Pitch-events company Verge changes name to Powderkeg

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Verge, the Indianapolis-based media and pitch-events company, has changed its name to Powderkeg.

The move comes on the heels of a settlement it reached in the past month with New York City-based Vox Media Inc., which owns tech news outlet The Verge. The local company sued Vox for trademark infringement in February 2016 and reached a confidential settlement in the case.

Powderkeg is the name of a popular podcast Verge launched late last year, and the new moniker allows the 8-year-old company to advance its national expansion plans unencumbered by brand confusion.

"We were fortunate enough to come to an agreement," Hunckler said, adding that Vox now has full ownership of the Verge name and associated web domain names. "It allows us to go execute with Powderkeg and fully invest all of our energy into that brand."

Powderkeg started in 2009 as Hackers and Founders, which held monthly pitch gatherings that drew just a handful of techies and entrepreneurs. It eventually grew into a company that not only throws revenue-generating pitch events, but delivers free startup-focused content to members who subscribe to its channels.

Powderkeg today hosts events in eight cities and has more than 10,000 members—content subscribers who've attended at least one pitch event. Hunckler said the company, which is focused on emerging tech hubs outside Silicon Valley, will be in 12 cities by the year's end.

The content and pitch events are not changing. What is changing, Hunckler said, is that the company will be introducing software and a freemium membership model.

In broad terms, the software will automate the connecting of people and companies to resources—which Hunckler and his team had previously been doing manually.

That manual approach doesn't scale, so Powderkeg will utilize software "to make the right connections at the right time."

The specific features are still being ironed out. Over the next month, Powderkeg will be gleaning feedback from members on what exactly they'd like to see, Hunckler said.

Content about startup stories and strategies will remain free, and those with free memberships will benefit from new software offerings. But there will be a premium level of features, benefits "and even some services" for paying members.

To aid with this new venture, Powderkeg recently hired Robert Harris, previously chief technology officer with Loxa Beauty, as its chief technology officer. In January it hired Kevin Bailey, co-founder of Relevance, as its chief marketing officer. The additions increased employment at the firm to seven.

With respect to the lawsuit, Vox declined to comment. Indianapolis-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister attorney Jonathan Polak, who represented Verge in the case, said: "The settlement is confidential so I cannot comment."

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