On the VERGE

The next generation of disruptors

VERGE Accelerate
Kathryn Cooper
The winner of VERGE Accelerate 2018's Transport pitch competition, Peter Frischmann of KIGT (second from right), shakes hands with the judges, G2VP's Partner and Co-Founder, Brook Porter (second left), GreenBiz Group's VP, Shana Rappaport (right), and BMW iVentures' Senior Associate Samantha Huang (left).

It’s one thing to understand conceptually that the world is changing in rapid, complex and unpredictable ways. It’s entirely different — and equally, if not more, important — to position your company for those changes, especially if some of them are poised to disrupt your business and industry and, perhaps, the global economy.

This week, I find myself called to hone in on one particular strategy for changing with the times before the times change you: Engaging directly with the innovators that are uniquely poised to disrupt the status quo. 

This isn’t a new concept, of course, but it’s one that’s gaining new urgency in a climate-changing world. Consider some story lines we’ve been following in recent years: Big Auto has embraced that the future is about mobility, not just car ownership — with Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen and others making major investments in ride-hailing companies, e-bikes, autonomous vehicles and other technologies. Big Oil is making moves into the new carbon economy, too, such as the recent announcement of a joint investment by Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures in Carbon Engineering. Apparel companies are finding circularity fashionable, partnering up with companies such as Yerdle to jump on the recommerce marketplace bandwagon.

Behind all these is the next generation of clean-economy startups. That’s where we come in — and you, too. 

We’ve just posted the latest tranche of contestants for our VERGE Accelerate pitch competition — all vying for the right to show their stuff from the main stage at VERGE 19. We source these companies via nominations from our readers as well as our own network of partners, such as Plug and Play, Techstars and Prospect Silicon Valley, all of whom have programs designed explicitly to connect large companies with early-stage startups through industry-focused initiatives. (My friend Ryan Kushner (a.k.a. The Accelerator Guy) authored this super not boring guide, in partnership with New Energy Nexus, to demystify the landscape of incubators and accelerators, including who they are, how they differ and ways to participate in their programs.)

With that, I am incredibly excited to shine a spotlight on the 38 semifinalists for this year’s VERGE Accelerate. The community voting window is open, which means you can peruse their inspiring and compelling 60-second video submissions and cast your votes to help determine who gets to pitch at VERGE 19 in October. 

We’ve organized the semifinalists into three categories:

Beyond VERGE Accelerate, we’ve got other showcases in the works for VERGE 19 designed to connect entrepreneurs with investors, corporate partners and the broader VERGE community, featuring startups working in carbon removal, the future of food and our broader Startup Showcase.

I encourage you to watch the VERGE Accelerate semifinalist pitches and cast your votes, but also to step back and ask yourself the bigger-picture questions: In what ways are these turbulent times poised to disrupt your own company and industry? Where are there opportunities to invest in or partner with startups to get ahead of those disruptions? Who are the potential allies, within and outside your organization, to drive this?

And what role do you want to play?