An Indianapolis-based event series aimed at cultivating high-growth tech companies outside of Silicon Valley debuted its inaugural event in Kansas City on Tuesday.
Verge — which hosts pitch forums in 11 Midwestern and southern metros — has a mission to accelerate community entrepreneurs through a curated approach that targets specific people and companies.
Kansas City hub director Jay Austin said that the Verge events will give the City of Fountains global and national exposure. With national business partners such as Business Insider, Forbes and Entrepreneur, Verge companies will receive recognition through its content and connections.
Each Verge pitch will be recorded and then featured in a Forbes column. In addition, Verge CEO Matt Hunckler produces a podcast — dubbed Powderkeg — that features emerging startups from outside the valley.
Verge is already in such cities as Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Nashville and others. Austin said that Kansas City entering that fold will help bring it notoriety.
“VergeKC is a part of something much larger and much more powerful, and it’s only growing,” Austin said. “It’s only going to get better and reach other places — other awesome tech communities outside of the Valley. And that benefits us.”
Austin said that he believes that the Kansas City startup community is a place full of unsung heroes.
“When you’re building a badass business, you got to do a lot of work,” Austin said. “We need the VergeKC to be the place where people will crawl out of their cave, just once a month, to interact, share ideas, talk about tough issues, and really truly build things. We wanted to find a way to reward those companies that are doing really great things.”
Local tech startups Idle Smart, Mycroft AI and Stackify — all of which were featured in Startland’s 2017 top startups to watch list — pitched their companies to a crowd of about 75. Hosted at the Crossroad’s Lifted Spirits Distillery, free drink tickets allowed for a casual, comfortable environment.
Expert panelists dishing out questions to the firms included DivvyHQ co-founder Brock Stechman, CPO of C2FO Kevin Daniels and Nathan Kurtz, the senior program officer in entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman foundation.
Austin believes that VergeKC will hold its own within a community flooded with entrepreneurship events.
“It’s very easy to go to events in Kansas City, we have plenty of events and each one has its place,” Austin said. “But, what’s easy to do is to go to an event, feel fuzzy — maybe even a little buzzed — and leave and not do anything about it. I’m telling you that we need you and this community needs you to actually take action on these things.”
Here’s more on the firms that presented:
Idle Smart — Vice president Ryan Bennett pitched the firm’s patented tech for the trucking industry. The firm created a smart thermostat device for fleet vehicles, such as semi-trucks, that saves fuel and mitigates environmental impact.
Mycroft AI — After the buzz of the recent acceptance to Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups and partnership with Jaguar, founder of Mycroft Joshua Montgomery returned home to pitch his company. Mycroft pairs an open-source and open-hardware approach to its development, allowing users around the world to create software or hardware add-ons.
Stackify — With the mission to help techies perform better, CTO Jason Taylor presented the tech, which fully integrates application performance management with error and log management.
If you’re interested in applying to pitch at the next VergeKC event, contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org