Weeklong celebration in Charlottesville with over 200 events showcases iconic  innovators John Cleese and Dan Rather and inspires thousands of entrepreneurs and creators.

The seventh Annual Tom Tom Founders Festival, a weeklong celebration of entrepreneurship, culture, and innovation, launches today in Charlottesville, VA. Inspiring excellence in small cities across the nation, this year’s program will feature hundreds of innovators at talks, workshops, concerts, competitions, and summits throughout the week. The Festival is projected to draw more than 20,000 attendees over April 9-15, 2018. 

More than 300 speakers will join the Festival. Featured speakers include: Legendary broadcaster ​Dan Rather; ​comedy icon ​John Cleese​, US Senator ​Mark Warner​, reddit cofounder and CEO ​Steve Huffman, ​powerhouse pundit ​Bill Kristol​,​ ​New York Times ​ bestseller ​Elisabeth Rosenthal​;​ ​Obama Domestic Policy Director ​Melody Barnes; ​Honest Tea cofounder ​Seth Goldman;​ MacArthur Genius Greg Asbed​; Pulitzer Prize-winner ​Amy Goldstein​; ​Atlantic ​ national correspondent ​Jim Fallows; IDEO’s ​Peter Jackson​; Buzzfeed senior editor ​Anne Helen Peterson​; Ambassador ​Mark Brzezinski​; Weapons of Math Destruction ​ author ​Cathy O’Neil​; National League of Cities’ ​Brooks Rainwater​; Civic Nation Director ​Jenn Brown​; founder and author ​Renee Diresta​; Meow Wolf CEO ​Vince Kadlubek​ and many others from MIT, ​Harper’s Bazaar, CityLab, Nickelodeon, Governing Magazine, NPR, ​Slate, Spotify, and the ​New York Times. ​ For a full list of speakers, please visit: tomtomfest.com/speakers/ 
2018 Program.
Highlighting key themes of innovation, music, art, and food, the Festival encompasses more than 200 events, ranging from public policy discussions to public art creation; from local leadership forums to local food sampling; and from open air block parties to life-changing keynote speeches. For the full interactive schedule , please visit: ​tomtomfest.com/schedule/ 

The Summits
Two simultaneous Summits anchor the week and connect the nation’s leading thinkers, artists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries to imagine the future of industry and cities. Both begin on Wednesday, April 11 and end on Saturday, April 14. The Summits will explore ​eight tracks: ​Design, Energy, Entrepreneurship & Investment, Food, Government & Society, Heath & Biotech, Machine Learning, and Media & Culture. Event highlights include:

 ● The Presidency at a Crossroad​s​, ​Wednesday, 6 PM | The Paramount Theater
​ – The history and future of the American presidency explored with UVA’s Miller Center and experts from both sides of the aisle. With ​John Negroponte​ (Director of National Intelligence for Bush 43), ​Bill Kristol​ (Editor-at-Large for the ​Weekly Standard), & ​Neera Tanden​ (President of the Center for American Progress).

● Two Night Engagement with John Cleese​, ​Wednesday, 8pm & Thursday, 5 PM | The Paramount Theater – The l​egendary actor, writer, comedian, and longtime supporter of the research being done at UVA’s Division of Perceptual Studies, will moderate a discussion on the nature of consciousness and the mind-body relationship with UVA DOPS, and also perform a just-for-Tom-Tom solo show. 

● Dan Rather: What Unites Us​, ​Thursday, 8 PM | The Paramount Theater – The iconic broadcaster discusses his career as a journalist, and this ​specific moment of crisis in our national identity. Moderated by ​Dahlia Lithwick. 

● Applied Machine Learning Conference​, ​Thursday, 8 AM – 6 PM | Violet Crown Theater
​ – A sold out assembly of researchers, entrepreneurs, and practitioners explore big data and machine learning applications in a day of presentations and flash talks. 

● Founding Story Keynotes​, ​Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM | The Paramount Theater ​ –  Entrepreneurs and leaders who have harnessed grit, creativity, vision, and purpose to build extraordinary ventures, share their stories and insights. Highlights include, ​Steve Huffman​ (cofounder & CEO, reddit), Jigar Shah​ ( President, Generate Capital), ​Vince Kadlubek​ (CEO, Meow Wolf), and ​Leland Melvin​ (Astronaut, NASA).

The Festival
Over 100 free events celebrate Charlottesville and highlight this extraordinary city. Spilling across the city, over outdoor spaces and theaters, into galleries and concert halls, the creative energies of citizens and innovative local businesses helps spark a civic conversation.

 ● Concerts and Parties​ ​- Tom Tom serves up three days of top-notch homegrown beer, bands, art, artisanal vendors, and food-truck delights at free, open-air ​Block Parties​. The festival concludes with ​Porchella​, as hometown musicians perform on front porches in the Belmont neighborhood. 

● Food​ ​- New in 2018, the ​Cville Signature Dish Competition​ gathered public input and professional chefs and food historians to brainstorm the “Signature Dish” of Charlottesville. This will be unveiled at the ​Community Potluck​ and featured during the ​Farm to Table Restaurant Week​.

● Competitions​ ​- Building on events that have granted more than $2.9M to entrepreneurs and civic organizations since 2012, attendees will join the ​Crowdfunded Pitch Night​, pool resources at Nonprofit Grant Night, and learn about the brightest student ventures from 10 Virginia schools at the American Evolution ​Innovators Cup​ (judged by ​Steve Huffman​)

● Art and Installations​ – Artists team up to transform Charlottesville’s public places into community spaces through live arts, showcases, competitions, and the popular ​City Art Bus​.

 “Each April, Tom Tom is an opportunity to welcome thousands of creative innovators to Charlottesville, and also to celebrate and inspire civic dialogue in this wonderful community,” commented Paul Beyer, the Festival’s founder and director. “In this past year, Charlottesville has found itself in the headwinds of the national dialogue– synonymous with tragic conversations around fake news, race, and even presidential politics. It is exciting to help tell a story about Charlottesville that celebrates the city’s pioneering spirit, the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the diverse creators and artisans who call this town home.”