RBTC Seeks to Form Roanoke-Blacksburg Chapter of Blacks in Technology

Nurturing an innovation ecosystem that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion for all people is a top priority for RBTC and Verge. We recognize that the work is always ongoing. To that end, we’ve formed a committee to enhance the participation of Black individuals in our technology region’s social network. This committee is exploring the region’s technology landscape to find people who are interested in becoming founding members of the Blacks in Technology (BIT) newest chapter in Roanoke.

Blacks in Technology is a national “tech-focused community and media organization that is dedicated to increasing representation and participation of Black people in the technology industry.”

According to the BIT Foundation website:

It is a fairly common occurrence that Black workers in the technology industry find themselves the only Black person in the room or the only Black person on their team. Black people are underrepresented in every technology related career demographic, from tech startup founders seeking venture capital, to core information technology workers seeking pay equity.

Our goal and mission is to “stomp the divide” between Black tech workers and to fundamentally influence and effect change on an industry that has historically not sought parity with respect to Black workers. Our intent is to level the playing field through training, education, networking, and mentorship with the support of allies, partners, sponsors, and most importantly our global members. 

As we organize and gather support, we encourage interested individuals to join the regional  Virginia Blacks in Technology chapter to take advantage of the discounts on technical training, certifications, products, IT services, and exclusive professional networking and social events.

We are actively looking for volunteers and leaders to help build our local chapter. RBTC will be the first sponsor for this chapter, providing support for the initiatives that will serve our community. To register your interest, please fill out the form below and then contact Verge Vice President Lisa Garcia at lisa.garcia@rbtc.tech.

Workforce Development: Creating a Vibrant Innovation Ecosystem

A fully mature ecosystem takes time to develop, but that doesn’t stop RBTC from planting seeds of innovation today that will bear fruit in the future. In fact, that’s what RBTC is all about—we’re committed to the growth of the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology community as it matures into a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem.  

One of the ways RBTC supports this goal is through robust workforce development initiatives. The technology sector is booming, and there are jobs today that didn’t exist even 10 years ago. The rapid growth makes it critical to train current and future tech workers to fill exciting jobs in the region. Supported by legislation and funding aimed at keeping talent in the state, RBTC partners with local and state collaborators to develop amazing local STEM opportunities for businesses, students, new grads, and professionals. So, what are the ways RBTC is helping train a new technology workforce? We’re so glad you asked! Keep reading—you might even find an opportunity that’s right for you.

Virginia Western Community College STEM K-12 Pipeline

Virginia Western Community College is leading the charge to prepare local students for careers in STEM.  The community college recently announced the launch of a new degree program to address the rapid growth of biotechnology jobs in the region. Beginning in the fall of 2023, students can earn a two-year degree in biotechnology. Following the completion of their degree, students can transfer to a four-year degree program or use their job-ready skills for an entry-level laboratory position (many of which pay $24 an hour).
 
Virginia Western isn’t just focused on nurturing post-high school students. This summer, VWCC launched STAT 22, a professional development event for local K12 teachers. STAT 22 helps teachers earn professional development credits by learning about biotechnology and incorporating that knowledge into their STEM curriculum. In turn, K12 students benefit from their knowledge, learning more about biotechnology and potential career opportunities in the field.

Virginia Technology Alliance Creates Big Opportunities

In the U.S., more than 700,000 tech roles remain unfilled due to the enormous gap in the tech talent pipeline.[1] RBTC is working with partners across the state to close the gap—filling roles and creating exciting opportunities for early-career professionals right in their hometown.

If you’re a recent college graduate with a STEM degree, RBTC can help you get connected to jobs across the state without ever leaving the city. We partner with northern VA-based organizations to fill entry-level technology positions remotely. New hires can work from our professional offices, have access to mentorship and community, and enjoy a lower cost of living while building experience in a learning-focused environment.

If you’re not quite ready for a full-time position, we can help you find internships while you finish your degree. We’ve partnered with Exelaration, a software development company with a nationally recognized internship program, to match undergraduate students with local employers in need of talented interns. The program is funded through the ELITE (Experiential Learning Through Tech Employment) grant and helps undergraduates gain real-world experience by working on mission-critical projects for local companies.

Emerging Cluster of Biotech Companies Builds Momentum

The Roanoke-Blacksburg region is quickly becoming the state hub for biotechnology expertise. Companies here find a progress-friendly environment with plenty of talent to grow their missions of delivering practical solutions to pressing problems. A good example of the types of companies that thrive here is Intuitive Surgical — a company focused on advancing minimally invasive care through advanced robotic systems. Headquartered in Blacksburg, Intuitive Surgical continues to innovate and evolve as the horizons of biotechnology expand. Globally connected and locally resourced, Intuitive Surgical works every day to solve hard problems in healthcare.

Companies like Intuitive Surgical continue to develop or locate here thanks to our vibrant, well-resourced community. Our eyes are on the future and we’re doing all we can to ensure that as the biotechnology sector develops, the talent will too.

Learn More

Innovation takes a village. Whether you’re exploring a career in biotechnology, or a company looking to find stellar talent, RBTC has a place for you. Browse our event calendar or check out our memberships to find your tribe with RBTC.

TechLab’s Global Merger Creates More Biotech Jobs for the Region

The Roanoke/Blacksburg biotechnology sector is expanding quickly, thanks in part to an exciting new development at RBTC member, TechLab. This summer, Blacksburg-based TechLab finalized a merger with SSI Diagnostica Group, a leading Nordic biotechnology company aimed at advancing diagnostic technology. The merger, in which SSI Diagnostica acquired TechLab, will fuel local economic growth by putting global partnerships and resources behind TechLab’s research, development, and manufacturing work.
 
TechLab is headquartered in Blacksburg at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center with a manufacturing plant in Radford. TechLab specializes in enteric, or intestinal, diagnostics that enable health care providers to identify dangerous pathogens and toxins more efficiently.
 
Thanks to their team, systems, and excellence, SSI Diagnostica identified TechLab as an important contributor to and vital partner in the global diagnostic market. The merger will see TechLab provide manufacturing for SSI Diagnostica’s respiratory diagnostic tools, creating a synergy that allows both companies to widen their impact.
 
With this merger, TechLab will join an international portfolio of companies that help over 80 million patients and counting every year. The Roanoke-Blacksburg region can anticipate adding 20 new jobs in the next year and up to 50 within 3-5 years, including manufacturing, quality control, research and development, and administration.
 
“It’s a very exciting time at TechLab. We’re growing rapidly and the merger is going to increase local opportunities even further,” said Director of HR Allison White.
 
“TechLab has been a valuable part of the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology community for more than three decades. It’s wonderful to see them commit to future growth here with SSI Diagnostica Group,” said Verge President and RBTC Executive Director Erin Burcham.

techlab building in blacksburg

TechLab was founded in the 1980s when two Virginia Tech researchers developed the first commercial diagnostic tests for C. difficile disease. Since then, TechLab has expanded its operation to include other enteric pathogens and distributes products worldwide. In 2004, the world faced a serious outbreak of C. difficile with mortality rates as high as 20%. TechLab was on the frontlines, furnishing health care providers with expertise and rapid testing technology. Now, TechLab’s C. DIFFICILE QUIK CHEK COMPLETE test is the top diagnostic tool for hospitals around the world.
 
While TechLab has a worldwide reach, they maintain a solidly community-driven ethos that contributes to their success. A homegrown company, TechLab is deeply invested in the health and well-being of their communities both locally and throughout the state—something they anticipate will only strengthen in the future.
 
From leadership to manufacturing, TechLab has formed partnerships in regional economic development, Virginia biotech leadership, and local nonprofits. You might find TechLab’s senior scientists speaking to students in science courses at Virginia Tech and Radford University, and you’ll find new grads on the employee roster.
 
“It’s a wonderful place to work,” said Director of Marketing Jodie Lee. “We’re very integrated into the community and the company strives to care for its employees.”
 
Like many industries, the diagnostics world was hit hard during the pandemic and TechLab sprang into action on behalf of their team. They provided time off and preserved jobs, even throughout the worst of the crisis. Leadership turned their problem-solving skills to supply chain issues, using their manufacturing plant to make hand sanitizer and masks for employees and even sourcing toilet paper for workers when there was none to be found anywhere else.
 
White said: “We have a family feel because we stay true to the core of who we are.” As a testament to their commitment, many employees choose to stay in the region to launch and grow their biotechnology careers, investing years and even decades in TechLab.

RBTC Rolls Out New Membership Benefits

With a rapidly growing innovation ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region, RBTC is rolling out new and enhanced member benefits with all new memberships and renewals.

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, part of the Verge alliance, includes more than 100 member companies across 15+ industries with a mission to support and promote the growth of the regional technology community. The shared vision of RBTC, RAMP, and the Verge alliance is for the Roanoke and New River Valleys to be globally recognized for innovation, entrepreneurship, and talent assets.

Almost any company or individual can find a membership level that’s right for them, that supports the growth of the innovation economy in the region, and provides access to a network of thought leaders and industry professionals.

Membership levels include:

  • Individual Membership
  • Technology Company Membership, 1-20 employees
  • Technology Company Membership, 21+ employees
  • Ecosystem Partner Membership (for non-technology companies), 1-49 employees
  • Ecosystem Partner Membership (for non-technology companies), 50+ employees
  • Plus, three annual partner options with enhanced benefits, including recognition at events, TechNite tickets, and custom digital marketing benefits

As an RBTC member company, all of your employees get access to all of the benefits listed below.

  • Member Pricing for all RBTC Events (40+ annually)
  • Member Directory Listing (coming soon)
  • Job Board Access 
  • Internship, Talent, and Leadership Development Program Access
  • Group Forums
  • Connection with Regional Leaders & Access to Subject Matter Experts
  • Tech Leaders Newsletter
  • Regional Technology Peer Advisory Groups
  • Volunteer & Networking Opportunities
  • Sponsorship Opportunities

RBTC is part of the Verge alliance, which provides advocacy, programming, talent attraction/development, and connectivity to elevate the greater technology and biotechnology sectors in GO Virginia’s Region 2.

Additionally, RBTC, RAMP, and Verge are working to create more resources for the technology community that you are already a part of. The RBTC hired a technology talent strategist to support member companies in attracting and retaining talent and is advocating on the state level for increased funding for tech and biotech. The RBTC is also instrumental in the Roanoke Biotech Project, which will bring wet and dry labs, an innovation studio, and enhanced innovation programming to the region.

If you are interested in membership or an annual partnership, you can see all of the options here.

RBTC Creates Technology Talent Strategist Role to Support Member Growth

We are delighted to introduce Technology Talent Strategist Katie Conner as the newest member of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council team.
 
Katie joined the team this month in the newly developed role, and we are excited by all the energy, experience, and skill she brings to the position! In her capacity as talent strategist, she will work to support member companies in attracting and retaining talent to fuel the innovation ecosystem in the region. Her efforts will go hand-in-hand with RBTC’s state-level advocacy to increase funding for tech and biotech.
 
“Talent is a major focus area for RBTC member companies as they grow in this area and look to recruit employees,” said Erin Burcham, President of Verge and Executive Director of RBTC. “We’re thrilled to have someone on our team dedicated to helping with talent needs in the regional innovation ecosystem.”
 
“I look forward to getting to know RBTC member companies and teams and facilitate growth throughout the region,” Katie said.
 
Prior to joining RBTC, Katie served as a destination development specialist in the partnership marketing division of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. During her tenure, she collaborated with statewide partners to generate revenue and create jobs through the development of community-based tourism programs, new products, and tourism-related businesses.
 
She was responsible for supporting and advising strategic tourism planning efforts, technical assistance, product development, and cooperative marketing to each community in her region, as well as connecting tourism industry stakeholders with VTC services. She looks forward to implementing this skillset at RBTC.
 
Katie has a Bachelor of Science degree in communication with a concentration in public relations from Radford University and is currently pursuing her master’s in business administration at Longwood University. Katie is a Leadership Roanoke Valley alumna and has also served in an advisory capacity.
 
With over 15 years of combined experience, her unique background includes hospitality sales and management, financial account management, event planning, and marketing and public relations. Katie resides in Botetourt County and in her spare time enjoys spending time with her husband and dogs.

Spotlight on Kathleen O’Dell, STEM-H Educator Award Winner

During TechNite 2022, Kathleen O’Dell was recognized as an educator in the Roanoke–Blacksburg region that promotes math, science, and/or use of technology in creative ways to transfer knowledge and help develop future technology leaders. O’Dell became a math teacher at Christiansburg Middle School 15 years ago through a non-traditional route, incorporated real-world experiences into her curriculum, and realized teaching was the dream job she was looking for all along. O’Dell is the recipient of the 2022 Montgomery County Public School Teacher of the Year award, serves as Department Chair of the CMS Math Department, and worked as tutor and a curriculum specialist for the Boys and Girls Club from 2016 to 2021. In May, she received the STEM-H Educator Award in honor of her many achievements in STEM education.

Where is your Alma Mater and what did you study?

I attended Rutgers University and earned a BA in psychology with a specialization in child development. Following that, I earned an MA in Curriculum and Instruction with a K-8 Mat specialist endorsement from Virginia Tech.

What does it mean to you to win the STEM-H Educator Award from the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council?

I know that there are many very talented educators in the area, so to even be considered for the recognition as a STEM educator is an honor.  I am very appreciative of the award and am so thankful for STEM education to have a spotlight, because it is so important for students to have these opportunities to explore and learn.

You’re known and loved for your passion and commitment as well as the way you incorporate real-word experiences into your curriculum – supporting different types of learners.  What’s an example of this? 

My passion is helping students find the excitement and joy of learning.  Incorporating real-world experiences helps kids see the value of the things we do in school and giving them opportunities to incorporate their own ideas helps them feel ownership in the learning.  Students have taught me so many things and opened my eyes to how learning can look different and still be correct.  My motto is, “Math is never meant to stay in the classroom”.  I reward students who use the math we learn in class and apply it in real life situations and encourage them to find math in their everyday lives. 

Who is your inspiration/What inspires you most as an educator?

My father has always been my hero.  From an early age, he always showed me that learning was fun, and helped me become a critical thinker.  He was not a teacher in a classroom, but he has always been my favorite teacher and the one who has taught me the most.

Tell us a fun fact about you! 

My family is the most important thing in my life. I am married (30 years) and have 2 married daughters, one granddaughter and a grandchild on the way. I didn’t start teaching until my mid-thirties, and my family has always been my biggest supporter.  

You’re so passionate about STEM education that you’ve called it your “dream career.” What else can you tell us about your highly impactful career in STEM education? My career has allowed me opportunities to be recognized for some prestigious awards, including this Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council STEM-H award, as well as the PAEMST Award (Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching), Montgomery County and Christiansburg Middle School Teacher of the Year. But, if you were to ask me about accomplishments for which I am most proud, I would have to say that I am thankful to have helped students transition into young adults who are prepared for their futures, and who left my classroom knowing more about math and learning than they knew before they entered.  

Congratulations Kathy on your well-deserved award! We’re proud to recognize your hard work and important contributions to STEM and the innovation ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.

RAMP and RBTC are part of the Verge alliance, established to grow the region’s innovation economy, technology and life sciences sectors, and the supporting professional communities. It aligns the strengths and programming efforts of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) and the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP). Verge serves GO Virginia Region 2 and works to form collaborations with government, business, academia, and other organizations to advance the region and grow a thriving innovation economy.

RAMP Welcomes New Cohort

Five new startups are part of the latest RAMP cohort. Each company is part of a 12-week program to help them grow their startup companies in the Roanoke Region with access to mentors, capital, and business resources.

Here’s a look at each company:

Fermi Energy, Inc.

Founded by a team of battery scientists and engineers at Virginia Tech, Fermi Energy is developing fundamentally disruptive cathode technologies to help create the U.S. supply chain of battery manufacturing. 

Team: Feng Lin & Zhengrui Xu

Website: fermienergy.org

Dot Solutions, LLC

Dot Solutions LLC, aka Dot Drives, is an internet-based donor engagement software application that was specifically designed for a startup to mid-sized nonprofit. 

Team: Sal Ferlise & Emily Sweet

Website: dotdrives.com

Enabled Engineering

Based in Blacksburg, Enabled Engineering develops innovative manufacturing technologies for extreme applications, such as fabricating materials in nuclear reactors and enhanced electrical and thermal conductivity materials. 

Team: Kumar Kandasamy

Website: enabledengineering.com

Qentoros

Qentoros is developing a biologic therapeutic to treat a variety of infectious and/or inflammatory conditions in animals and humans. The biologic is based on blood products and has demonstrated efficacy in treating a number of veterinary patient conditions that did not improve with normal antibiotic treatment.

Team: Michael Miller & Jessica Gilbertie

Website: qentoros.com

Kenkashi Microbes

Kenkashi Microbes delivers a full range of microbial benefits, from compost boosts to direct microbial and micronutrient application for plant health and resiliency.

Team: Cassie Wilson & Jason Anderson

Website: kenkashi.com

Every member of a Ramp cohort has access to a program that includes:

  • 1:1 expert mentoring as well as access to content mentors covering the world of business knowledge
  • Free office space with hi-speed internet access
  • Access to angel and VC investors through our Demo Day presentations
  • $20,000 in equity-free funding
  • Free membership in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council
  • Three additional years of ongoing support

Learn more about RAMP.

Networking and Leadership Development Opportunities at Game Changer Week

Game Changer Week in Roanoke and Blacksburg is packed with opportunities to hone in your leadership skills and network with the best in the technology ecosystem. The events – Sept. 13-15 – are free. (But you do have to register.)

Register now for networking events including:

  • Coffee, Networking & Lab Tours at Virginia Western Community College (Sept. 13, 9-9:45 a.m.)
  • Game Changer Week Kick-Off Party at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Riverside 4 Lobby (Sept. 13, 4-6:60 p.m.)
  • CEOs and Founders Happy Hour at Starr Hill Pilot Brewery (Sept. 13, 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
  • Coffee and Bagels at Virginia Tech Roanoke Center, Room 709 (Sept. 14, 8-9 a.m.)
  • Luncheon with VIPC at VTCRC Amphitheater (Sept. 14, 12:30-1:15 p.m.)
  • Regional Ecosystem Celebration at Lane Stadium North Outdoor Club 4th Floor (Sept. 14, 5-6:30 p.m.)
  • VTCRC Block Party on Innovation Drive (Sept. 15, 4-9 p.m.)

Maybe professional leadership is what you are looking for. There are plenty of events there as well.

Register now for professional leadership events including:

  • Unboxed Lunch-n-Learn (Sept. 13, 11:45): The world has changed dramatically over the last couple of years and will continue to change. To stay competitive, marketable, and relevant you need to change too. But, you can’t apply your old way of thinking if you want different and better results! You need a game changer…but you need to get out of your own way! Change your mindset. Ultimately, dig deep within yourself to discover who you authentically are (not what everyone has told you to be). Only then can you truly change YOUR game and unbox your thinking!
  • Moving from Groupthink to Teamthink: How to Make Smarter Decisions Together (Sept. 14, 9 a.m.): In the workplace, there can be daily pressure to make smart decisions. Limited resources and conflicting data can make it challenging to choose the best path forward. Although group decision-making is often thought to lead to better outcomes, research suggests that it can rob us of fulfilling our individual and collective potential. In this session, we’ll explore strategies to mitigate the pitfalls of group decision-making through a teamthink approach that encourages creativity and contribution so we can make smarter decisions together.
  • The Value of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging: Assessing the Impact of Your Efforts (Sept. 14, 11 a.m.): In this session, participants will learn about the basics of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), with particular emphasis on measurement strategies to link efforts to actual business outcomes. By the end of the session, participants should have a high-level understanding of how to assess the impact of their work unit’s DEIB efforts and express its value to organizational stakeholders.
  • LX Council Sample Meeting + Lunch (Sept. 14, 11:30 a.m.): Company owners or CEOs find that a peer group of diverse companies can be a great way to regularly share their challenges, ideas, opportunities and problems. LXCouncil provides a moderated monthly half-day meeting for an intentionally curated group of 8-12 CEOs. Two groups have been meeting in Blacksburg for over 17 years, and a new group is forming in Roanoke. Come participate in a sample meeting, see what’s involved, and meet other CEOs with similar interests!
  • VT Women Impact Virginia Lunch and Learn (Sept. 14, noon): Microcontrollers are used to control the way embedded systems work in appliances, robots, power tools, toys, medical equipment and more. Join us for a catered lunch, followed by an introduction to microcontrollers and discover how these modest mini personal computers (PCs) control small features of a larger components. In this interactive session you will learn how to program LEDs to blink using Raspberry Pi Picos, and see how microcontrollers work in practice.
  • Leadership for a New Generation (Sept. 14, 1:15 p.m.): We are leading a multi-generational workforce with five generations in it today. It is more complex than ever before. Companies need to stop hiring for skill and firing for behavior. By partnering with The Q Works Group to build better processes, you can achieve significant retention and an engaged team.
  • What’s the Change Curve and How You Lead People Through It (Sept. 14, 1:30 p.m.): Do you want to be a gamechanger but fear the resistance of leading change? Come learn about the change curve and the normal processes and feelings that we go through in any change-even those that will result in a better result! Participants will hear about the change curve, the normal effects on productivity and morale, and hear practical, actionable tips for each stage of leading others through change! 
  • React and Recover: Using Improv to Level Up Your Leadership (Sept. 14, 3 p.m.): This will be an interactive session. On your feet and using your voice. We aren’t doing SNL skits, and there is no requirement that you must be “funny.” Throw your shoulders back and wade into something new. Improv is about making choices and embracing failure. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. Leading through the uncomfortable is essential for you, your team, and your future.
  • Everyday Agile (Sept. 15, 9 a.m.): Agile is officially a buzzword; your eyes glaze over when you hear it. But did you know that successful people apply Agile principles every day without putting a label on it, including maybe you! Exelaration CEO Steve Cooper shares how living Agile principles every day makes people happier and more successful, at work and beyond. This fun, interactive workshop will open your eyes to how much we all use Agile every day, and opportunities to use it even more!
  • Simple Prioritization Tools for Your Backlog and Life (Sept. 15, 10 a.m.): Are you working on the right things? How do you know? When our list of to do’s and requests feels overwhelming it’s time to prioritize for maximum benefit of our time and resources.  In this session Jessie Hirsh will show you how to use simple prioritization techniques to quickly organize and sequence your backlog of tasks, whatever it may be. 
  • Employee Growth, Engagement & Accountability (Sept. 15, 10 a.m.): Let’s talk about some hot topics… Remote Working, Quiet Quitting, Salary Hikes, Turnover Rates, Employee Engagement, Performance Feedback.  These are not new problems, but they are definitely harder now than ever.  Moreover, these things have impacted what employees expect from workplaces and what workplaces expect from employees.  In this session we will shed light on how we (humans) work differently today vs. how we used to and we will attempt to project forward what other changes we (businesses) can expect and, hopefully, provide some useful tips and tricks on how to cope with them.  The format is expected to be CJ presenting out some data points, learned insights, personal stories, and a bit of collaboration as we dive into some of today’s biggest problems – employee growth, engagement, & accountability.
  • Mental Health at Work (Sept. 15, 11 a.m.): Mental health at work has always been an important conversation, now it is an urgent one. Regardless of your industry, role, or position, having the conversational literacy to discuss mental health in a professional setting can be intimidating. In this interactive digital fireside interview, Katie Beach will have a critical discussion with Melissa Doman, MA – organizational psychologist, former mental health therapist, and author of Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work (Here’s why and how to do it really well) about why talking about mental health at work must be viewed as a core competency and skillset in today’s World of Work. Whether you are the CEO, a front line supervisor, Human Resource professional, or summer intern, this discussion is for you!
  • Toastmasters Meeting (Sept. 15, 11:45 a.m.): Are you preparing to talk with investors, potential clients, or industry experts? Or looking at the next step in your career? Do you want to practice your public speaking and leadership skills in a fun and lively environment? The NRV Lunch Bunch is a Toastmasters club that believes skill building can be fun—and sometimes hysterically funny.
  • Build for Tomorrow Keynote with Jason Feifer (Sept. 15, 2:30 p.m.): Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, author of the book Build For Tomorrow (out September 2022), a startup advisor, and host of two podcasts: Build For Tomorrow (yes, same name as the book) a show about the smartest solutions to our most misunderstood problems; and Problem Solvers, about entrepreneurs overcoming the odds in their business. What can Jason offer you? After getting to know the world’s smartest entrepreneurs, he realized that success comes from embracing the unknown. He studied how they do it. He tried their tactics himself. Now he can help you become more adaptable—and build a better tomorrow.

See the full schedule + register

Game Changer Week celebrates our innovative ecosystem where you will be inspired by disruptors from all industries, people with ideas, the curious looking to learn or invest, and the brightest talent among us. No matter the career or business stage you will find a catalyst to propel you forward at networking events, with thought leaders in action, and educational opportunities.

The events take place Sept. 13-15 in Roanoke and Blacksburg. Everything is led by your innovation community and events are free to attend. Register, download the app, and create an agenda of can’t miss talks, open houses, and networking events!

50+ Events Scheduled for Game Changer Week

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

The series of events – Sept. 13-15 in Roanoke and Blacksburg – is a celebration of our innovative ecosystem and is designed as a place where big ideas and technology can collide. There will be more than 50 speakers focusing on everything from biotechnology to cyber tech to workplace leadership in workshops, panel discussions, and during networking events.

Highlights of the week include:

  • Keynote talk with Jason Feifer, editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, and author of “Build for Tomorrow” and host of a podcast of the same name (he’ll also meet with students in another session and entrepreneurs in a third event)
  • Biotechnology deep dive with sessions on the fast-growing life sciences sector and its future in this region with a keynote talk from Dr. Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute
  • Technical tracks and talks that include aerospace, biotechnology, blockchain, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, and project management
  • Talk about inclusive economic growth with NASA and entrepreneurs that are collaborating to commercialize ideas and innovation
  • Interactive discussion with Melissa Doman about mental health in the workplace
  • Entrepreneurial sessions to help you grow your business with case studies from founders and companies that have already done it
  • Learn to create and mint an NFT or participate in a cybersecurity capture the flag event
  • Networking and happy hours to help you connect with regional innovators at every level
  • Block party with live music, food, and games at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center

The intent of the week is to inspire innovative thinking and connect the regional innovation ecosystem. You might learn about a new technology being developed right here, engage with leaders to help advance your startup (or career), and walk away with tips and skills to make you better at work today.

“We developed Game Changer Week to help connect the dots between all of the innovations and thought leadership happening in this region,” said Brett Malone, President and CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

“Whether you come for one event or 10, we can guarantee you’ll learn something, gain new understanding of our regional innovation ecosystem, or meet someone that can help push your professional path forward,” said Erin Burcham, President of Verge and Executive Director of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. “The future of innovation in this region is starting now.”

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

This year the event is in 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 the mentor/CEO looking to connect with innovative thinkers to working professionals looking to level up their careers to college students that want to network with industry pros. 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 Packed with Events for Entrepreneurs

There’s something for every entrepreneur at Game Changer Week — Sept. 13-15 — in Roanoke and Blacksburg. Sessions will help you connect with mentors and the greater regional innovation ecosystem. Plus, all of the events are free to attend.

One of the highlights of the event is a keynote talk for entrepreneurs by Jason Feifer, editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, author of the book Build For Tomorrow (out this month), a startup advisor, and host of two podcasts: Build For Tomorrow, a show about the smartest solutions to our most misunderstood problems; and Problem Solvers, about entrepreneurs overcoming the odds in their business.

What can Jason offer you? After getting to know the world’s smartest entrepreneurs, he realized that success comes from embracing the unknown. He studied how they do it. He tried their tactics himself. Now he can help you become more adaptable—and build a better tomorrow.

Register now for events including:

  • Advancing NASA Intellectual Property from Idea to Market (Creating and Growing Under-Represented Women & Entrepreneurs of Color Led Science & Technology Start-Ups): The national Tech Center Research Park Accelerator Network Program connects leading-edge NASA-developed intellectual property and technology with underrepresented entrepreneurs to turn hypothesized ideas into sound business models and ultimately, tech-based start-ups. Participant recruitment is focused within MSI and HBCU institutions and alumni networks. The accelerator focuses on driving commercialization of federal lab technologies while building connectivity across the country and reaching traditionally underrepresented entrepreneurs who are invested in solving critical global challenges.
  • Long-Term Customer Discovery for Startups: In partnership with Virginia Bio, ICAP is continuing its presentation series on important topics related to Virginia’s life science startups. These presentations are a great opportunity to help founders expand their knowledge base, offer support and lessons learned from experienced ICAP Mentors, network with other startups, as well as introduce them to a number of resources from around the Commonwealth.
  • VPT: From Seed to Exit to Making Strategic Acquisitions: VPT started almost 30 years ago in a one room office in the VT Corporate Research Center.  It is now the largest manufacturer of DC-DC Power Converters serving the High Reliability markets of military, commercial aerospace, space, and High-End Industrial applications.  VPT power converters can be found on the F35 Fighter, the Boeing 787 Aircraft, GPS Satellites, and high temperature oil drilling equipment.  About thirteen years ago, VPT was acquired by a large publicly-traded aerospace company.  However, unlike most acquisitions in industry, VPT was encouraged to continue running completely independently.  This has proved to be an extremely successful model and VPT has used this same philosophy in making its own acquisitions and investments.   
  • Marketing for Tech and Innovation: Your company is off the ground. Your innovations are amazing. But why does it seem like no one gets it? You need a little marketing. Saying the right thing in the right place and the right time can help propel and amplify your message. In this session, you’ll learn some basic marketing techniques that can help you explain your technology to others, get more attention, and even get noticed in search engines.
  • SBIR Funding Strategies and Intro to VIPC’s Funding Support Programs: Hear an overview of the SBIR grant programs available at some of the largest federal agencies (DOD, NSF, NASA, Dept. of Energy, and more) and learn how to start considering the funding available from “America’s Seed Fund”.  You’ll also hear an overview of the SBIR support program available from VIPC, and an overview of the Commonwealth Commercialization Fund that provides $75K grants to Virginia based companies and universities. Finally, a short intro to the Virginia Innovation Commercialization Program (ICAP) that provides high level mentoring and customer discovery services to Virginia’s entrepreneurial community.   
  • How it Started: Three Hokie Engineers Taking on Hallmark: In 1932, Hallmark stopped selling greeting cards out of shop drawers and put them on display racks where people can easily see them. And they’ve been selling cards this way ever since! Card Isle–a startup founded by three Hokie engineers–saw an opportunity to disrupt this $7B industry. Card Isle prints cards on-demand in hundreds of distribution centers across the country. This new approach empowers local artists to sell their cards nationwide, enables customers to personalize cards with their own message and language, and eliminates wasted cards. It also means that Card Isle can sell cards in new ways, such as through grocery pickup and other ecommerce channels. 
  • CytoRecovery: How It All Started: A short talk/improv about CytoRecovery’s origins and our story starting up in southwest VA.
  • MATCHINATOR Demo: Technology Transfer Consultants, LLC is a startup company that built an innovative machine automated tool called the “MATCHINATOR”. This tool instantly connects research capabilities to government funded technology gaps. Attendees will see the demo and have the opportunity to register in real time!
  • Hacksburg/Garvin Open House: This event will showcase Hacksburg, a community makerspace in the Garvin Building of the Corporate Research Center, along with our Garvin tenants who use Hacksburg to propel their companies forward. Hacksburg has a woodshop, metalshop, 3D printers, laser cutter, and electronics prototyping area to serve the needs of businesses and their employees’ hobbies to build anything from robots to rockets to rocking chairs.
  • Regional Ecosystem Celebration: Join the Verge team (RAMP & RBTC) as we hear from local entrepreneurs, economic developers, and state groups as they share the important role communities, local businesses, and state elected officials play in advancing our regional competitiveness through evidence-based entrepreneurship. Networking to follow.
  • Startup/Entrepreneur Networking with Jason Feifer: The editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine and author of “Build For Tomorrow” will talk with startup founders and entrepreneurs about growing themselves and their companies. Interactive question and answer style discussion. Bring your questions!

See the full schedule + register

Game Changer Week celebrates our innovative ecosystem where you will be inspired by disruptors from all industries, people with ideas, the curious looking to learn or invest, and the brightest talent among us. No matter the career or business stage you will find a catalyst to propel you forward at networking events, with thought leaders in action, and educational opportunities.

The events take place Sept. 13-15 in Roanoke and Blacksburg. Everything is led by your innovation community and events are free to attend. Register, download the app, and create an agenda of can’t miss talks, open houses, and networking events!