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. . .

Immersion.

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:

https://elevenfifty.com/course/security/

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):

evolution-of-code.eventbrite.com

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.

open-for-service

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.

verge-community-1

And grew.

verge-community-2

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?

Step Back to Move Forward

It’s a difficult notion to comprehend, and an even harder realization to experience at a personal level: sometimes, the path to progress requires us to pause, assess the path we’re on, and decide that the best move forward might be an entirely new one. StepBackMoveForward

And when we’re pushing in multiple directions at once, the knowledge gained from stepping back for a second can prove invaluable.

I have some exciting news for you today, Verge nation!

After 9 months as your executive director, I and the Verge team have learned a lot. After adding a few key contributors, and once Matt jumped back into Verge activities more extensively a few months ago, we’ve seen tons of forward progress. It’s shown us that the most exciting path forward is a wide one, and will require many hands.

I’m thrilled to announce that Verge will continue to move forward by growing our team, and that I’m taking on a new role with the team.

Matt Hunckler will focus on some exciting new initiatives and supporting our Verge Hubs in other cities. Tim Hickle will continue to help us create online content (and will be on stage more, too). And several other members of our community are stepping into new Verge roles.

And we’re hiring! If you know of a Project Manager-type who would be interested in joining the Verge team as our full-time Operations lead, drop me or Matt a line.

Ohanian Synnestvedt HuncklerStepping back and finding new ways to approach opportunities has yielded improved strategies and tools for the Verge team to provide the most value we can to you, the community we care so deeply about. And, by stepping back, I’ve found something of a new path of my own, too.

In addition to continuing my work with Verge in an editor and volunteer capacity, I’m:

  • Building a solution for autism therapy I hope to tell you more about from the Verge stage soon
  • Working with awesome clients to launch products and market online
  • Looking for my next adventure in marketing and sales

So, it’s with immense gratitude that I would like to thank you for being a member of our amazing community, and for allowing me to serve as your executive director for this past year. You’ll continue to see posts and updates from me here, I’ll continue to help you and Verge however I can, and together, we’ll keep moving forward!

Synnestvedt Verge Team

4 Reasons Every Hoosier Entrepreneur Should Attend the Combine

bloomington-indiana-startup-combineIn its fourth year, the Combine brings speakers and attendees from across the country (and in this year’s case, the world!) to celebrate community, culture, capital and code in Bloomington. The event draws hundreds of participants from across the Midwest for an extended weekend of workshops, speakers, presentations, networking, parties and tours. Bloomington’s favorite event for startups and technology workers returns to the city April 11th-13th. If you haven’t bought your ticket yet, here are some compelling reasons to get your ticket before they’re gone! (Vergers can use this code for a discount!)

1. The Schedule

The Combine will feature a main speaker stage, a workshop series for starting and growing business, an Ignite Bloomington event, startup pitches, and new this year – LobbyCon – a mini-convention showcasing local startups, demos, games, and tech business support opportunities. The main speaker event will conclude with an after-party featuring the Star Trek themed rock band Five Year Mission. An added bonus: If you arrive a day early, you can join Verge Bloomington for a special edition of our monthly pitch night.

2. The Speakers

This year’s speaker lineup will include a diverse range of speakers including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Markerly CEO Sarah Ware, celebrity cat Lil Bub and her owner Mike Bridavsky, Frank Gruber of Tech Cocktail, Murder By Death frontman and Kickstarter success story Adam Turla, design strategist Roshelle Ritzenthaler and renowned marketing blogger Jay Baer. It’s the most diverse lineup in the Combine’s history, and…

3. The Setting

Nothing beats Bloomington in the springtime! Take a walk downtown with any of the local attendees for local beer, music and everything else that makes us fall in love with the city. Stick around on Sunday for a tour of the downtown Bloomington Certified Technology Park, future home of Bloomington’s tech and startup scene.

4. The Socializing

The Combine provides attendees with opportunities to rub elbows with like-minded entrepreneurs and tech folk from across the Midwest. The connections made at the event and the ideas generated from the community make it worth the trip from out of town. Locally, the Combine brings students and faculty of IU and Ivy Tech together with some of Bloomington’s most impressive startups and businesses, and it’s a great chance to see what’s happening in our part of the Hoosier State.

Check out the website for more information and a schedule. Group rates are available, and sponsorships are still being accepted. Contact mat@thecombine.org for more information, or follow @thecombineorg on Twitter.

Purdue Startup Competition Offers Funding for Student Ventures

purdue startups

This Spring, Purdue student entrepreneurs will do startup battle for their share of $15,000 in funding.

The Anvil and The Foundry  have partnered up and are holding an 8 week startup competition called The Boiler that will pit Purdue’s best entrepreneurial engineers and business students against one another for their chance at thousands of dollars in funding and more.

The competition will primarily serve as a mini-accelerator program, providing seed funding, mentorship, office space and exposure to investors for young entrepreneurs to help them get their ideas off the ground. The deadline for applications is February 14th, so if you or anyone you know would be interested in The Boiler, click here for more information.

Purdue student, Anvil Co-Founder and Verge WL Organizer Mike Asem is extremely excited to announce that Angie’s List will be joining The Anvil and The Foundry as an official co-host for the competition.  “Getting support from an awesome company like Angie’s List for The Boiler is something that we’re all really excited about.  It says so much not only about what kind of company Angie’s List is, but the amazing amount of support there is among companies starting up and growing right here in Indiana.”

Also joining Angie’s List, KA+A and Gutwein Law as sponsors for The Boiler is DelMar IT.  For more information on sponsorship opportunities for The Boiler or an invitation to Demo Day, interested parties should contact Mike Asem – mike@theanvil.us

Read more from the Purdue Research Foundation here.

One Startup’s Journey to Revolutionize Professional Development & Recruitment

It’s no secret that the video game industry is now twice as large as Hollywood, thanks largely to the Millennial Generation. It’s also no secret that the rising Millennial generation in the United States is facing employment challenges that few have faced before. And the problem isn’t because they’re playing too many video games. As The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson writes in his piece, “The Unluckiest Generation”:

Finding a good job as a young adult has always been a game of chance. But more and more, the rules have changed: Heads, you lose; tails, you’re disqualified. The unemployment rate for young people scraped 18 percent in 2010, and in the past five years, real wages have fallen for millennials–and only for millennials.

Cue entrepreneurial efforts to solve this problem for America’s unluckiest–and largest–generation.

Like Chris Gray and his startup, Track Ahead.

Chris Gray, Track Ahead

Track Ahead aims to revolutionize the way that students develop their professional interests and relationships by leveraging gamification and incentives to drive action.

“Too often,” said, Gray, “People spend more time shopping for a car than looking for their first job. We’re changing that.”

Learning more about a company, for instance, earns points for a student. And offering learning opportunities earns points for companies.

“After a student accumulates enough points, companies will want to talk to them.”

Track Ahead is diving into solving some of the challenges that come with higher education–and as Gray has continued to pursue his mission with Track Ahead, he continues to learn how to better resolve his own challenges. He’ll be sharing some of that learning at the Verge Education Celebration on December 11th. But in the mean time, I’ve shared a little of what I’ve learned from Chris Gray and Track Ahead below.

Learning in Action, and Action in Learning

Track Ahead

Track Ahead aims to drive proactive learning–and Chris Gray has certainly learned a lot about how people learn about Track Ahead.

In October 2013, Gray pitched Track Ahead at The Economist’s Human Potential Forum. Watch it, then compare it to his first ever pitch at Verge in 2011.

Gray’s pitch from The Economist’s stage is brief, concise, and crystal clear. Compare his recent pitch in New York to the first time he ever pitched Track Ahead at Verge.

Pitch Practice Makes Perfect Pitch

Gray’s Track Ahead pitch at Verge is certainly a good one–and you can see how much he learned from it. For instance…

Show Me the Money

Notice how Gray’s recent pitch focused much more on the company side of the Track Ahead platform, not the consumer side. Where do you see Track Ahead’s growth coming from?

Watch the Game Tape, Seek Feedback.

Gray wanted to pitch Track Ahead years ago, and it wasn’t just to get the name of his startup out into the market–in addition to the round of financing Track Ahead was raising, Gray wanted feedback on his pitch from the other entrepreneurs in the Verge community. Just like football teams deconstruct their competitor’s game tape to find weaknesses in their defense, Gray was able to learn from his pitches over time to really deliver at the Human Potential Forum.

Note: He’ll be sharing some of that learning in less than 24 hours at the Verge Education Celebration.

What Did You Learn from Comparing how Gray Pitched Track Ahead?

Let us know in the comments!

Celebrate Learning with Chris Gray and Track Ahead

See Chris Gray discuss what he’s learned with Track Ahead at the Verge Education Celebration Event, Wednesday, December 11th 2013. 

A Whole Lot More than Hoosier Hospitality

Indiana Startup Communities

Verge Pitch Night events have taken me across Indiana over the past few months:

  • Bloomington
  • Indianapolis
  • Terre Haute
  • West Lafayette

My recent experiences have yielded an eye-opening cross-section of the state, and I have not only learned about what makes startup communities thrive in Indiana–I’ve also been surprised in more ways than one.

What talent shortage?

We talk a lot about the shortage of technical talent in Indiana. In fact, most growing communities around the country are dealing with their own challenges around attracting and retaining strong  technical talent. And to be sure, it’s something we have to work on.

But when Matt, Tim and I were at the Anvil the other month for a Verge Lafayette / West Lafayette pitch night, we were blown away by the number of Purdue University developers and designers that were eager to get involved with startups. The room was practically busting at the seams with tech talent that’s already engaged in the local entrepreneurial community.

Success stories like Found Ops (recently acquired by Angie’s List) have already come out of the Verge WL community, and I’m excited to get to know the startups this growing entrepreneurial hotspot continues to produce.

Indiana startups or founders looking to connect with strong, young technical talent should get to a Verge WL Pitch Night or talk to Mike Asem, the Verge WL hub organizer.

Kicking The Old Oaken Bucket

If Verge West Lafayette is one of Indiana’s most talented group of techies–and it is–then Verge Bloomington is where you’ll find of some of the state’s brightest founders. Despite the in-state rivalry, Verge Bloomington and Verge WL have a lot to offer each other.

With community assets like SproutBox, a leading Midwestern venture capital and development firm, Bloomington Tech, and Indiana University’s top-ranked undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs, Verge Btown is one of the Indiana startup community’s cornerstones.

Collaboration is a big part of what makes this group so special. Excellent relationships between the University, SproutBox and the local community enable tons of meaningful connections between Verge members in Bloomington. And the group’s size–nearly 200, compared to Verge Indy’s 2,000–lends itself to smaller, more intimate Pitch Night events where members can expect to make long-lasting connections with folks they’ll see every month.

Other startup ecosystems on the rise and startup teams around Bloomington should get in touch with Kacey Martin, Katie Birge or Jeff Wuslich to learn more about what makes Verge Btown unique.

Manufacturing a Startup Community

My experience at the Verge Terre Haute launch event was inspiring. Some of the nation’s brightest engineers are tucked away in Rose Hulman’s RISE group and around the Indiana State University campus.

As business leaders from Terre Haute and bright students from across multiple campuses gathered to welcome Verge to Terre Haute, I thought of the town’s long history as a manufacturing center–and how, thanks to the work of people like David Dubree and the rest of the Verge Terre Haute team, that trajectory is shifting. Before attending the Verge TH launch event, I wasn’t sure exactly how large or engaged the entrepreneurial community would be at first. Now I know that they have hit the ground running.

For the first time in Terre Haute, founders, designers, developers and entrepreneurs have a home base. If you’re looking to plug into the entrepreneurial community in southwest Indiana, get yourself to their next meetup!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Vergeday, Friday

Indiana entrepreneurs have been building lots of momentum lately, and the city of Indianapolis certainly feels like it’s on the verge of taking a big step forward. If you’ve been to a recent Verge Indy event, you know what I’m talking about.

Now is a great time to be an Indy entrepreneur. We’ve noticed. And increasingly, the rest of the world is taking notice, too.

In addition to traveling around the state over the past few weeks, I’ve also been speaking with entrepreneurs and community leaders around the US. I was on the phone the other week with a coastal Venture firm that is looking to expand. They have offices on three continents, and they’re looking at Indy as their next location.

“It’s exciting to see so much activity coming out of the Midwest,” one of the partners said. “And Indianapolis is right in the middle of it all.”

If accessible funding is one of the final hurdles separating Indianapolis from other startup hotbeds, there is good news: help is on the way.

Yes, Indy really is in the middle of it all.

If you’d like to get in touch about Verge Indy or anything related to Verge Startups, reach out to Matt Hunckler or me on twitter.