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.

 

How Indy Became a Marketing Technology Leader

YouAintSeenNothing

Indianapolis: burgeoning marketing technology hub

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Indianapolis’ role in the high-growth world of Marketing Technology. With 11 acquisitions of marketing tech companies in the last four years that total out to over $4.8 billion, we have proven that we know marketing tech. Some may view these numbers as big wins for the Circle City, but to borrow a phrase from Bachman Turner Overdrive, you a’int seen nothing yet. Last Friday, Tim Kopp (ExactTarget CMO), Mike Langellier (Techpoint CEO), and Scott Hill (CIK Enterprises CEO) gathered at Techpoint’s “New Economy, New Rules” breakfast to discuss the impact that Indianapolis is having on marketing tech, and their stance was clear. “Indy already is Marketing Tech Capital of the World. The rest of the world just doesn’t know it yet,” said Kopp. “We are still in the early innings of Marketing Technology.” And in these early innings, Indianapolis appears poised to take the lead. The sum of a thriving entrepreneurial scene, home brewed marketing tech giants like Angie’s List and ExactTarget, and close proximity to three top business schools and two top engineering schools is a winning combination. Yet, we’re still making a name for ourselves. “We have the core assets, we just need to leverage them,” said Langellier.

Key Takeaways for Other Cities on the Rise

What is it exactly that differentiates Indianapolis as a center of marketing technology? How did we get here? I mean, there are dozens of up-and-coming cities around the world that are showing the potential to become tech giants in their own ways. What lessons can these cities learn from Indianapolis?

Corner a Market

One of the things that puts Indy in such a great place right now is its competitive position in marketing technology. With marketing tech giants and startups alike scattered across the area, Indianapolis has carved out a niche that has been able to attract the top talent in its field. Some of the best marketing thought leadership calls Indianapolis home. This is the first step to building something special.

Build a Community

Individuals always lose out to teams, and that includes individual companies. Between Verge, Powder Keg, Techpoint, lean startup circles, and the dozens of other meetups that are happening almost every day in Indy, more ideas get shared and, more importantly, acted upon, than would be possible without strong community ties. Not only do ideas spread more rapidly, but ideas are more likely to get off the ground when you have a team of backers ready to hear your pitch and build your product. At the same time, Indianapolis companies are still pushed to the coasts seeking top technical talent too often. Verge and other organizations are doing our best to enhance the culture of learning here, and while we’re proud of how far we’ve come together, we still have plenty of work to do if we want to make a really meaningful dent in the talent gap.

Find Your Ocean’s Eleven

Some people in the business world call this “synergy,” but that’s because they’re Boring McYawningtons who don’t like to have any fun. Ocean’s Eleven is my favorite movie. It should be everyone’s favorite movie. It’s the best. What made this movie great wasn’t the script, it was the cast. When startup communities fail to gain traction, it’s often the result of having too many Frank Cattons and not enough Yens. Much like robbing a Casino, building a community around marketing tech requires a lot of business people and techies alike. After all, we all know you need a former blackjack dealer to be your inside guy, but you’ll never get past the lobby without a circus acrobat to slip down an elevator shaft. Seriously. I dare you to tell me you don’t love that movie. Say it to my face. You won’t.

What are Other Communities on the Rise Doing Well?

There are countless ways communities succeed–and fail–at growing the way they want to. Here are just a couple of examples. If you have some of your own, please share in the comments!

Vegas

Organizations like The Downtown Project, Vegas Tech and the Vegas Tech Fund embody thought leadership when it comes to investing not just in companies, but in communities. Their multi-faceted approach to creating economic impact includes bold, quantifiable goals like “Create Residential Urban Density Greater than 100 People/Acre” and “Add Density Of Ground Level Activities, Spaces, And Businesses.” And with hundreds of millions in funding, the goals they’ve set are within reach.

Maybe it’s not surprising that Las Vegas–a veritable adult playground–is leading the charge not just in helping technologists and founders succeed, but also in helping them be happy. The Downtown Project’s clear emphasis on data-driven results isn’t just to set clear performance targets–it’s to set clear expectations of what kind of community they want to build and how they’ll do it.

Detroit

Lots of factors play into Detroit’s growing resurgence, and many of them are both challenges and opportunities. Detroit has one of the highest concentrations of tech talent in the country, a gritty grassroots support network, a strong cultural identity, and of course their $18 Billion bankruptcy. But of the things the Motor City has going for (and against) it, perhaps the most obvious one is physical space.

As the population declined from over 1.4 million to less than 800K over the last few decades, warehouses and factories emptied. They stayed empty for years, but now they’re filling up again. Old bottle factories and automotive assembally plants are being transformed into coworking spaces and community centers all along Woodward Avenue (the nation’s first paved boulevard). Just look at what the strong community leaders like Quicken Loans’ Dan Gilbert are doing with places like the M@dison Building and you’ll see that Detroit is committed to creating the environments startups need to thrive:

 

 

Verge Team Dominate

“This is just the beginning.”

That thought never crossed my mind when we started Verge more than four years ago. But it was the beginning—the beginning of new a movement.

With the energy and involvement of its members, Verge has grown from a rag-tag meetup to a kick-ass platform of 2,500 software entrepreneurs, developers and investors in growing startup communities. The people in our initial group shaped the foundation of a vibrant Verge culture.

team dominateI love our rebellious clan. We’re the crew that isn’t afraid to get out hands dirty. Our ambition and ability to embrace change is what built this unique community. But that culture was built on the shoulders of giants.

The brazen ambition of software pioneers like Mark Hill, Scott Jones, and the founders of Software Artistry not only provided the kindling, but continue to stoke the fire of entrepreneurship as founders and developers in our group launch and grow new companies. As fire starters, we’ve pursued validation for our ideas and celebrated the learning along the way.

Our most active members have directed the momentum of Verge and serve as a deep well of energy. With support from national networks like Startup America, Startup Digest, Startup Weekend (now known as Up Global), we’ve connected with the emerging startup community around the world.

I’m lucky to be a part of such an inspiring movement and our community has been so supportive as I’ve moved to get more involved and again as I’ve gone back full force into other startups. It’s been no secret that our group has been looking for the right full-time leader to beat the Verge drum 24/7. And that person could not have stepped up at a more perfect time and in a more spectacular way.

Alec Synnestvedt brings energy and skills that will fuel Verge in the next leg of its journey. As the new Executive Director for Verge, he already built amazing experiences within this year’s Innovation Showcase and is supporting new Verge hubs as they prepare to launch (keep an eye out in the coming weeks). But just wait until we unveil what we’re doing with our next Powder Keg conference.

If you really want to get a taste for the kind experience you can expect, check out next week’s Technology/Fashion/Design event that we’re hosting with the inspiring people at Pattern: Details Here >>

Alec has already proven that he has tons of potential and the raw talent to grow big ideas. And there’s so much more opportunity to provide more value for the community. Our plans for continued entrepreneurial learning, events with broader reach, and additional community hubs will raise the bar for what you can expect from Verge. See for yourself:

We have so much more to build. And we’re going to need your help to get it done.

Don’t worry, I still have my sleeves rolled up. I’m still working on Verge, but my role has shifted. My contributions will always help direct the vision of the group, and I have so much to share from the past 6 years working in startups—good, bad, and ugly. While you’ll still see me take the Verge stage, it will be in the spirit of sharing lessons learned in my pursuit for startup validation and growth. I’m trading in the emcee mic for a fireside chat chair (if I can actually sit still).

But, you know, I’ll miss it.

I’ve always loved contributing my energy as the Verge event emcee, but Alec has a vibe and style that I’m confident will rally our group month after month. And besides, I think he already has the “slow clap” down better than I ever did.

It’s already proving to be an awesome partnership. And our organizing crew is an ever-growing group of leaders we lovingly refer to as “Team Dominate.”

Looking at the work that Alec has been executing and the pace at which he’s building value for our startup community, I have only one thought:

“This is just the beginning.”

7 Startup Community Takeaways and Photos from The Innovation Showcase

The Innovation Showcase is one of the rare opportunities we have as entrepreneurs to lift our focus from the everyday, take pause, and remind ourselves why we love what we do. On July 11th, over 600 entrepreneurs, investors, and professional service providers came together to celebrate problem solvers, connect with inspiration, and (hopefully) find the right funding for young companies. Attendees were united by a shared pursuit of excellence and innovation, and the entrepreneurial energy at The Innovation Showcase was strong and apparent.

Entrepreneurs, investors and service providers packed the house at Dallara.

Entrepreneurs, investors and service providers packed the house at Dallara.

Welcome from Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann

The Dallara Indycar Factory was chock full of game changers. Companies and investors from Indianapolis, the Midwest, and the coasts were there to validate innovation across different markets and understand new approaches to familiar challenges. Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and Venture Club of Indianapolis President John Hanak officially opened the event at 2:00.

 

Lt. Gov. Ellspermann

Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, and entrepreneur herself, has done much to benefit Indiana’s entrepreneurs.

Verge’s Bright Future

Then, just before the day’s first panel, Matt made the announcement that I am Verge’s new executive director from The Innovation Showcase’s stage. It’s a responsibility I am honored to take on, and I can’t wait to grow our amazing community with you.

Verge New Director

Matt Hunckler officially announces Alec Synnestvedt as Verge’s new Executive Director.

Entrepreneurial Hotspots Panel

The Entrepreneurial Hostpots panelists provided great insights into what Indiana’s startups can do to leverage great local resources like coworking spaces and accelerators. Anecdotes from the excellent panel packed plenty of humor into actionable info for entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial Hotspots Panel

Startup Pitch Competition

The startup pitch lightning round was fast-paced and hard-hitting. 60 seconds wasn’t enough for some entrepreneurs, but it was just enough for many. Keep an eye out for more from the pitches hitting the Verge blog soon!

 

Pitch Competition

A rapt crowd watches each minute-long sprint of a pitch, evaluating possible investment opportunities.

pitch3

The Investor Roundup Panel

The Investor Roundup panel yielded excellent discussion and plenty of takeaways for the audience. A few soundbites:

The Winners

Thanks to our amazing sponsors, many companies walked away as winners of opportunities to pitch for Elevate, Stepstone, P3 Alliance, Gravity, Allos, xCAP and Halo.

Best Seed Pitch: Emphymab Biotech

Best Startup Pitch: Revive Electronics

Best First Round Pitch: BlueBridge Digital

Elevate Pitch invitations: Revive Electronics, Enfront

Halo Diligence Interest: BoxFox, IP Software, CloudOne

Grand Prize Honorable Mention (Formstack Max plan for one year, Executive coaching & pitch review with Eric Anderson of Scientifically Speaking, one month consulting services with Ryan Pfenniger): Revive Electronics

2013 Innovation Showcase Company of the Year: Emphymab Biotech

See you next year!

Crowd2 Crowd

Next year’s Innovation Showcase promises to be even bigger and better. See you for the next one on July 10th, 2014!