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Pennovation Works Alumni: Verge Aero Takes Flight

After nearly three years cultivating their business within the Pennovation Works ecosystem, Chris Franzwa, Anthony Merlino, Tony Samaritano, and Nils Thorjussen, founders of Verge Aero, are packing up their drones and heading south. Verge Aero is a drone automation company specializing in the automation of drones for new markets such as drone delivery, choreography, and developing enabling technologies. They develop and manufacture everything necessary to easily create and fly sophisticated drone shows. Since their founding in late 2016, Verge Aero has seen tremendous growth as a company. From humble beginnings working out of living rooms and basements, to expanding to a desk and eventually an inventor garage space within the Pennovation Center, Verge Aero has evolved to become the leading technology provider for professional drone shows.

Over the past several years, Verge Aero has worked tirelessly to develop the technology and systems to power spectacular drone shows all over the world. They have been featured on major events ranging from President-Elect Biden’s victory celebration to the Electric Daisy Carnival and most recently America’s Got Talent: Extreme. With their growing client base, national recognition, and need for more space to store and test their equipment, the company has naturally outgrown their space in the Pennovation Center. As a true hybrid company, Verge Aero has engineers working remotely all over the United States, allowing them to more easily move their headquarters. After discussing internally, the company decided to move to Austin, TX for several reasons. Austin has a warmer climate and milder winters which makes flight testing drones easier, and Texas is centrally located within the U.S. making it logistically more accessible to clients nationwide.    

As Verge Aero moves on, they are reflecting on their time at Pennovation Works. We recently sat down with Nils Thorjussen, one of the founders of the company, who discussed his time at Pennovation, and shared his thoughts on the future of Verge Aero.


What do you like about Pennovation Works and Philadelphia, and what will you miss about both?

I like that the Pennovation Center creates the perfect environment for smaller companies that are just getting started. It provides instant infrastructure - offices, printer access, Wi-Fi, coffee, etc. which makes it really easy for a company to get started.

I’ll miss Philadelphia in general. It’s a vibrant city, and a cost effective place to do business in comparison to Silicon Valley or Manhattan. Philadelphia is a great place to start a company.


Describe a favorite memory at Pennovation Works?

A favorite memory is when Verge Aero was profiled in an interview for Innovation Nation on CBS. Pennovation Works was the backdrop for some of the interview, and we had a great time filming with the whole film crew. It was nice being in a pleasant professional work environment that is also a beautiful space and architecturally interesting. It’s was also great to be with companies that were on a similar journey at Pennovation Works.


How has Verge Aero grown since starting at Pennovation Works, and where do you see it going in the future?

We spent a fair amount of time developing our core technology, and for us, we really had nothing until we were all the way across the finish line. Only 100% of the core technology allows us to make money, and as with most R&D products, it took a long time to commercialize so it was a big sprint to get there. Once we were ready to commercialize, the Corona Virus hit which stalled everything. Over the last year in particular, it has been insanely busy. Entertainment has come back and Verge Aero has been in the right place, at the right time, with the right technology. As a result, our business has been growing exponentially, and we are very focused on fully capitalizing on the opportunities we see out there. People really like drone shows, and we want to be the “go-to solution” for people looking to put on a show. This is a really big market that we are creating, and it currently only partially exists. The work we are doing is helping to build this new industry. We believe that there is so much untapped potential in this market that we can focus on going forward.

Photo of the 4 founders of Verge Aero