What We Learned Building a Startup Community and Announcing Our New Tech Product

Words can’t explain how it felt to stand in front of more than 600 people who showed up last night to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit. It was the perfect timing for us to announce a very important rebrand for the community we’ve been building.

The community formerly known as Verge is now a new product company—Powderkeg.

As the confetti cannons sprayed in celebration, I looked out into the jam-packed theatre and felt the deepest sense of gratitude.

I’m so thankful for each and every person who has ever attended one of our events, read one of our blog posts, or watched one of our videos featuring the entrepreneurs and other heroes building the technology companies that are changing the world. It just goes to show…

Real connections make all the difference.

Outside the Vogue Theatre after the announcement: Verge is now Powderkeg

It’s crazy to think that this whole thing started because a few entrepreneurial friends decided to get together to grab beers and talk startups and tech. Seven years later, we’re more than 10,000 strong worldwide and it all happened because of real connections — real connections through the events, conversations, and content we created and shared together.

Our best ideas came from the community. We listened to the problems that founders, investors, and tech professionals were having in cities around the country, and they gave us new ideas and inspiration for how we could better serve the growing tech companies cropping up around the country. While we’ve implemented much of what’s been suggested, we’ve been limited in our reach by fleeting connectivity of events and the noise of content and media. And that’s because we’ve limited ourselves by not fully embracing one of the things we deeply believe in:

The power of technology.

That’s why I was so excited to share last night…

We’re building smart technology to connect you with tools and guides that serve you on your entrepreneurial journey.

We’ve collected and curated feedback from thousands of our members over the past seven years and created a massive — and when I say massive, I mean massive — list of software and community features to solve the biggest pain points of building technology companies outside of Silicon Valley.

Because there are still gaping holes in the tech ecosystems around the country. Deserving founders are still going unfunded. Savvy investors still aren’t discovering the best investment opportunities that lay hidden in pockets of talent and innovation around the world. And there’s still a massive opportunity to get more people in roles they love, building meaningful technology and high-growth businesses.

As we unveiled the rebrand and refined vision last night, we gave a sneak peek at some of the early features we’ve been working on. And we shared some of the technologies—including the latest in machine learning and AI— that we’re already using to build a powerful ally for our members:

A connections platform designed for tech entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals.

Each of these ideas was submitted by a Powderkeg community member and each were validated by or elaborated upon by other members. Literally dozens of ideas have been collected but these 3 core pieces of functionality are some of our favorites. We’ve given each a code name:

1. “Guides”

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t even have all of the answers. Sometimes it’s far better to just chat with a live person who’s been there and done that. When scaling a tech company, the path is nuanced and often highly confusing. Lucky for Powderkeg members, there’s someone in the community who has already dealt with almost any startup challenge we can imagine.

The intent of this technology is to use algorithms and AI to directly connect you with community members who’ve got the answers to your toughest questions. The community that shares more, wins more often.

2. “Stories”

Getting exposure for your company or yourself in a national media outlet is quite challenging and confusing. Fortunately, for our members we’re using technology to make the process far more straightforward.

You’ll be able to submit a story to Powderkeg and we’ve gamified the process of letting our members upvote the story to reach more audience through our owned and earned media partners.

3. “Product Share”

Looking for fast feedback on your latest product or featureset? Powderkeg members try each other’s products first. We’re developing technology that will allow members to let Powderkeg members efficiently use each other’s products and give valuable feedback quickly.

Powderkeg members will be able to offer free and discounted products and services to other members, helping us all grow faster together.

We know this platform is an ambitious undertaking. But…

We’ve got the team to do it.

I’m humbled by the Powderkeg leadership team we’ve assembled and I feel so fortunate to have an all-star cast building our networks, community, content, and technology for our members.

We’ve already partnered up with leading media companies — including Forbes, Inc, HuffPost and VentureBeat — to give more exposure to the technology companies thriving around the world. And we’ve teamed up with some amazing partners to expand our network of Powderkeg events from our current 8 cities to exponentially expand our footprint and the communities we serve. But…

We need your help.

We’re building this for our community and we need to build this with our community. That’s why we’re announcing this product before it’s built.

It’s your feedback, your ideas, and your engagement that’s going to help us build the most valuable product possible. And in the spirit of learning, community, and full transparency…

We’re sharing our journey from build to launch.

Starting this month, we’ll share a behind-scenes-look at building a product startup from the ground up. We’ll share the story on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and live blog from the new site we’re launching.

We’ll be building the first version of the product with a tight deadline of August 30, 2017, when we’ll publicly demo the platform for the first time. In the meantime…

Keep an eye out for the new Powderkeg website launching next week and please join us for our first #PowderkegLive product update that we’ll livestream from the on Monday, July 31 at 6 PM EST on the Powderkeg Facebook Page. I hope you’ll give us feedback on what we’re building.