The Next Chapter
The tall man in the hoodie and sandals sipped his tea before he began. I took out my pen and pad, and then leaned forward.
My mind raced as I sat there in my borrowed suit. And that’s when I heard the story that ultimately led me to moving my life to Indianapolis.
It was my senior year of college, and my experience with an entrepreneurial fellowship had somehow led me to a one-on-one Starbucks meeting with Scott Jones, the inventor of voicemail (who just so happens to have invented the software that powers iTunes, among other things).
In that short conversation, Scott lay out a vision for Indiana as a hub for tech startups. He sold me on the idea that you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to build something world-changing on the web. It was something I honestly hadn’t considered and I have to admit that I wasn’t 100% sure it could be done. But there was one thing of which I was certain: Scott knew how to think big.
That one story and that fellowship program led me to build lasting relationships with other early mentors like then-COO of Angie’s List Scott Brenton, and Baker Hill co-founder Mark Hill, who I’ve written about before.
Fast forward three and a half years to today.
Our startup community known as Verge has grown to over 2,000 members, with hubs in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and West Lafayette (and more on the way). Spaces like DeveloperTown, the Speak Easy, SproutBox, and Launch Fishers have launched and thrived in with our growing movement. We’ve had tons of support from sponsors, volunteers, and members.
Verge has always been a place where we’ve sought validation for our businesses and celebrated learning as we tested out new ideas.
There’s no other group out there where I feel more at home. It’s a place where I feel safe to build new things and share the results (good or bad). Our Midwest startup community is packed with people willing to share their honest feedback and support. It’s inspiring and motivating.
That’s why I’m getting back in the startup saddle.
I knew that when I ventured out again to build another business, I would want it to be a big idea.
Re-enter voicemail-inventor Scott Jones…
When Scott and I took the time to sit down over sushi late last year, my goal was to walk away with a commitment for Scott to join me onstage for a fireside chat at a 2013 Verge event. But I walked away with a lot more.
We discussed the opportunities for the Midwest startup community and what needs to get done in order to be able to grow exponentially in the coming years. And we talked about an upstart project that grew out of the the offices of his biggest idea to date, ChaCha, the world’s largest online Q&A service.
When I heard the big idea of the new project, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. There were thousands of ways the business could evolve and create value on a mass scale. And my experience seemed tailored to the challenges that this kind of business might encounter.
That flurry of conversation led to a half-dozen other discussions. And ultimately one of my biggest decisions yet.
It was as though a moment of clarity grabbed me.
Together, Scott and I devised a plan where I could jump aboard full-time to help build this new product while providing Verge leadership (both by example and directly). Which is why I’m announcing today that I’m joining the startup team at Social Reactor as VP of Product to lead the building and marketing of a new platform that can change the web.
Social Reactor is a premium social engagement platform that connects social influencers with brands looking to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. It’s a huge idea, and I look forward to sharing here as I dive in and build more of the vision with our brilliant team.
Scott Jones is one of the people who convinced me to move from Bloomington to Indianapolis after selling my first business and graduating from IU over 3 years ago. I’m excited to collaborate directly with Scott and the innovative team at Social Reactor. The product is a game changer.
As for Verge, our community is a tight-knit group of leaders building innovative businesses on the web. I’m confident in our ability to evolve and grow
I look forward to sharing what I learn in my new role at Social Reactor while bringing resources and opportunity to our startup community.
The future is bright for Verge and I’m excited to keep building it with the group.
I’ll have even more news about some of the massive new partnerships at Verge, as well an announcement about our first full-time team member. But I’ll save that for an upcoming Verge event. Hope to see you there!