Founder Story: How to Use Startup Community as a Lifeline

Scott Hill, PERQWhen Scott Hill dipped his toe into the local startup community in 2009, the passion and entrepreneurial energy almost turned him away.

“I was deep in survival mode,” he told me as we toured the freshly renovated office of his startup, PERQ. “We were in the middle of the recession, and I wasn’t having nearly as much fun as those guys!”

Today, after posting a $30 million year in 2012, Hill is thankful for the role that the Indianapolis technology community has played in PERQ’s–and his own–growth. As we prepare to celebrate the launch of the PERQ brand and their FATWIN technology, Hill and I looked back on how he leveraged the support of the Indianapolis startup community to grow his company.

How to Leverage the Startup Community to Grow Your Business

Manage a Rapid Rise to the Top

Hill’s first company, an automotive marketing company called Tri-auto, grew very quickly. After expanding his team and hitting #58 on the INC 500 list, Hill became more comfortable navigating the world of entrepreneurship.

“After three years working on Tri-Auto, I was naive enough to think that I had this thing licked,” said Hill. “So we started Trace, and that company grew very quickly as well–it achieved #53 on the INC 500 list.”

Startup Community Soothes Growing Pains, Supports a Healthy Immune System

PERQ Community“At that point, the businesses were really ahead of our ability as managers and leaders to know how to harness it…We had these two exploding businesses, so we formed CIK as the holding company.”

Hill found himself trying to build a businesses around two nearly unmanageable revenue streams, “Instead of building businesses that could stay in front of our revenue.”

And then the recession hit.

After losing 2/3 of their revenue and developing some serious grit, Hill and the PERQ team were able to assess what was left after the recession, where they were rebuilding from, and where they wanted to go in the future.

“The Community has played a huge part, for me personally to have these opportunities for the company.”

Startup Community Tip #1: Find Advocates and Build Your Own Think Tank

Todd Saxton, Indiana University Venture Faculty Fellow, was a key advocate for Hill in getting through the hard times. He believed in the product, and together Saxton and Hill created an informal think tank of prominent community leaders to help work through some of the challenges Hill was facing with PERQ. Hill credits some of those key community members with sparking the idea that helped guide PERQ forward.

Hill recalls Kevin Bailey and Michael Cloran in particular telling him, ‘If you could incentivize people to share socially while they’re actually engaged with your kiosk technology, you could really do some great things with that.’ “And really that little nugget, as an entrepreneur, all of a sudden,” said Hill, “When you feel that inspiration–boom boom boom.”

PERQ Office

Startup Community Tip #2: Find the Passion to Keep Pushing

“Going to Verge, I forced myself out of my shell,” said Scott. “Out of that depression. I mean, we had lost two thirds of our revenue. It was extreme.”

Sometimes, when the going gets tough, it’s hard to get going–no matter how tough you are. The support of the community helped motivate Hill to keep pushing, to keep growing. Today he’s helping inspire other entrepreneurs like they did for him.

In Hill’s words, it’s about, “Getting out and into that community that hadn’t been there the first time we were growing the businesses. So being there and being a part of that Verge energy, that passion [was key], along with seeing how the think tank worked, and then being able to have access to the marketing tech capital of the world.”

“We’ve benefited greatly from the founders of Aprimo–Bill Godfrey and Rob McLaughlin–who have been helpful in getting us on track to keep moving the technology forward.”

Celebrating and Sharing Learning Builds Community

To hear more about PERQ, see Scott Hill pitch FATWIN, get a tour of the office and connect with the Indianapolis technology community, join us for the PERQ Launch at Verge Pitch Night on November 20th.

Check out the full timeline of PERQ’s relationship with the Verge community over on the PERQ blog, and let me know how the community impacted your entrepreneurial journey in the comments!

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.


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!



8 Things You Should Know BEFORE You Start Raising Capital

The following answers are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

What’s one thing you learned from raising funding that you wish you’d known BEFORE you started?

BenJ Miller1. Line Up Potential Investors
I run a service-based company and see lots of great products come through our door. When I finally had “my idea” for a product, I took it to two or three investors. The product was solid. We quickly built the tech and started spending marketing dollars.

I learned I should have lined up my buyers. We needed big advertising partners, and I didn’t have them lined up. If I did it again, I would have commitments from “buyers” who, if we hit X, would get on board. Validate the concept with real customers and real contracts.

Benj Miller, eyespeak

Eric Corl2. Consider Funding Options

Most startups fail. Raising funds from others is a serious commitment, and it will keep you up at night when things aren’t going well. See what you can do on a limited budget and raise in milestone increments. If you can bootstrap, do it. Luckily, entrepreneurs can now use crowdfunding sites like Fundable ( to raise capital by preselling their products or services and providing something of value in exchange to their backers quickly. This allows you to reduce the risk for yourself and the investors by first validating market demand.
Eric Corl, Fundable LLC

Derek Shanahan3. Shorten Pitches

I’ve now seen about 500 pitches live. I’ve given that many just in two years as a founder, some to investors and some to the market/community. What’s become abundantly clear is that 95 percent of us are actually talking about building businesses that take 10 seconds to explain. However, we keep thinking 15 minutes or a great story will make those 10 seconds more interesting. Just say what you are. Then, say where you are now and where you’re going. Then, if you don’t have any questions from an investor, ask him for feedback on something that’s bothering you. Rinse and repeat.
Derek Shanahan, Playerize

Aaron Schwartz4. Keep Your Day Job

Many entrepreneurs discuss fundraising as a “full-time” job and recommend that you give up your day-to-day responsibilities for the 6 weeks (or 3 months!) it will take to close the round. That sounds amazing, but I do not believe it’s possible, at least not for a seed or “A” round.
The drivers of a startup are its people. As a founder, you cannot afford to disappear for a few months. You should prep your team before you begin fundraising. Be prepared to work twice as hard during the fundraising process. Your investors need you, but so do your customers and team.
Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

Andrew Schrage5. Raise Only the Funds Needed

One thing many entrepreneurs fail to understand is that if you raise too much money, it could easily lead to overspending. The adept entrepreneur will set a specific number for how much money he or she needs to start a business. Fundraising initiatives should be scaled back significantly (if not halted) once that goal is reached.
Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance


David Ehrenberg6. Master Capital Efficiency

More isn’t better when it comes to raising money. What you do with your money is what determines your future success — not how much you get. Capital efficiency is a better indicator of your startup’s success than capital access. Large amounts of capital result in unnecessary dilution at a lower valuation. With smaller funds, you can preserve ownership, scale at a steady pace and set more manageable milestones.
David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services


Rahul7. Examine Term Sheets Closely

Term sheets are where you really find out the investor’s intentions. Look out for exit clauses. If they are not clearly defined, ask for them to be.

Term sheets can be very carefully crafted to fool even the most thorough people into believing that they’ve struck a great deal. In reality, it can be far from it. If you’re at this stage, it wouldn’t hurt to have your term sheets validated by experienced entrepreneurs who’ve gone down this road, as well as your lawyer, who has relevant experience.

Rahul Varshneya, Arkenea

doreen-bloch8. Know Your Investors

Fundraising is a very relationship-centric process; it’s less science than art. Before starting the fundraising process, I wish I had begun to develop relationships with investors. Cultivating relationships with investors before looking to raise funds is a practice I recommend to every early-stage entrepreneur now. Developing trusting, robust relationships with investors before starting the fundraising process formally will speed your meeting setup and team-vetting process.
Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Awesome startup communities create ‘Startup Triangle’ in SW Indiana.

The startup scene has really taken off in southwest Indiana over the last several months. Terre Haute, Evansville and Bloomington seem to form a ‘startup triangle’ for the region.


For starters, there has been no lack of Startup Weekend events. The first Crane event launched on October 5th, 2012. Bloomington on November 9th, 2012. Terre Haute‘s first ever event on February 8th, and right on it’s heels Startup Weekend Evansville 2.0 kicked off on February 22nd. Not to be left out, a little outside the triangle Louisville, Kentucky fired off an event the following weekend!


As we prepared for Startup Weekend Terre Haute, Demi Wetzel was kind enough to Skype in and give our ‘How To Prep meetup a great Q & A session. Demi hails from Evansville and after attending her first Startup Weekend, she found her calling. Demi now works for Startup Weekend HQ in Seattle Washington!


As I watched the Sunday night pitches in Evansville this year, Andrew Moad and his team walked away with 1st place honors. Andrews startup is a physical product called Fence Chips. Andrew had joined my team at Startup Weekend Crane in 2012 and was a huge help pushing through those 54 hours.


Another very active team in the Indiana startup scene is Matt Burris and Jessica Falkenthal. I had the pleasure of meeting both at Startup Weekend Bloomington back in May 2012. Jessica graciously agreed to lead my team at that event. Both are at every Bloomtech and Verge Bloomington meetup I’ve ever attended! Plus they have been the facilitators at Startup Weekend events in Bloomington, Crane, Terre Haute and Evansville. Wow!

Bloomtech meetup

Of course I can’t leave out Bloomington’s own Nick Tippman. Nick has helped organize Startup Weekend events and was recently invited to speak at Evansville’s event in February. Nick is no stranger to the startup life and is now CEO of a relatively new – and very cool startup based out of Memphis, TN called Nibletz – ‘The voice of startups everywhere else’.


Another tie to both Bloomington and Evansville is Andrew Heil. Andrew mentored at the first Startup Weekend I attended held in Bloomington and organized Evansville’s events. These days he works his 9-5 in Evansville then jets off to Bloomington each evening to work on his new startup – Tourize. I talked to Andrew recently about this cool new app. Here is what he said:

Tourize ( is a new way to travel. We are creating a mobile platform to consume tours from professional guides. We believe that often times knowledge is missing as each tourist experiences a new attraction or is planning a new trip. I will be able to take you on a demo soon..

Currently, we are working through RunUp Labs. Runup labs is a travel startup accelerator which is a 10 week program and helping 7 companies launch. It’s been great. My team and I have been working around the clock and of course learning a whole lot.

The interesting part of the story: As you may know it is March Madness season and I decided that it was time to incorporate the signup process with the time of the year to peek interest in our travel startup… This was no longer a sign up form, but a bracket of people interested in travel fighting for the number 1 seed.

This turned into a road to the early access of tourize and not just a launch rock page. This is a big dance tournament where each person that signs up is given information and a link to share. The more each link is shared – the more you score and the more you win.

When I set out to launch this, I thought if “Hipster” could get 10k signups with just a launch page and mailbox app could make a que of 600k signups, certainly I could make madness in march happen!

And it’s starting to – we launched on Sunday 3/24 and have already passed 1,000 page views rather quickly in the first 5 hours. We’ve continued to that rate and are at 2,500 page views in the first 36 hours. After reaching out to people who have signed up, people are interested in the hype of a new way to travel and of course, being part of the tournament!

We can’t wait to see where the next 6 days goes and all the way down to the final four early adopters of Tourize!

The link is – please sign up and play! “

You can find Andrew at most Evansville Tech on Tap meetups each month.

Tech on Tap Meetup

One of southern Indiana’s startup scene champions is Drew Peyronnin. Drew hosts the Tech on Tap meetups in Evansville and has become a Startup Weekend regular like most of us! Tech on Tap is a great networking event and has grown by leaps and bounds over the last year. Drew has been involved in many of the ‘startup triangle’ events and was the keynote speaker at our Terre Haute event. A huge applause is standard fair after his insightful talks.


It’s amazing how the Indiana startup communities are tied together and support each other. Maybe that’s Hoosier hospitality showing itself.


Over the last few weeks Bryan Jackson and I have been discussing the next step in the evolution of the Wabash Valley startup, tech and innovation community.  We both want to see the startup and tech community grow to foster a living, breathing culture that benefits everyone. Bryan started the Tech Haute meetups with similar goals as Terre Haute Tech and has hosted great seminars on popular social media tools and how to use them in business.


After discussing the benefits and future possibilities we have decided to join forces and merge both groups, combining memberships.  This will foster even more great connections in our startup community. Bryan has been working on the new Tech Haute site as the next step in this exciting merger.  We are planning some awesome things for our members and the Terre Haute startup scene.


It’s been very exciting to see the startup culture grow and to be a part of it. There are many others not mentioned here that make this community thrive, but that’s for another day. If your not involved in your startup community and events, now is the time! The connections, learning and business opportunities that happen at each event are hard to put a price on. So join a startup meetup and get plugged in to this amazing southwest Indiana startup triangle!





Designing Your First Startup Office

My mother, whom I love dearly, has always held slightly alternative worldly perspectives. Back in college, when she found out I had cold, she would call me to suggest that, in addition to taking the latest herbal remedy, I make sure I clean the dirty laundry off my floor that was, in her opinion, creating bad energy in my room. While I used to roll my eyes at these suggestions, I have come to accept that the space around us greatly affects us. In the case of a startup office, where you may regularly find yourself spending 80+ hours a week, it can be especially important to take a few minutes to think about how you design your space.

Warning: This article is not for swanky startups flush with V.C. cash. Go hire a consultant and build your tree house conference room or spaceship cafeteria. I wrote this article for lean startups looking to increase their productivity and happiness by putting a little bit of thought into their office. Therefore, I have divided this post into the major expense categories for a startup office and provided my recommendations on where you should save your money and where its worth is to spend a few dollars.


Walls and Ceilings

While they might not be the first thing you think about, wall and ceilings define a space and can have tremendous effects on how you work. Ceiling height, for example, has been shown to affect problem solving abilities, with higher ceilings promoting creativity and lower ceilings encouraging focus. Wall colors and patterns can also dramatically affect moods, with distinct responses to each color. Meanwhile, seeing nature has been proven reduce stress. If you aren’t fortunate to enough to have real windows looking out at nature, wallpaper or posters can do. Office plants are also a great investment and can dramatically improve the air quality in your office (Check out NASA’s suggested plants for air filtering).

Walls are perhaps the easiest medium to reflect your company’s culture. In our office, we started by covering the walls in inexpensive homemade whiteboards, because team collaboration is a huge part of our identity. Above the whiteboards, we’ve printed out and posted a few of our favorite quotes, media coverage we’ve received, and over one board, our competitor’s logos to remind us to stay hungry. Around peoples’ desks, the whiteboards get personal and are plastered with design inspiration, wireframes of upcoming releases, and the occasional keepsake.

Save your money on the walls and ceiling and substitute creativity to make a fun and productive office. Hold off on commissioning a mural with equity until your valuation is a bit higher.



“An army marches on its stomach” – Napoleon. Keeping your team well fed and caffeinated should be a priority of any founder. Rather than wasting your money by running to Starbucks or ordering pizzas, equip your office with the tools it needs to take care of your troops. As far as coffee, we really like the convenience being able to make a single cup in seconds with our Keurig. When we can afford it, we will probably splurge on an espresso machine as well. Another great investment has been our Sodastream machine which allows us to make our own soda and energy drinks for pennies on the dollar. We’ve even hacked our Sodastream to use larger and cheaper generic CO2 tanks.

You don’t need a cafeteria or a chef to enjoy fresh, healthy meals at work. Our kitchenette setup includes a small bar sink that came with the office, a full size fridge, two toaster ovens, a microwave, and a five-in-one sandwich press/grill/three other crazy setups. Each week, I’ll run to the supermarket to stock the fridge with fruit, vegetables, cold cuts, and whatever else the team throws on the Google Doc we use as a grocery list. A couple times a week, someone in the office will prepare a team meal which we eat together. (Yesterday, for lunch I made chicken fajitas.) While this is far cheaper than going out, it also helps to make the office feel more like home.

Spend the money up front to outfit your office kitchen(ette) and you can save money in the long run, while keeping your team happy and healthy.



Furniture, especially desks, may be the most controversial item in a startup office. While ergonomics and the perils of sitting are significant and legitimate concerns, it can be hard to justify spending a thousand bucks on a standing desk. Fortunately, there are already some guides online for how to hack together a standing desk from cheap Ikea components.

We discovered a goldmine of well-constructed, used furniture at the Purdue Surplus Store. We were able to buy desks for ten bucks a pop and a conference table for a mere 25 dollars. All of the desks have held up superbly and no one seems to care that they were one step away from a trash heap. Make sure to get computer height desks or keyboard trays so you don’t strain your wrists. (Here’s a good article about other important ergonomic considerations.)

Furniture is an area where you can afford to save your money, aside from one important exception. While your desk holds your computer (and maybe some paper?), your chair supports a far more valuable resource, you. Spend the money on comfortable, ergonomic chairs.



Spending on the final category is probably an easy choice for the Verge audience. Technology is the vehicle for our businesses and deserves our respect and dollars. The seconds spent waiting for slow computers add up into hours of lost productivity for your team. Choose laptops over workstations when possible, so your team can work from anywhere. Large, high-resolution monitors have dramatically dropped in price over the last few years. Get at least two for everyone on your team, even nontechnical positions who can benefit just as much from the added screen real estate. We also purchased a 42” screen for our conference room, although, I’m not certain we have gotten as much value out of it as other technology investments.

I don’t really need to tell any of you, but go ahead and spend the money outfitting your startup office with the technology you need.

Ultimately, there is no wrong way to design your startup office as long as it makes your team comfortable. If you need inspiration, check out the offices of other startups in the area. If you’re near West Lafayette, I welcome you to stop by our office for a game of foosball. If you have more tips for designing a startup office, please leave them in the comments below.


How iPad App Development Can Help Build Your Business

Is it hot in here, or is it just you?

While that is a pretty classy pickup line. There’s a Midwest startup who thinks there’s a better way to find your soul mate. And they used an iPad App Development Tool to do it.

Our video team caught up with Kevin Emmons, co-founder of Miss Pivot, a social experience company that just launched an iPad app that’s been picking up a ton of press. Here’s the interview:

iPad App Development as a Tool to Transform Your Business.

Miss Pivot launched in 2009 as a breakthrough wing woman service that helped people who want to learn social skills and how to connect better with others. But it has become so much more.

Since then, Miss Pivot has expertly managed the metamorphosis from local service company to a confidence company, where they give people the skills they need to succeed in social situations. And they want to help as many people as possible.

Here’s what they did…

Use Mobile Apps to Engage Customers

iPad App Development ToolGlobalizing Miss Pivot meant creating products. They used video and content to engage people and to get them to interact with your content. With their iPad app, Fire Cupid, they’ve connected with their customers in new ways while acquiring a whole new set of potential clients

Fire Cupid was developed by a core team of four people. They used an iPad development software called Corona to rapidly develop and launch the app after a month of focused effort.

Build New Revenue Streams

Since building the app, they have productized the interactive book development platform  they used to build Fire Cupigfto offer other authors to publish their work to the app store. They created an off-shoot brand and company called Pixl Publishing to connect with their new-found target market of authors.

They have already begun to make money off this new revenue channel and user response has been positive. This iPad book development opportunity is just another example of effective startup intrapreneurship.

Have you run an experiment like this recently? How are you using mobile technology for your business?

Want to learn more about Fire Cupid and Pixl Publishing:

Tune in to the live stream from February Pitch Night on the Verge Facebook page on Wednesday, February 29 at 6:30 PM Eastern Time.


New Site Launch: Indiana by SXSW

Whether or not you’re bound for Austin in March, you’re going to love this.

SXSW DirectoryIn less than a week, a simple idea materialized into a useful tool for tech geeks going to SXSW. After putting out a late-afternoon poll let Friday, the wheels started turning.

Through a collaboration between SmallBox Web, KA+A and Verge, we present to you: Indiana by South by Southwest, or “IN.SXSW,” a beautifully designed directory for all hoosiers interested in the Southby experience.

You can register yourself to be included in the directory for free. Or see who else is coming on the directory page.


Tony Scelzo Introduces Knomingo, a Web Video Startup

We’ve all been there—stuck on YouTube watching the latest founder talk or Sh*t Entrepreneurs Say.

The value in that kind of user engagement is enormous—enough for plenty of players in the web video market. But, is there space in the industry for another video platform?

Last month, I had a chance to sit down with Tony Scelzo, co-founder of Knomingo, a new video startup that may have identified a pocket of opportunity in web video. Here’s the interview:

Tony Scelzo has a vast network and was able to quickly raise a friends-and-family round of $50,000 to fund initial development of Knomingo. With a diverse founding team and an experienced board of advisors, they’re capable of refining their platform into a perfect product-market fit.

Tony Scelzo with Knomingo

“There’s a long tail of thought leadership,” Scelzo said during this interview before his pitch at the December Verge startup event. His pitch, which we’ll post here next week, raised a lot of questions from the audience. It seems like there would be opportunity in this market and curation could possibly change the way people consume expert videos.

Would an aggregated market of high-quality training and entertaining education provide enough value for web users to get their wallets out and pay?

If a critical mass of viewers can be built at Knomingo, there certainly seems to be more value to the experts who currently create web video content without immediate compensation for viewer consumption. And there’s viral potential in a social-media-fueled referral system.

The question is, “Is there room for a paid video platform in a world of free?”

How would you design a paid platform for video?

How Startup Event Nostalgia Fueled a Full-House Meetup

You know that feeling you get when you hear an old song that takes you back to a special time in life? When you reminisce about where you used to be and how far you’ve come?

That’s how we felt last Thursday at the Earth House.

Verge at Earth House in January

Last year, our team hosted over a half dozen Verge startup events in the same top-floor auditorium at the Earth House in downtown Indianapolis. While last week’s event reminded me of those days, this event had its own flavor, pumped full of the energy of 2011 and the anticipation for what 2012 holds for our Midwest startup community:

Bi-polar Verge pitches launched the evening.

It was Brandon Corbin’s third time to pitch a startup in front of a Verge crowd, while it was Chuck East’s first exposure at a Verge event. Quick to dissolve any potential tension, our Verge organizers pulled the two presenters into the green room for a powwow before the stage lights went on:

The verbal run through seemed to have worked for them, because—other than going over the 5-minute pitch limit—the startup pitches were well-received by the audience, who hung on every entrepreneurial word. We’ll post these ViewYou and Quick Box Social pitches on the Verge blog during the first half of February. The passion from the founder pitches got everyone into right rhythm for what happened next.

Christopher Day kept it real during a revealing fireside chat.

Once the applause died down after the second pitch, the Verge visual team lit the flame on the You-Tube-powered video stream of our mass-projected cozy fire. Two stools and a couple mics gave us a comfortable environment for our most captivating fireside chat yet.

Christopher Day NavidarThese days, Christopher—or Toph (his preferred nickname)—helps companies and investors with strategic M&A advice as well as raising money for breakthrough growth. But Christopher Day hasn’t lost an ounce of the entrepreneurial zest that led him to start six businesses before he turned forty.

He picked out stories that went all the way back to his painting business, which was the first stair of his entrepreneurial ascent. I can’t wait to get our full conversation edited and posted here on the Startup News blog. His stories and insights fueled some very interesting conversations through the night.

We cranked up the dial on the conversation.

Technically the after party lasted nearly 24 hours.

DJ Liarmouth amplified the energy with his steady beat, but didn’t overpower any of the conversations. Thanks to the partners at DeveloperTown, we gave away a pair of tickets to zipline through downtown Indy’s Super Bowl Village. And more than one person won a bottle of our new uFlavor drink: Verge Soda. Here’s who gets one of the first six bottles off the line:Verge uFlavor

Are you one of these winners? Send an email to me (matt [at] vergeindy [dot] com) to coordinate delivery. If you didn’t win this time, keep an eye out for more opportunities to get your hands on some of our soda.

We had to kick out the last dozen people from the Earth House as we closed things down around 10:00 PM. But we kept the after party going with our first Verge Google+ hangout last Friday. I’m happy that more than half a dozen people hopped into the hangout because we got some really helpful ideas and we learned a little more about how Verge can help our family of startups.

We want to do something really crazy for our next Verge event. So, drop us your thoughts here in the comments or shoot them my way (I’ll be answering each and every one of them until midnight tonight). Now, if only I could find a good Pandora station…

Bootstrapping a Startup: It’s Not Only Sunny in Silicon Valley

In the San Francisco Bay area, most startup activity gets sucked out to the hyper-connected sprawl that is Silicon Valley. But, not all Bay Area start-uppers are compelled to immediately comply with this social norm.

Doug Heinz has lived in the city of San Francisco for nearly a decade and for the last two years, he has quietly worked from his Russian Hill apartment to build his web startup—PathWrangler.

Bootstrapping a Startup Outside Silicon Valley:

View from BasecampAfter meeting his cofounder at a base camp on Mt. Everest, Doug set out to build a platform that simplifies adventure travel planning. PathWrangler is still in private beta, which launched just last month, but it’s already helping adventurists put together unique travel experiences through highly targeted software. With PathWrangler, users can schedule trips and itineraries, build activity lists, and create templates to make it easier for travel-enthusiasts to embark on adventures.

This fresh web app has the potential to disrupt the growing adventure travel industry. As the CEO of PathWrangler, you’d think Doug would seep more of the overpowering swagger that seems to be characteristic of some SiliconValley founders.

But that’s not Doug.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Doug doesn’t let his humility get in his way. Instead, he lets his actions do the talking.

Since quitting his well-salaried job, Doug has brought new meaning to the word “hustle” with the launch of his PathWrangler software—a first of its kind. He has sold off personal assets and saved up like other entrepreneurs to fund releases, managed the raise of early capital, designed original product mockups, and has regularly engaged with customers to build feedback into the product.

Even more impressively, he has blown through these entrepreneurial checkpoints while enjoying an inspiring startup life—eating healthily, sleeping well, and experiencing the world.

In one of my recent trips to San Francisco, I was able to convince Doug to share the blood and guts of bootstrapping a startup. We took a break from our respective work to flip on the camera and capture some of his startup news and insight.

Do yourself a favor, and watch this refreshingly candid conversation:

What other tips do you think would be helpful for any entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping a startup?