.com/pitch/

Can You Manage a Buzzing Community?

“Why isn’t this door unlocked?!” Frantically cupping my eyes peering into DeveloperTown. It is April 1st, the first day, of my first big girl job, anddd I’m late. Someone walking by takes pity on me and lets me in, I mumble something resembling, “Thanks, I’m new” and scurry to the Verge House. (If you have not had a chance to stop by DeveloperTown, you should.)

Sitting on my desk is The book, Buzzing Communities by Richard Millington. Matt with more excitement than normal beams, “Happy First Day! Here’s a book to help!”


Mimicking as best as I can, I put on my “YES! I LOVE READING!” face, and grab the book and put it in my bag. (I have a pretty calm and just go-with-it type of demeanor, so trying to copy his excitement all the time is hard. Anyone that knows Matt…. knows he is generally always very excited)

Buzzing Communities in its simplest form, is a how-to for community managers. Millington identifies the real problems that we should focus on, and the wrong problems that community managers tend to waste time on. Community managers, will more likely than not, fall in the trap of listening to their instinct rather than data. Too many of us are reacting to a minority of members rather than focusing on the activities that make our community thrive. As community managers we overlook the need to value the community with hard facts with data to support it, which Millington mentions is crucial when surveying a community.

Follow These 8 Key Areas to Focus your Energy:
giphy (1)

Millington identifies 8 categories/chapters that community managers should focus most of their energy: Strategy, Growth, Moderation, Events and Activities, Relationships and Influence, Business Integration, and User Experience.

The book is organized into very clear sections, with chapters, action items, and real world examples to back claims up. The sections go into moderate detail explaining what a community manager needs to do to get their online community thriving. It is supported by scholarly theories and he even throws in some macro and micro economic buzzwords. Do not be intimidated by it, it is still very relatable, easy to read, and well explained.

Millington goes into detail about why these overarching themes are important, provides tips on how to achieve, and provides specifics on how to measure how well you have done.

Every page got me more excited and fired up, I literally wanted to collect data and measure everything in the community (calm down, Kotterer).

3 reasons this book is a winner:

(1) I was actively thinking about my community while reading. I would be asking myself questions in between sentences, “Are we at this point yet?” “How do I collect data about a community!”, “Is my community healthy?”, “What value add can I bring to the table”
(2) It made my vision as a leader and manager clearer. There is a lot of noise in startup communities, and it gets loud. Focus on the right noise that will help you achieve your goals.
(3) Reiterated the importance of the return of investment (ROI) for your community and the significance of maintaining community loyalty. Millington does great job of going beneath the surface and identifying the real problems that community managers face and provides real insight and problem solving tactics.
I would recommend this book to anyone in a community management role at any level, or anyone who wants to know the inner workings of a community. Marketing and PR teams, will find this useful if they intend to build a community around their brand. If your job is to build an online community that has developed relationships around a strong common interest, this book is for you.


Update: Four months later I am now have a key card so I’m not locked out and I am equipped with skills and knowledge to be community leader…


How Monthly Investor Updates Scored $10 Million in Funding for WedPics

Before Justin Miller’s mobile company had 2.5+ million users, he was working out of a basement, searching for an industry where his tech company could thrive.

Miller has since been kicked out of that basement office, threatened by large-scale companies, and faced several funding crunches. But Miller’s startup, WedPics now powers personalized photo-sharing for 10,000 weddings per weekend, with monthly uploads in the millions. Watch Justin Miller’s candid interview from Verge North Carolina and learn the real story behind how he grew WedPics (and exactly WHY monthly investor updates are so important):

WedPics CEO and Co-founder Justin Miller didn’t have prior expertise or experience in launching or growing a tech startup. But the team’s resourcefulness made creative use of the resources available in the growing tech hub of the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel-Hill).

justin-miller-monthly-investor-updates“This was everybody’s first startup,” says Miller. “But we were just driven and had the determination to figure out how to make things happen.”

Miller believes in his team and the startup community in North Carolina. He is a graduate of North Carolina State (NC State) University and veteran of IBM, where he spent 7 years honing his skills before launching WedPics (then named deja mi, inc) in 2011.

WedPics has $9.9 million in 5 rounds of funding, according to CrunchBase. Investors include the likes of well-known thought leader and investor Brad Feld and “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran.

“None of us knew anything about the wedding space,” said Miller. But the team has prevailed through effective user acquisition, tech development, and communication. The co-founder attributes the WedPics investment success to one key CEO habit:

Write Monthly Investor Updates

“I needed to figure out a way to stay at the top of everybody’s radar,” said Miller. “[Doing monthly investor updates] is one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Here’s what Miller did with his WedPics investor and partner updates:

  • Send at the beginning of every month
  • Give overview of how we did the previous month
  • Provide cumulative overview of how we’ve been performing to date

“That is one of the best things we’ve ever done,” says Miller. Several investors and investor groups have explained why monthly investor reports are important and have even provided investor update templates for founders to use. But Miller shares which qualities made the WedPics updates so valuable:

5 Keys to Effective Investor Updates

  1. WedPics-investor-updateStay relevant (share only the information relevant to company’s current direction).
  2. Show traction.
  3. Make it a quick read (Pro Tip: use charts where it’s helpful).
  4. Be transparent.
  5. Don’t expect responses (people are busy, so be consistent even if updates don’t immediately spark a dialogue).

Even if your tech company doesn’t have investors, you can use monthly investor updates to form and direct your thinking, keep your team on the same page, and facilitate partner opportunities. WedPics not only shared with investors and potential investors, but used the monthly investors reports to keep potential partners, acquirers, and acquisition targets updated on their team’s progress.

Side note: social sharing app Buffer does a great job of sharing their monthly investor updates. Read through their past updates here. I also really like the notes on investor updates from Groove CEO Alex Turnbull: read his advice here.

Watch the Full WedPics Interview to Learn More About Investor Updates AND:

  • WedPics User Growth Strategy
  • Why Sharing Personally is Important for Founders
  • Why WedPics is Still Taking Risks
  • How North Carolina is Supporting Startup Growth

Watch the WedPics interview …or…. leave a comment below! Are you currently sending regular investor updates? What benefits (or even negative side effects) have you experienced as a result?

From Broke to Breakthrough: Peter Voogd and 6 Months to 6 Figures

I recently listened to the audiobook of 6 Months to 6 Figures by Peter Voogd, and his perspective really resonated with me. And not just because we have a shared past of door-to-door sales (I sold vacuum cleaners, he sold Cutco knives). Voogd went from broke to a game changer who practically defines the word “hustle.” In his book, and in this interview, he shares keys to success for fellow entrepreneurs.

“You only know how strong you really are until being strong is the only option you have. ”

-Peter Voogd, Author of the Best Seller 6 Months to 6 Figure

Watch the full interview with Peter Voogd:

On the go? Listen to the whole interview here:

Inspiration vs. Habits.

A lot of us entrepreneurs are inspired, which helps us drive action, but Voogd emphasized the importance of productive habits: “Inspiration is short-term and feels good in the moment, but it’s hard to sustain because you don’t have the habits.” One recipe for success he described was the habit of asking himself “What did I do well? What can I do better?” after every single meeting or presentation.

Circle of Influence.

Voogd further explained how taking it upon yourself to figure out these effective habits is unnecessary: “It takes people so much longer to get to an end result than they would’ve got if they actually reached out to people that are already playing the game at a higher level. They will tell you what the best habits are.” Identify the top five people in your industry and reach out to them. Stop making excuses and, as Nike advises, just do it. You’ll probably be surprised by how easy it is to get a hold of even famous people, who can then help you drastically shorten your learning curve. Watch Voogd explain his circle of influence epiphany →

“You have to realize that everyone who has a network now once didn’t. The first step is increasing your level of certainty that you can connect with people like that, whether you have anything to offer or not.”

-Peter Voogd, Author of the Best Seller 6 Months to 6 Figures

“The Unrequired Things.”

6monthsto6figuresAlong with establishing effective habits, Voogd spoke about how going above and beyond is the key. One way to go the extra mile is having utter confidence in selling yourself: “You have to believe wholeheartedly that the product is better for [your customer], and they are better off having it than if they don’t.”

The second unrequired thing is writing down the internal reasons that drive you to do what you do. You might come up with 20 to 30 reasons, then boil them down to four or five core ones. Voogd underscored that reasons come first, results come second: “Too many people just go after results, without having strong enough reasons, and if they go through challenges, they don’t have any reasons to pull them through the challenge.”

The Million Dollar Question.

A great story Voogd shared was from when he was a sales manager in his early 20s, striving to hit a $1 million sales goal that was thought to be unattainable. You can probably guess the outcome, but don’t miss how he did it →

“Anything is possible to those who value their goals, their dreams, and their visions over their current excuses or reality.”

-Peter Voogd, Author of the Best Seller 6 Months to 6 Figure

The One-Page Productivity Planner

Voogd shared the details of his one-page productivity planner. The exercise here is to simplify and focus on what really matters. Get the gist below, download his template here, or watch him explain it 

  1. Brief vision-statement. What’s your ideal outcome in six months?
  2. Your BIG 5 Goals for the next 12 months.
  3. Your Top Five Reasons, the most powerful ones that drive you the most.
  4. Your Key Values, to connect to what’s most important to you. For example, a few of Voogd’s are are flexibility, autonomy, and impact.

Download the 1-Page Productivity Sheet >>

Talk about impact! The Game Changers Academy Voogd founded has trained and inspired over 4,500 entrepreneurs, and his podcasts, videos, websites and social media reach over 200,000 people monthly.

Want to learn even more from outstanding young entrepreneurs?

On July 30th, I’ll take the stage with Santiago Jaramillo, one of Inc Magazine’s “30 Under 30” for a special launch event in the brand new offices of his growing mobile tech company, Bluebridge. Get your tickets now!

Peter Voogd Interview Transcript show

8 Universal Qualities of Great Pitch Decks

“Send me your deck.”

Early entrepreneurs hear this a lot. And it’s because a pitch deck is a great way for an investor or potential customer to quickly size up your company. 

So, don’t leave this important communications piece to chance. We interviewed eight experienced entrepreneurs to get their perspective on the important aspects of an effective pitch deck.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s one lesser known thing you can include in a pitch deck that will really wow a VC?

1. Revenue

Danny BoiceWe very deliberately set out to have a solid revenue story for investors from day one. I know this sounds like common sense, but it’s unfortunately quite rare. I can’t believe how many investors we’ve pitched to who couldn’t believe that we had revenue our first month in business.

– Danny BoiceTrustify

2. A Personal Connection

Kristopher JonesDo research on the personal background of the person(s) you are sharing a deck with, and find one or more things in common to create a lasting personal connection. Maybe you went to the same college or high school. Maybe you are both Philadelphia Eagles fans (that would make three of us) or both attended Burning Man. A genuine personal connection can impress a VC and set the tone for discussion.

– Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

3. Synergies With Their Current Investments

Daniele GallardoI found that it is really important to understand the portfolio of your VC or strategic partner. Browsing the companies that they funded in the past gives you an understanding of what is important to them. If the companies are in the realm of what you do, it is often very simple to find synergies that the VC would really love to see in your deck. Do the homework for them, and show them!

– Daniele Gallardo, Actasys

4. Lessons Learned

jared-brownTelling VCs that you’ve made mistakes and sharing what you’ve learned from them will definitely make you stand out from the other startups that might be pretending to be perfect. You’ll show them that you’re adaptable, resilient and perceptive — all qualities they’re looking for in a potential investment. Then show how the lessons added to the value of your product or expanded your market reach.

– Jared BrownHubstaff

5. People Who Believe in You and How to Contact Them

dave-nevogtIf you already have influencers and advisors on board, show VCs who the three or four most important ones are and how to best get in contact with them. Having established entrepreneurs and businesspeople who will sing your praises to potential investors is an important signal of credibility, and in some cases, it can sway a VC that’s potentially interested but still needs some reassurance.

– Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

6. Video

Miles JenningsVideo and imagery are what attracts attention most from any audience you are trying to speak to, even an audience of VCs. Include a short video in your pitch that shows who you really are as a company, what you have accomplished and what your goals are. The video will make your story more tangible and will give a VC an inside look at your company and what you have to offer.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

7. Thorough Financials

Jason LaAs an active investor in early stage companies, I review pitch decks every week, and I would be impressed by a thorough discussion of key metrics beyond mere sales projections. This should include compound annual growth rate, customer acquisition cost and return on equity as well as a timeline of the cost to achieve specific milestones. Thorough financials demonstrate solid business acumen.

– Jason La, Merchant Service Group, LLC

8. Future Vision of the Industry

Mike SeimanInclude the vision of the future of your industry. Too many people get caught up in the numbers and forget to tell a story. VCs want to know the bigger picture – where your company and your industry is going. In the end, marketing and finance decks aren’t that different. Both tell VCs a story and focus on getting them to invest in that vision.

– Mike SeimanCPXi

Why Learn Coding? w/ Scott Voicemail Inventor Scott Jones [VIDEO]

I sat down into the red velvet seats of one of the greatest home theaters in the world. But I wasn’t in New York or Los Angeles.

Voicemail inventor Scott Jones recently made his home (read: mansion) into one of the most ambitious undertakings in the field of education. With the unveiling of Eleven Fifty coding academy, Jones launched a new approach to learning to code software. Full disclosure: Eleven Fifty is a sponsor of Verge. And there are very good reasons why we decided to partner up…

Watch the video below to see Scott’s answer to the question “Why learn coding?” and maybe even more intriguingly… Why Indiana?

So, why learn coding?

C’mon! Are you living under a rock?

I know I’m not the only one getting hit up dozens of times a week asking if I know anyone who “knows how to build iPhone apps” or someone in search of a “technical co-founder.” Coding skills are in high demand.

It doesn’t matter if you know the latest language or not, it’s the underlying principles and thinking strategies of software development that lay the foundation to build great software–whether you want to build the next enterprisey software death star… or just annoy your friends with a new app that will be hotter than Flappy Bird.

Why learn coding in Indiana?

scott-jonesWell, besides the fact that the Indiana startup community’s got it going on, there’s one critical aspect that sets Indiana apart. . .


By hosting their intensive coding courses in the home of voicemail inventor Scott Jones, Eleven Fifty has crafted an immersive approach to learning to code. Walking through the halls (and the sick home theater, and indoor basketball court, and commercial kitchen…), you can feel the knowledge being pumped into the brains of students as they develop real-life apps with hands-on guidance from some of the most talented trainers in software.

There are also several great developer communities and new organizations that are working relentlessly to help more people become more technically proficient.

Why learn coding now?

It seriously has never been easier. If you want to learn to code but haven’t written your first line yet, it’s just because you’re lazy.

Hey, I won’t hold it against you. Just get started. Like… now.

If you want to get a taste of this immersive approach to learning to code, we’ve got something special for you. . .

Use the discount code below for 40% off the Security course

May 28th and 29th. Get the deets and get registered for the course here:


Code: verge@efa
The code can be entered at the checkout! So… check. it. out. (sorry, I had to)

If you’re within driving distance of the academy, I hope you’ll join us for our May 28th Evolution of Code event at Eleven Fifty. You can register here (while tickets are still available):


So, let me know where you’re at. . . Are you learning some coding basics? Or wanting to take your technical game to the next level? Let me know in the comments below or shoot me a tweet!

How to Steal the Best Digital Marketing Ideas

Eric Clapton MasteryEric Clapton became a guitar god by first practicing riffs created by blues guitar legend Robert Johnson. Clapton developed his own style as he listened to other artists, played with new bands, and found the guitar licks that he grew to love.

Becoming a master of digital marketing is no different.

But first, you’ve got to get the right stuff into your brain (Clapton wouldn’t have become Clapton if he’d imitated amateurs). If you want to master digital marketing idea generation, you have to first get comfortable with borrowing things that work elsewhere.

Use this 20-minute daily practice to steal the best digital marketing ideas for your start up or growing company.

Become a magnet for digital marketing strategy ideas.

Set aside 20 minutes a day. Go ahead and block it out on your calendar so you commit to it. Then use the time as follows:

First 5 minutes: Choose the 10 best growth articles of the day.

Skim through the 3 best marketing ideas bubbling up on the internet that day. You can subscribe to company emails that you like to find fresh digital marketing ideas. But I like to use Q&A and user-submission tools to help me identify what’s worth reading and what isn’t. I highly recommend:

During this first 5 minutes, you should simply identify the 5-10 most compelling articles. Identify these by finding the submissions that have the most upvotes, comments, or keywords in the title that indicate the article might be particularly relevant to your business.

Pro Tip: You can do this process even more quickly by hold shift while you click each tab. This will open the article in a new tab without changing windows and allow you to complete this first part of discovery quickly.

Second 5 minutes: Identify the best digital marketing ideas.

Is it worth reading every word of every article that catches your attention online? (hint: probably not)

digital marketing ideas

Get in the habit of good skimming technique by taking the 5-10 articles identified in your first 5 minutes of discovery and forcing yourself to review the article in 30 seconds or less. Do this by reading through the headlines and subheads, bolded words, and key phrases (which generally appear in the first and last sentences of paragraphs).

Your goal here should be to find the best 3 articles for you to dig into and really comprehend. These should be articles that challenge you to think in a new way or learn something new.

Third 5 minutes: Dig in.

Now that you’ve figured out where the gold is hidden, it’s time to put on your headlamp and headlamp. Because, we’re going mining!

In each of your final three digital marketing ideas, look for explicit tactics that are tied to measurable outcomes. As you identify clear tactics, jot some notes on how you might apply those same marketing tactics to your business. Here’s an example of a digital marketing concept:

“Add a live chat function on product pages”

Keep it brief, but descriptive. If necessary, add a couple of extra thoughts on how you could make this marketing idea work for your business. We’ll need that for the final step.

Final 5 minutes: Build out one digital marketing idea.

You should have about 7-10 concepts from three articles at this point. Now it’s time to identify and dig in once again.

Rank your marketing concepts by potential impact to your business or ease of implementation, depending on your current work capacity. Write a number to the left of each concept statement indicating which should be top priority (number 1).

Then, take your number one idea and bullet out a few more notes on that concept:

  • What existing campaign or marketing strength would this concept leverage?
  • Given your existing marketing strategies, what kind of impact could you expect to your key metrics? Write these down as rough goals.
  • How quickly could you expect to implement? Jot down what you think might be a good goal.

Save these notes to review at the end of each week. This is an important step for getting your marketing ideas implemented

Make your digital marketing idea your own.

Using this 20-minute daily practice with allow you to see enough digital marketing ideas to come up with your own ideas. By giving yourself some time between initial idea generation and review at the end of each week, you’ll give your subconscious the space it needs to gestate.

By making this a daily habit, your brain will begin to see patterns in digital marketing ideas. This discipline will help you steal and implement the best ideas, and give our business the biggest opportunities by making them your own.

BONUS: How to Get the Best Marketing Ideas before they hit the Internet

Pssst… here’s a little secret that the best entrepreneurs and marketers don’t want you to know…

The very best marketing ideas are usually shared at industry conferences months before the case studies get shared publically on the internet. This gives you time to capture the market and refine before others start stealing the same marketing ideas.

Join the MBO Digital Marketing Conference and Ideate Like a Boss

Verge HQ teamed up with one of the Midwest’s best digital marketing conferences, MBO. We’re hosting our pitch night this Wednesday, April 29th. We’ll have a panel of marketing tech thought leaders, as well as some of the most innovative software companies presenting their tech and marketing.

But just for you, you can attend the entire MBO conference and get more than $60 off your registration with the code VERGE15.

Register now >>

MBO Indy




It’s no secret that Indianapolis is a leader in Marketing and Tech. I hope you’ll join us!


Verge is Open For Service and So Is Indiana

“You might not have heard about it, but Indiana’s killing it in software and tech. We’re growing like crazy.”

That’s what I said this morning at my out-of-state coffee meeting. This is the same level of enthusiasm with which I share our tech growth story every time I tell it. Whether I’m in Silicon Valley, DC, or Kansas City—I always deliver our Hoosier story with confidence and conviction.

And the story is usually met with intrigue and excitement. But this morning was different.

“We’re growing like crazy,” I said.

“Well… until now,” the guy on the other side of the table replied. His words slapped me across the face. My blood pressure started to raise and my first reaction was to tell him he was wrong. But part of me felt like I deserved it.

The past several days have been difficult for people living in Indiana. The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has generated a violent storm of negative attention for the state we call home. The new law communicates a set of values that my community and I just don’t support.

“But I didn’t do this,” I thought to myself. “I didn’t write the damn bill. And I sure as hell didn’t vote for it.”

But I still feel responsible. I’m proud of how my friends, mentors, and fellow founders from Verge nation have spoken out and taken action regarding RFRA.

The best parts of Indiana were built on the values of inclusion, openness, and service. That’s why Verge supports an #OpenIndiana and will always be #OpenForService.


We’re going to stay focused on building the kind of state we want to live in. And what we want is to keep Indiana open—open to new ideas, people, perspectives, and business. My hope is that our government will take action and I’m encouraged to see that it appears they’re taking this matter seriously.

I’m hopeful that new legislation is proposed and implemented quickly to fix these RFRA and perception issues. In the meantime, let’s continue to celebrate the diversity of our community.

I know you’ll join me in sharing the stories of the people from our #OpenIndiana that are—and always have been—#OpenForService. The Indiana I know cares. The Indiana I know is open and growing.

So, how did I respond to my friend this morning at coffee?

I took a breath, looked him in the eye and said, “Just wait. You’ll see.”

Fresh face. Same community. Better experience.

“Here’s what we’ve got,” Kristian said as he pulled up the final list onto the big screen in the conference room. I leaned back in my chair as I read through the options.

kristian-andersen-studio-scienceIf you’re an entrepreneur, you know that naming a business isn’t easy. But picking a name for a community may be even more nerve racking. It’s not just your organization, it belongs to the group. I could feel the weight of the decision in my gut as I digested each potential name on the list.

“So, what do you think?” Kristian asked after it was clear that I was rereading through the list for the sixth or seventh time. Kristian Andersen is one of the top designers and branding minds in the industry. And as the founder of Indianapolis-based design firm Studio Science, Andersen’s team had crafted a list of about a dozen final options for a new name for our Midwest-based group. The problem was that there were several names in the list that tugged at my curiosity.

“I really like Verge,” I said as I looked to the group for feedback. I was still timid about pushing the group in any direction back then, because much of the magic behind Verge is the ideas, energy, and execution from everyone within Verge nation. Fortunately–and eventually unfortunately–for us a lot of people like “Verge” as a name brand.

We picked our name and the Verge community grew.


And grew.


And we’ve learned a lot along the way.

Thanks to leaders in other growing tech communities and our supportive sponsors, we’re now 3,000+ members strong in four different cities in the Midwest, with several more locations on the horizon. Each hub hosts their own pitch nights, where entrepreneurs share their business, technology, and vision with a growing group of investors, founders, and builders. And that takes guts.

Pitch Nights have become a headquarters for bold entrepreneurs building tech businesses outside of the bubble of Silicon Valley. And these Verge headquarters in Middle America have given a heartbeat behind our purpose-driven community.

Now our Verge community is on the verge itself.

verge-community-huncklerTogether, we’ve built a home where you can find candid stories about entrepreneurs and technology on the verge. And we’re building more and more places where you can find that community of sharers.

Since we picked the name for our community back in 2010, several other organizations decided they like using the name “Verge,” too. They each have their own focus and luckily one sharp community member, helped us protect our IP and helped us trademark our name. That’s pretty great, because we’re pretty fond it 🙂

And our Verge is growing. Soon, you’ll be able to find a geographic HQs north, south, east, and west of our flagship HQ in Indianapolis. We support Verge HQs across the Midwest and anywhere outside of Silicon Valley to support and celebrate entrepreneurs growing tech businesses.  So here’s what you need to know about our next chapter of growth…

VergeStartups.com is now VergeHQ.com

We like to keep things simple. Many of the entrepreneurs in our community have grown their business beyond the startup stage. But they’ll always be on the verge of the next big things. And we’ll be sharing those on the new VergeHQ.com (hint: you’re reading this post now on our site now).

Home page


You can find new areas to explore on VergeHQ.com:

  • The COMMUNITY section where you’ll be able to find pitches from founders around the world and entrepreneurial insights you won’t find on other tech or leadership blogs.
  • The ABOUT section that shares our story of growing up in the Verge community
  • The START HERE section that shares many of the tools I’ve used in building businesses in the past and the tools we use today at Verge to keep adding value for our founders. The cool thing is, most of these tools were built by people within Verge nation!

And you can still finds old posts. Here are a few of my favorites:

You can get our best stories and some cool event opportunities delivered to your inbox on our Verge VIP list. Just sign up on VergeHQ.com to get updates. We’ll also be doing some cool new things with social…

On Twitter: @VergeIndy is now @VergeHQ and #VergeHQ

@VergeHQ on TwitterVerge has grown far beyond Indianapolis. You can still find founder stories, investor advice, and snapshots of the Indy community on @VergeHQ, but we’ll be featuring more of our VergeHQs around the country as well.

And here’s where the real potential is.

As we continue to support our community of entrepreneurs as we add new Verge HQs in new cities, we’ll raise the signal for all of Verge nation. When we share and amplify the entrepreneurial stories and new technology built outside the Valley, we build momentum for the Midwest and tech communities on the verge around the world.

As I finish typing up this post, I’m getting ready to step in front of a crowd of 250+ people.

Why? Because tonight in Indianapolis, we’re celebrating Studio Science—the same experience design agency I found myself sitting in four years ago, deliberating over names for our community.

As I left Kristian’s Studio Science offices four years ago, I thanked him and his team for helping us create our new brand. But his response surprised me and stuck with me ever since.

“A brand or a name is just a vessel,” Kristian corrected me. “It’s up to you to fill it up.”

So, thanks to you for helping us fill it up. We’ve built something magical here. I’m so grateful that you’re a part of Verge and I appreciate your support of entrepreneurs everywhere through @VergeHQ and VergeHQ.com.

See you around #VergeHQ



Big News from Tesla and Amazon, and Other Stories in Verge’s Week-in-Review

The World Cup is in full swing, it’s almost officially summer, and the Innovation Showcase is just a few weeks away. Check out the best innovation and tech stories from this past week…

Tesla Charges (and Recharges) Ahead

TeslaOkay, this technically happened last week, but Tesla made headlines with CEO Elon Musk’s recent announcement that the company would open up access to its patents. Though a bold step, it echoes recent moves towards encouraging innovation from Twitter, Pixar, and other technology leaders. Bringing in more competitors will also help bolster the size of the electric car market. The company’s stock price has already climbed. Time will tell, but maybe nice guys – or at least nice, strategic innovators – can finish first.

Amazon Heats Up Smartphone Competition

Confirming rumors, Amazon revealed its long-awaited smartphone, the Fire Phone, this past Wednesday. Though a latecomer to the game, Amazon’s entrant brings some unique features, such as “dynamic perspective,” which uses front-mounted cameras to render 3D graphics in relation users’ head movements. Another feature, called Firefly, can recognize over 100 million items like books, songs and kitchen products and help you find more information on them or – not surprisingly – buy them on Amazon. What do you think: will the Fire Phone be a success, or even steal market share from Apple and Samsung?

For your regular old iPhone or Android, check out our “Top Productivity Apps for Entrepreneurs.”

Stand-up Meetings. Literally.

the anvilYou’ve probably heard about how unhealthy it is to sit for too long, but a new study shows a new reason to stand tall. According to Washington University business professor Andrew Knight, standing during meetings encourages teamwork and creativity. Participants in two teams, one standing and one sitting, were asked to work together on a project. Wrist sensors showed that the standing team had greater “physiological arousal” – the way the body get energized when creative juices are flowing, and were less protective of their ideas.

It’s no wonder that the new coworking space of the Anvil, where Verge holds meetups in West Lafayette, will include plenty of options for taking a stand.

A Tech Victory at the World Cup

An invisible but crucial player during the World Cup is the new goal-line technology, GoalControl, German-engineered to avoid a repeat of 2010 controversies over incorrect goal rulings. Claimed to be 100% accurate, GoalControl can detect goals in real time and take 500 photos per second. As far as France’s victory over Honduras, the technology might as well be an MVP. When confusion arose after the ball bounced off the Honduran goalie’s hand near the goal line, the goal-line technology came to the rescue with an accurate ruling of “GOOOOAAAL.”

And now I’m imagining what a pitch for GoalContol at a Verge Innovation Showcase would have been like!

Eyes on the Prize

the innovation showcaseSpeaking of the Innovation Showcase, we recently revealed the 81 exhibiting companies. There’s no doubt they’re working hard on their pitches, but a recent study involving cartoon cereal mascots (no, we’re not making this up) underscores the importance of making eye contact.

Cornell University researchers manipulated the gaze of the Trix Rabbit on cereal boxes to look at the viewer or look down. They found that adult subjects preferred Trix over competing cereals and felt more brand trust if the rabbit was looking at them rather than away.

Not convinced the eyes have it? Check out 10 reasons why presenters should make purposeful eye contact with their audiences. Then, check out our quick-start guide on how to get seed funding.

And don’t miss these presentation tips from our interview with the legendary Thaddeus Rex.

Or come hear from Thaddeus for yourself at this Thursday’s Verge pitch night at DeveloperTown! There’s still time to RSVP. Register here >>

How about you? What’s coming up in your week ahead?