The third annual Tom Tom Founders Festival being held April 9 to 13 will have an amplified focus on innovation during five days of “mostly free” performances, workshops and other gatherings.
Organized by Paul Beyer, the festival of art, music and innovation will bring together leaders in entrepreneurism, technology and other disciplines to share knowledge and spark new ideas in the community.
“The way I look at this, it’s a chance to reimagine the downtown as a creative campus,” Beyer said. “You spend your days going to talks, going to workshops and exploring innovations in multiple fields and disciplines, and at night is the fun part.”
“We want people to be connecting and colliding and coming up with new things,” Beyer added.
One popular event from prior years is the crowd-funded pitch competition where audience members use their own money and cast votes for their favorite three-minute pitch.
The competition will return in partnership with the i.Lab, an entrepreneurial incubator of the Batten Institute at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. The winner will get $5,000 toward their idea if they join the year-long i.Lab program.
Sean Carr, the Batten Institute’s executive director, said they are proud to collaborate with Tom Tom to “grow what we think is a robust and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Charlottesville.”
“We feel that Charlottesville itself is an innovation laboratory for new ideas and new businesses,” Carr said.
This year, as the festival increases attention on innovation, the related events will sort themselves into six themes: entrepreneurship, technology, health, education, energy and law.
“Innovation is kind of a broad term and we want to make it specific, and make deep dives into some of these themes,” Beyer said.
The festival’s technology theme will feature keynote speaker Rick Hamilton, a local resident and the leading patent holder and “cloud evangelist” at IBM. He will offer expertise on the growing importance of cloud computing in all industries, whether scaled up corporations or a small business growing in Charlottesville.
The Community Investment Collaborative, a local micro-lending firm, was the “entrepreneur in residence” of the festival last year. This year, CIC will co-sponsor a panel discussing how new businesses can raise money to launch themselves using crowd funding and other sources.
The president of the CIC, Stephen Davis, said being involved with Tom Tom is a great opportunity to utilize the CIC’s experience in entrepreneurship.
“There are a lot of folks in Charlottesville who are looking to create businesses for themselves or who have awesome ideas,” Davis said. “Bringing those folks together and allowing them to interact is a great opportunity to harness that energy and see what happens.”
New Albemarle County Supervisors Diantha McKeel and Brad Sheffield both attended Tuesday’s announcement event. In September, they participated in a candidate forum sponsored by the Tom Tom Founders Festival.
McKeel said the candidate forum’s focus on entrepreneurship generated a lot of ideas.
“I think Tom Tom is going to be a great adventure for the community and I look forward to seeing what is on the agenda coming up for the spring,” she said.
Recap of 2013 festival / Source: Tom Tom Founders Festival