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Small Business

Verge on verge of growing up

January 23, 2013

Matt Hunckler is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for Verge, the tech entrepreneurship initiative he founded and led until joining Carmel startup Social Reactor earlier this month.

With more than 2,000 members attending monthly events organized by chapters in Indianapolis, Bloomington and West Lafayette, Verge is approaching “critical mass,” he said—something its next leader should be able to use as a springboard for continued growth.

“I’m stepping out of my own way, in some ways,” Hunckler said. “This is not about me, has never been about me. Verge is about the startups.”

At each event, at least two would-be entrepreneurs pitch their startup ideas and take questions from the audience. The pizza-and-beer-fueled gatherings also include a “fireside chat” with someone who has been there. And videos of the presentations are available online. Admission is $10, but most expenses are covered by sponsors.

Hunckler also organized the first Powder Keg national startup conference in Indianapolis last fall, drawing 350 attendees and an array of big-name sponsors .

Central Indiana has been a great proving grounds for Verge, Hunckler said, and now the organization launched as Hackers and Founders in 2009 is ready to expand to other cities throughout the Midwest.

“We have fined-tuned the model so that new hubs can spin up and self-operate with minimal support,” he said. “Verge exists to support startups. In 2013, it’s going to grow for growth’s sake.”

Hunckler has visions of a broader Verge network with 10,000 members, a more robust website with an educational component, and a new product—an event, video or subscription, for example—to serve startups (and generate revenue).

So Hunckler is on the hunt for an executive director, and he is assembling a board of advisers to keep Verge moving forward while he’s “leading by example” as vice president of product development at Social Reactor, a subsidiary of Carmel-based ChaCha Search.

Expect his new boss, entrepreneurial heavyweight Scott Jones, to be among the voices of experience on the board.

“Scott has been very supportive,” Hunckler said. “He knew that I would not let Verge die.”

A half-dozen candidates have expressed interest in leading Verge, Hunckler said, and he’s conducting interviews as he gets settled in his new gig. He hopes to have an announcement in a few weeks.

Hunckler said the next leader will have plenty of opportunity to shape the organization.

“I’m looking at [the position] almost as a co-founder,” he said. “There is a lot of traction and assets to start with, but there’s still a lot there largely unbuilt.”

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