2023 Year in Review

What a busy and exciting year 2023 has been — from new RBTC programs and tools to Roanoke’s big announcement about a new partnership that will build, manage, and develop programming in a new shared lab space in the Roanoke Innovation Corridor.

Thank you for being a part of our community and providing the inspiration for all that we do to promote the growth of the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology community. 

Here’s a shoutout to the people and events behind our biggest accomplishments from 2023:

  • RAMP, the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program, welcomed five startup companies into the fall 2023 cohort bringing the total number of accelerated companies to 48
  • The ELITE (Experiential Learning in Technology Employment) GO Virginia Grant concluded at the end of September, allowing 62 students to complete internships at 17 companies and growing critical tech talent f or the region. These students also went on to fill 17 full-time positions after graduation. In the coming months, RBTC is unveiling a 12-month, cohort-based, incentivized professional development program where recent STEM graduates can find their people, their place, and live their purpose here in the region. 

There’s a lot more coming in 2024 from RBTC, RAMP and the Verge alliance, and we can’t wait to get started.

Verge is a strategic coalition of organizations that lead and drive public and private collaboration on innovative projects in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region of Virginia that expand to the state level and beyond. The Verge alliance, including RAMP and RBTC, provides programming, coaching, talent attraction/development, and connectivity to elevate the greater technology and biotechnology sectors in the Roanoke and Blacksburg regions.

Elevate Your Brand with RBTC in 2024

Are you ready to take your brand to new heights in 2024? The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council is here to help you achieve just that! As a powerhouse dedicated to growing the tech-based economy in our region, RBTC is your partner in success, whether you’re a small tech startup or a major corporation. We’re on a mission to connect, grow, and lead through innovation, and we want you to be a part of it.

Here’s how RBTC can help you elevate your brand and seize incredible opportunities in 2024:

Elevate Your Brand

Are you looking to gain direct access to hundreds of innovators who are shaping the region’s tech community? RBTC membership offers you a platform to have your voice heard in various RBTC experiences and events. Plus, you can get noticed through event sponsorships, ensuring that your brand stands out in the tech ecosystem. Connect with us and elevate your brand’s visibility by checking out our partnership opportunities.

Engage Your Leaders

RBTC offers cutting-edge programming, social events, peer-to-peer forums, and technical panels designed to help your company culture thrive. Engage with industry leaders, share insights, and foster connections that will drive your business forward. Explore our upcoming events and be a part of the vibrant RBTC community.

Brag a Little!

TechNite, the region’s biggest night in tech, is your opportunity to shine. Showcase your company to a prestigious audience of 400+ influential innovators by becoming a sponsor or nominating the region’s best in 2024. It’s your time to brag about your accomplishments and get the recognition you deserve.

Shape the Future

RBTC is committed to supporting a collective effort to connect technology talent with regional companies. Whether you’re seeking top talent or looking for your next career move, our talent and jobs platform is here to help you shape the future of tech in our region.

RBTC’s New Membership Portal

We’ve taken a big step to enhance your RBTC experience with the launch of our new, user-friendly membership portal. This portal reimagines the user experience and boosts ecosystem connectivity through a member directory. Now, you can automate renewals and partnerships with just a click, 24/7. Explore the new portal and discover a more streamlined way to connect with RBTC.

2024 is your year to connect, grow, and lead with RBTC. Join us on this exciting journey, and together, we’ll ignite opportunities that will propel your business to new heights.

RBTC is Part of the Greater Innovation Ecosystem

Verge is a strategic coalition of organizations that lead and drive public and private collaboration on innovative projects in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region of Virginia that expand to the state level and beyond. The Verge alliance, including the Regional Accelerator & Mentoring Program (RAMP) and Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC), provides programming, coaching, talent attraction/development, and connectivity to elevate the greater technology and biotechnology sectors in Region 2.

Verge Fuels Innovation Growth Thanks to EDA Grant and Regional Partnerships

Funding helped scale RAMP, which supported 30 startups through an in-residence acceleration program, between October 2020 and September 2023.

Leveraging a $982,443 Build to Scale grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), Verge has significantly impacted the regional innovation ecosystem and helped provide critical support to more than 100 startup companies in the region over the past three years, thanks to the support of Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP).

Verge received the EDA’s Build to Scale grant in October 2020 as part of a $2.08 million, three-year project, which concluded Sept. 30, 2023. Verge used the grant to scale up the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP) as well as establish new Verge resources and programming for the region.

During the grant period of October 2020-September 2023, RAMP supported the acceleration of 30 startups through seven cohorts of its accelerator-in-residence program. The program provides resources and mentoring for startups in technology and health and life sciences across the GO Virginia Region 2 footprint, including the New River Valley, Roanoke Valley, Alleghany Highlands, and Greater Lynchburg regions.

“These programs provide vital resources and mentoring for technology- and health-based entrepreneurs when they need it most. Verge is proud to be successful with these ongoing efforts to grow the innovation ecosystem and our local economy,” said Verge President Erin Burcham.

Participating companies collectively launched 35 products, created 97 jobs, earned 22 Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer grants, and raised a total $28.2 million in capital through grants, loans, and private investment. 

“The grant funding allowed RAMP to offer a second accelerator cohort the past three years, expanding our mentorship efforts to support the health and life sciences startups that make up an exciting and emerging industry cluster in our region. We are grateful to Verge and the EDA for their support of this important program,” said Sarah Spotswood, managing director for RAMP.

Tiny Cargo Company, which participated in the spring 2021 cohort, notes that the experience in RAMP enabled initial business development activities, and provided the skills needed to appropriately assess the market, develop their product, construct a pitch, and execute with groups ranging from other accelerators, such as JLABS and Blue Knight, to investors.

“Tiny Cargo just successfully closed our first major investment round,” said Spencer Marsh, chief scientific officer for the Tiny Cargo Company. “RAMP was invaluable to Tiny Cargo by providing the tools and honing the skills required during our early-stage growth period that have set the stage for all our success in the last 2 years, as well as that yet to come.”

CytoRecovery learned a lot about their business structure during RAMP, noting that and customer interviews helped them develop and shift sales models; they also got the opportunity to connect with valuable networks that have led to tangible outcomes such as access to capital, grant writing support, and customer leads.

“RAMP is a great place to be involved as a growing business,” said Alex Hyler, PhD, VP and CSO of CytoRecovery. “They have a gravity in the region to connect entrepreneurs to valuable mentors, collaborative environments, and countless networks that may support your business, hiring, technical, or other needs.”

In addition to scaling the accelerator-in-residence program, three key areas were also expanded through the EDA project, including increasing pathways for early-stage startups, enhancing support for later-stage startups and Verge’s ongoing efforts with resource development and research to grow the innovation ecosystem. 

For early-stage startups:

  • Project partners Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH offered a wide range of activities, informational sessions, and initiatives to support technology commercialization research efforts and regional entrepreneurship. 
  • The Fralin Commercialization Fellows Program  graduated 12 fellows over the course of the 3-year project, who developed their research commercialization ideas and plans and received RAMP curriculum and training. 
  • Virginia Tech’s LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH steadfastly hosted Startup Labs and Tech Transfer Bootcamps to further support research commercialization and contribute to startup pathways in the region. 

For later-stage startups:

  • Six PitchPlus Clinics offered 55 companies information about capital fundraising and prepared them for early-stage investment opportunities. 
  • A seven-part Founders & Funders virtual workshop series focused on access to capital served 138 participants during the pandemic.  
  • RAMP supported 25 startups with post-acceleration support and programming. Thanks to Skyline Capital Strategies, 38 companies total received individual capital consulting support, and the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation led three Small Business Innovation Research workshops at RAMP. 

Finally, with the support of two GO Virginia grants and EDA Build to Scale grant funds, Verge continued to develop resources supporting the innovation ecosystem like the annual Game Changer Events and building coalitions to advance regional priorities and address gaps in the ecosystem. 

The success and completion of this project was made possible thanks to matching resources, contributors, and partners that include GO Virginia, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation, Skyline Capital Strategies, Virginia Tech, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, City of Roanoke, Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation, Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black, Virginia BIO, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, and the Verge Alliance, among other program sponsors. 

As part of the Verge regional data tracking effort, we were pleased to release annual review reports, as well as data dashboards on the innovation and entrepreneurship landscape of Region 2 of Virginia, with the latest report available here.

A one-page fact sheet on the impact the EDA Build to Scale Grant has made on the regional innovation ecosystem is available for download here.

Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs and Innovators

Every day, women entrepreneurs and the businesses they lead have a lasting impact on their communities, including those served by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. On Nov. 19, we’ll join the nation in celebrating Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a global celebration dedicated to honoring and empowering women in business. 

RBTC is proud to be supporting a wide range of local startups — including women-founded companies — through RAMP, the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program. 

These women-founded startups are among the companies in western and central Virginia that RAMP has impacted, and they are making innovative marks in a variety of industries:


Lennox McNeary, CEO and Founder

2021 RAMP cohort

Using blockchain technology, ArchiveCore provides healthcare employers “digital fingerprints of authenticity” that instantly verify the certifications held by medical professionals so new hires can start work faster.

Axon Acuity

Tammy Kemp, CEO and Founder

2022 RAMP cohort

Axon Acuity uses artificial intelligence and analytic software to help clinicians match high-risk patients with the right nurse, the right location, and the right resources in near real-time. This ultimately improves patient care and increases operational efficiency.

BEAM Diagnostics, Inc.

Sarah Snider, CEO and Founder

2018 RAMP cohort

BEAM Diagnostics is a digital healthcare company focused on data-driven behavioral health assessments to improve patient care. The first of many planning applications, BEACON is a mobile tablet application that generates a quantitative measure of a patient’s alcohol misuse to a clinician in under four minutes.

Cairina, Inc.

Jenny Munson, Co-Founder

Spring 2023 RAMP cohort

Cairina offers technologies that noninvasively measure biologic fluid flow through clinically standard imaging protocols for personalized medicine applications with the goal of predicting where cancerous tumors will grow and spread.

CodeOne Training Solutions

Allison Shok, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder

Spring 2023 RAMP cohort

An American Heart Association training center, Code One Training Solutions uses technology to teach people to save lives through its BEACON CPR course as well as First Aid, EMT, and EMS continuing education classes, AED sales, and safety consulting.


Alex Hyler, Vice President and Chief Science Officer

2022 RAMP cohort

CytoRecovery is working to allow researchers to separate different kinds of cancer cells found in tumors, helping clinicians with disease understanding, therapy selections, and drug development.

Good Foods Group, LLC

Deborah Good, CEO

Fall 2023 RAMP cohort

Eating up to 6 grams of conjugated linoleic acid per day can help to maintain weight, build muscle, and lose fat. Good Foods Group plans to manufacture bars, shakes, chews, and coffee pods not currently available in the U.S. market that have 6 grams of CLA.


Tara Newberry, Founder

Fall 2023 RAMP Cohort

LymphaVibe provides wearable devices that support the at-home care of patients with lymphedema. Motors in these devices provide customized vibrations that replicate manual lymphatic drainage massages, allowing clinicians to prescribe personalized treatments to patients.

MicroHarmonics Corporation

Diane Kees, COO

2019 RAMP cohort

MicroHarmonics specializes in high-quality millimeter wave products that can be used for a variety of services on mobile and wireless networks. These include millimeter wave isolators operating from 25-400 gigahertz, millimeter wave circulators, and millimeter wave voltage variable attenuators, some of the most technologically advanced millimeter wave products available. 


Jessica Gilbertie, President, Chief Scientific Officer and Founder

2022 RAMP cohort

Qentoros is developing a biologic therapeutic to treat a variety of infectious or inflammatory conditions in animals and humans. The treatment is derived from horse blood platelets to treat chronic infection and encourage tissue healing.

RAMP is an affiliate of Verge, a strategic collaborative that includes the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. During the 12-week cohort program, startups receive $20,000 in non-equity funding, expert 1:1 mentoring, free office space with high-speed internet in downtown Roanoke’s Gill Building and more. 

Meet all the entrepreneurs in the Fall 2023 RAMP Cohort and learn more about their enterprises during Demo Day and Tech the Hall on Dec. 6 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the University Club of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. RSVP now.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation Names Awardees in the Advancing Oncology InnoVAtion QuickFire Challenge

From left to right: Erin Burcham, Verge & RBTC; Mary Trigiani, Virginia Tech Foundation; Don Halliwill, Carilion Clinic; Jeff Liter, Luminary Therapeutics (Awardee); Bob Cowell, City of Roanoke; Arvin Gouw, Bacchus Therapeutics (Awardee); Mohammad Ali Amini, QurCan Therapeutics Inc.(Awardee); Sally Allain, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Johnson & Johnson Innovation, in collaboration with Carilion Clinic Innovation, Verge Alliance (with support from City of Roanoke), and Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC), announced October 25 at the Harnessing the Potential of Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADC) in Oncology event at JLABS @ Washington D.C. that Bacchus Therapeutics, Luminary Therapeutics, and QurCan Therapeutics Inc., have been selected as the awardees in the Advancing Oncology InnoVAtion QuickFire Challenge.

The challenge invited innovators from across the globe with an active interest in the Virginia innovation ecosystem to submit potential solutions aiming to transform patient outcomes in oncology in adult populations with potential applications in pediatric oncology. The awardees hope to nurture Virginia’s outstanding innovation ecosystem and spearhead innovative solutions to enhance the quality of life for cancer patients across the globe.

Bacchus Therapeutics is a biotech company that exploits cancer’s hypermetabolic state by targeting specific cancer metabolic pathways.

Luminary Therapeutics is a clinical stage CAR-T therapy company utilizing a unique allogenic manufacturing platform.

QurCan Therapeutics Inc. is a biotechnology company that has developed the next generation nanoparticle for safer and tissue-selective drug delivery to extra-hepatic sites, including the brain and spleen. This technology unlocks the full potential of genetic medicine, delivering life-changing therapeutics.

The awardees will receive grant funding from a total pool of $300,000, VTRC residency for one year which includes one bench & workstation, access to the global Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS network, and mentorship from experts across The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. *

*Subject to terms and conditions of applicable Quickfire Challenge and execution of all relevant and necessary award agreements

RAMP Welcomes 5 Startups into Fall 2023 Cohort

From Fairlawn to Fairfax and from bioinformatics to bioeconomies, RAMP is pleased to welcome five startup companies into a Fall 2023 cohort that represents cutting edge health and life science ventures from across the Commonwealth.

“We’re thrilled that our program is attracting such a diverse array of innovative entrepreneurs from all over Virginia,” said Sarah Spotswood, Managing Director. “It’s a testament to the health and vibrancy of the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology ecosystem.”

RAMP will host a “Meet the Cohort,” open to the public, on October 12 at 5 p.m. at The Shenandoah Club in Roanoke.

Cohort members are:

  • Oak Bioinformatics, LLC (Fairfax) develops software that helps researchers and consumers save time, effort and money in analyzing genomic variants. Consumers are able to know more about themselves with the help of the company’s DNA exploration software.
  • Performance Medical Technologies (Charlottesville) is a clinical data science and product development company focused on nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+, a naturally reoccurring coenzyme that plays an essential role in metabolism, mitochondrial functioning, and overall cellular health. 
  • LymphaVibe (Roanoke) provides wearable solutions tailored for at-home care of patients with lymphedema. LymphaVibe’s device utilizes motors that provide targeted customized vibration mimicking the techniques used in manual lymphatic drainage massages and can be controlled through an app that offers customization options, enabling clinicians to prescribe personalized treatments to patients as needed. 
  • Good Foods Group, LLC (Dublin) seeks to manufacture functional foods – bars, shakes, chews and coffee pods – that contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a substance that helps individuals maintain weight, build muscle, and lose fat. CLA currently comes in large capsules that are hard to swallow, leading to low compliance and missing doses. 
  • MacroVation, LLC (Fairlawn) designs sustainable, innovative biomaterials in promotion of a green, circular bioeconomy, such as additives for commodity plastics that render them biodegradable after use, and 3D printable materials derived from seaweed for the manufacture of medical devices (syringes, laboratory equipment, prosthetic foams, etc.).

Since its founding in 2017, RAMP – the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program serving western and central Virginia – has accelerated 43 companies that collectively employ more than 600 people and sell products and services to all U.S. states and internationally. 

RAMP is an affiliate of Verge, a collaborative strategic alliance that includes the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council established to grow the region’s innovation economy. Jess Edwards, Verge’s Director of Innovation Studio for a new biotechnology incubator in Roanoke that launches in 2024, will lead the Fall Cohort as interim director of RAMP.

During the 12-week cohort program, startups receive $20,000 in non-equity funding, expert 1:1 mentoring, and free office space with high-speed internet in downtown Roanoke’s Gill Building. RAMP alumni also receive two years of free membership in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council; one year of membership in Virginia BIO; three years of membership in the Shenandoah Club; membership in GAN for the lifetime of the company; discounted office space; and three additional years of ongoing support through Exit RAMP – a suite of ever-growing and developing coaching and support services.

The Fall Cohort will conclude with “Demo Day,” scheduled for December 6, when the entrepreneurs will present their companies to the region’s business leaders and investors.

Game Changer Week Features Events for Students, Startups, and Tech Community

The greatest minds, innovators, and thought leaders in the regional technology ecosystem are coming together for Game Changer Week in September.

The series of events – Sept. 5-8 in Roanoke and Blacksburg – celebrates innovation and is designed as a place where big ideas and technology can collide. The event will feature a series of community-sourced talks in areas such as biotechnology, clean energy, artificial intelligence and cyber security, and autonomous technology, plus tracks for Women In Technology, startups, and wellness.

“Our vision is to provide an annual, week-long opportunity for the region to highlight and celebrate the progress toward our technologies solving world industry challenges,” said Brett Malone, President and CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. “Our goal is to provide connection, stoke curiosity, and celebrate all the disruptors that are right here in our region.”

New this year is a pitch competition designed exclusively for higher education students who aspire to create a significant impact through innovative ideas. The competition encourages and celebrates entrepreneurial thinking, providing students a unique opportunity to gain exposure, receive valuable feedback, and possibly secure funding for their ventures. 

There’s something for every other career stage as well. The event is designed to help connect generations of game changers including panels and guest speakers that have founded well-known companies; access to capital programs for entrepreneurs in various growth phases; and all the people contributing to make our region competitive in the world-wide tech ecosystem. 

The community-owned event is now in its third year, and Game Changer Week events are free to attend, although registration is required. 

Day-by-day highlights include:


  • Access to Capital Series for Tech Entrepreneurs. Gain unprecedented access to elite advice from people who know. The online virtual video series will cover different types pf funding options for startups and include advice from some of the region’s top-notch investors and fund managers. (Virtual, 11 a.m.)
  • Matters of the Mindset: Learn how your mindset impacts success. We’ll explore the different mindsets business owners and leader may experience, then we’ll learn how to embrace a game changer mindset that will propel you and your company forward. (COgro in Blacksburg, 3 p.m.)
  • COgro Labs Ribbon Cutting with Montgomery County Chamber: Come see the new labs for yourself. COgro LABS provides affordable wet and dry lab space in the region that is vital to supporting the innovation ecosystem and shows that the region is here to support entrepreneurial growth across sectors. (COgro Labs, Blacksburg, 4 p.m.)


  • Coworking Day at Starr Hill: Need a place to work, connect, or destress? Join in on the fun having a private co-working day at a Starr Hill Brewery. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, coffee, snacks, and lunch while you spend the day working in Roanoke. Beer available for purchase. (Starr Hill, Roanoke, beginning at 9 a.m.)
  • Innovative Problem Identification and Problem-Solving Session: Have you ever heard the saying that if you had 60 minutes to solve a problem you should spend 59 of them identifying what the problem is? Do you sometimes waste time in problem solving mode to realize that the true problem wasn’t what you were solving? This session will focus on actionable tools and proven techniques to identify core problems and solution focused decision-making. Join entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, aspiring problem solvers and students for an interactive session sure to brighten your day! (Starr Hill, Roanoke, 10:30 a.m.)
  • What’s the BIG deal about BIO? featuring Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS and Virginia Bio: Fans of the monthly Beer & Biotech series won’t want to miss this! Our global partner, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS @ Washington, DC, will team up with local partners. (Twisted Track Brewing in Roanoke, 5 p.m.)
  • Entrepalooza: Entrepreneurship Festival: Join students from all disciplines, alumni and community members for a celebration of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There will be plenty of food, swag, networking, and a rapid fire pitch contest with prizes. (Apex Center in Blacksburg, 5 p.m.)


  • Exploring the Future of Clean Energy Across the New River and Roanoke Valleys: Join the Dominion Energy Innovation Center’s SPARK NRV event during Game Changer Week for an insightful industry panel discussion that delves into the pivotal role of clean energy in transforming the landscape of the New River and Roanoke Valleys. This session will spotlight the deployment of cutting-edge energy systems such as hydrogen, carbon capture and nuclear technologies, aimed at spearheading decarbonization across vital regional sectors. (COgro, Blacksburg, 9 a.m.)
  • Founders & Funders Lunch + Pitch Plus Clinic Powered by RAMP: The PitchPlus Clinic is designed for later-stage, post-acceleration startups and other early-stage companies seeking knowledge about the venture capital markets, the venture capital fundraising process and the transaction closing process from term sheets through due diligence to closing. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from Greg Feldmann, Skyline Capital; Alex Euler, Virginia Venture Partners; and Fourd Kemper, Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black. (Concept Room, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Blacksburg, noon)
  • Block Party: The biggest networking event since TechNite, don’t miss your chance to mix and mingle with the innovative companies and entrepreneurs at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. (Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, 4 p.m.)


  • Final Student Pitches: Student teams will present their ideas to a panel of judges as they compete for more than $16,000 in prizes. (Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg, 9 a.m.)

“What’s special about Game Changer Week is the opportunity to learn about technologies that are being developed right here, and engage with the people who are creating them,” said Erin Burcham, President of Verge and Executive Director of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing this your whole life or are a student looking to make an impact, the future of innovation in this region is here.”

Game Changer Week events will be at multiple locations throughout the region. We encourage you to register, download the app, and plan to move back and forth between Roanoke and Blacksburg for different experiences. Even better, share the event with your team, and encourage their participation as well.

Game Changer Week is free to attend and designed for everyone from college students to CEOs and everyone in-between. Join us for networking events, engage with thought leaders in action, and leave with real-world connections and new knowledge to be inspired.

Game Changer Week is a collaborative effort organized by technology leaders from across Virginia, including the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, VIPC, Tech Center Research Park, Virginia Bio, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Dominion Energy Innovation Center, and other organizations.

Register for Game Changer Week: https://bit.ly/3qHJifb

Connect and Grow: Game Changer Week 2023

Are you looking for a way to connect with other innovators, find inspiration, and set the tone for the upcoming year? Don’t miss Game Changer Week 2023! This incredible event is packed with opportunities to hone your leadership skills, network with local tech’s best and brightest, and soak in exciting new ideas. 

Now in its third year, Game Changer Week is growing! The action happens September 5-8, so mark your calendars. Best of all, all the events are free—just register to let us know you’ll be there. 

“The breakthroughs happening here have global impact and we want to do everything we can to elevate and connect our innovators with potential collaborators and opportunities,” said Erin Burcham, president of Verge and RBTC Executive Director. “With so many brilliant disruptors in the same place, you’ll come away from Game Changer Week having gained new insights to propel you toward your next big idea.” 

Key to this year’s Game Changer Week is a focus on top industry areas for the Roanoke-Blacksburg region: biotech, clean energy, AI-cyber technology, and autonomous technology. We have big plans to celebrate the world-changing work happening right in our backyard including:

  • “What’s the BIG deal about BIO?” featuring Johnson & Johnson and Virginia Bio: Fans of the monthly Beer & Biotech series won’t want to miss this! Our global partner, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS, will team up with local partners to present “What’s the BIG deal about BIO?” 
  • Capital Series for Tech Entrepreneurs. Gain unprecedented access to elite advice from people who know. This keynote will feature a mix of local investors and VT Alum and includes a discussion from a startup founder that raised $200 million in Series A funding. 
  • Block Party in Blacksburg: The biggest networking event since TechNite, don’t miss your chance to mix and mingle with the innovative companies and entrepreneurs at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. 

There are so many things that make this week special, but we like to think that our commitment to an open, inclusive environment really sets us apart. No matter where you are in your educational or professional journey, we have something for everyone:

  • 5 Topic Tracks to suit your needs and interests
  • Educational opportunities
  • Site tours
  • Open houses
  • Fun, welcoming networking events
  • And more!

“We created Game Changer Week as a vehicle to connect generations of game changers with one another and foster opportunities for collaboration that will spark even more innovation,” said Brett Malone, President and CEO of Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

Game Changer Week celebrates our innovative ecosystem where our tech community is working to solve world industry challenges through work with a global impact. Each of our events is led by our very own tech community. Attend our panels and talks given by recognized founders with decades of experience, learn more about the path to capital funding, or pitch your groundbreaking idea at our pitch competition! In other words, whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned founder, you’ll find inspiration and solutions to move your ideas forward. 

The events take place Sept. 5-8 in Roanoke and Blacksburg and are free to attend. Register, download the app, and create an agenda of can’t-miss talks, open houses, and networking events!

Game Changer Week Features New Student Pitch Competition

Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s competition!

Clean Energy:

  • 1st place: Engage Energy, $8000 sponsored by Dominion Energy Innovation
    • Team Members: Jack Quinn, Kayla Mathis, Marie Pittman, Anika Coleman
  • 2nd place: Brick Box, $3000 sponsored by Dominion Energy Innovation
    • Team Member: Marshall Thompson

Health Innovation

  • Feel Free Body Braces, $2000 sponsored by Deloitte
    • Team Members: Jackson Childers, Sawyer Anderson, Lauren Bickham, Gabriel Townsend, Morgan Weidling

General Innovation

  • Exit Sign Solutions, $2000 sponsored by S2 Foundation
    • Team Members: Will Field, Conner Donnelly, Angel Hernandez

Technology Innovation

  • 1st place: SCRIB’D, $2000 sponsored by Boeing
    • Team Members: Emma Stern, Caleb Townsend
  • 2nd place: GlideGuard, $1000 sponsored by TORC
    • Team Members: Vincent Nottoli, Carolina Rossin, William Black, Nathan Martin

People’s Choice

  • NestMate, $1000 sponsored by VT Pamplin Department of Management
    • Team Members: Savannah Payne, Zane Witek, Michael Desta, Shravan Athikinas

For the first time, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council are hosting a regional Student Pitch Competition for Game Changer Week, September 5-8.

The Game Changer Student Pitch Competition is designed exclusively for higher education students who aspire to create a significant impact through their innovative ideas. The competition encourages and celebrates entrepreneurial thinking, providing students a unique opportunity to gain exposure, receive valuable feedback, and possibly secure funding for their ventures. 

Regional partners, including the Pamplin College of Business’s Department of Management, private donors and leaders in the regional entrepreneurship ecosystem, as well as international sponsors such as Boeing and S2 Foundation, are investing in this amazing event to support student-led entrepreneurial ventures. The investment is funding the most competitive and elaborate student pitch competition to ever be held in the New River Valley. 

The pitch competition has four specific categories that students can engage in and receive prize money:

  • Clean Energy
  • Health Technology
  • Technology and Innovation
  • Transportation

The community and students’ peers can also be involved with judging by voting on their favorite student team for a People’s Choice Award. 

The pitch competition will host a Kickoff Event at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 5 in the Creativity and Innovation District on Virginia Tech’s Campus with special guest speaker, Rishi Jaitly, an entrepreneur and former Google, Twitter executive and now Professor of Practice for the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities and the Executive Director of Virginia Tech’s Leadership in Technology (lit.vt.edu) initiative.

Professional mentors from regional organizations will be available to meet with student teams throughout the week to provide coaching and guidance to help students further their ideas and prepare them for presenting their pitches to our notable judges. Teams chosen as finalists, along with those vying for the People’s Choice Award, will present their pitches throughout the day on Friday, September 8, at the Lyric Theater in downtown Blacksburg. The public is invited to attend to the pitch competition finals from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

“Entrepreneurship is a beacon of hope for this up-and-coming generation of students in dealing with the world’s most complex and difficult problems,” said Laura Townsend, Director of Innovative Partnerships at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. “It allows for the fluid application of knowledge through creativity in approaching complex and dynamic issues facing our world. Providing space for these young thinkers, creators, and innovators to collaborate and develop solutions ignites the passion for action, gives students confidence in their ideas and abilities, and opens up new possibilities for the future for our region, state, nation, and world.”

The competition is part of Game Changer Week, a celebration of the innovation ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. The series of events, now in its third year, features speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities for students to CEOs, and everyone in between. Events are free and happen in both Roanoke and Blacksburg. 

See the full Game Changer Week schedule here.

Incubator vs. Accelerator: What’s the Difference?

The innovation ecosystem is on fire in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. With all the big ideas coming out of the area, it’s likely that you’ve heard the terms “incubator” and “accelerator” being thrown around in conversation. However, you may be wondering – what exactly is the difference between the two?

These types of programs do share similarities and both exist in the startup space. You’d be forgiven if you weren’t exactly sure what distinguishes one from the other. Luckily, their differences are pretty easy to spot, so let’s dive into what an incubator and an accelerator are and which might be right for you.

What is an Incubator?

All businesses start with an idea. The journey from idea to market is a long and complex one and founders can’t do it alone. Incubators are growth programs designed to support entrepreneurs in the very beginning stages of their journey—before they even have a product.

The main goal of an incubator is to turn a high-potential idea into an actual product or service. They help entrepreneurs flesh out a business plan, establish a network, and develop a minimally viable product (MVP). 

It’s rare for an incubator to invest capital funding at this stage, but they do provide other highly valuable resources to help a fledgling business get off the ground. Entrepreneurs in an incubator program will benefit from things like expert legal and business mentorship, access to co-working space to conduct business or research, a collaborative innovation community and opportunities to connect with future funders.  

Most companies spend at least a year participating in an incubator. If you’re an entrepreneur with a big idea, but still need help developing a business plan and product, then an incubator is the right choice for you. 

What is an Accelerator?

If an incubator is the first rung on the startup growth ladder, the accelerator is the next. Accelerators are growth programs designed for existing companies who have developed business models and a vetted MVP. Like incubators, accelerators also provide dedicated work facilities, legal services, and communities. Unlike incubators, accelerators come with investment funding. 

This funding, sometimes called seed funding or venture capital, supports an entrepreneur’s efforts to scale their business. Businesses receive funds in the form of grants or in exchange for a small percentage of equity in their business. 

Accelerators (as the name implies) typically have a shorter timeline than incubators and companies generally spend 3-6 months participating in the program. If your startup already has a solid business plan and product, but needs help scaling to the next level, then consider applying to an accelerator.

Regional Innovation Resources

How to Get Connected in the Regional Innovation Ecosystem

Incubators and accelerators are both powerful resources for turning big ideas into world-changing technology and products. At RBTC, we’re in the business of cultivating the region’s next generation innovation. 

We regularly host events that serve as a catalyst for innovation, inspiration, success, and leadership. Take RAMP’s Pitch & Polish events for example. Participants get valuable opportunities to pitch their business ideas to a team of regional mentors. The mentors then help them polish their presentation, provide feedback on their business model, and connect them with the resources they need to grow! 

Interested in growing your network and your next big idea? Check out our upcoming startup focused events and to get started.