The biggest night in tech celebrated the rapidly expanding technology ecosystem and the movers and shakers in the industry on Thursday night at Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s TechNite 2022 at the Taubman Museum of Art, attracting over 300 statewide and regional leaders.
Among the highlights of the evening was the induction of Victor Iannello into the RBTC Hall of Fame.
TechNite, presented by Woods Rogers Attorneys at Law, is an annual celebration for the best in innovation. The 2022 theme focused on biotechnology as the region prepares for major multi-regional, multi-organizational collaborations to unfold later this year.
“TechNite presents an amazing opportunity to bring together the technology community from those with an early-stage idea to nationally and globally established companies located in this region,” said Erin Burcham, President of Verge and Executive Director of RBTC. “This event celebrates all the accomplishments and work happening right here in Western Virginia.”
This region is making an impact across the state and beyond, noted keynote speakers John Newby, CEO of Virginia Bio, and Conaway Haskins, Vice President for Entrepreneurial Ecosystems at the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation.
“Virginia Bio is proud to support the greater Roanoke ecosystem, a growing and thriving entrepreneurial community,” Newby said. “Biotechnology is a vital element of this growth, and the Roanoke/Blacksburg/Lynchburg BioHub lead by Carilion Clinic and VT-Fralin Biomedical Research Institute will continue to transform the region into a major national life science hub.”
“TechNite is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and amplify the work that you and your partners have undertaken to build a vibrant innovation ecosystem across the region,” Haskins said.
The following entrepreneurs and companies were honored at the awards ceremony.
Named to the RBTC Hall of Fame, Iannello is CEO of Chorda Pharma, an early-stage pharmaceuticals company developing a pipeline of opioid-free drugs to manage pain. Previously, he was the CEO and founder of Radiant Physics, a company that develops and commercializes revolutionary products in the energy, industrial technology, and healthcare sectors to improve performance and deliver value.
Iannello, a serial entrepreneur and innovator, also founded Synchrony Inc., which was acquired by Dresser-Rand in 2013 and is now part of Johnson Controls. He has been active in the community, as Past Chairman of the Carilion Medical Center Board of Directors, Past Co-Chairman of Valleys Innovation Council (now Verge), and Past President of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. Iannello attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and holds the SB, SM, and ScD degrees in Nuclear Engineering.
Additional award winners include:
- Kathleen O’Dell, STEM-H Educator Award, which recognizes 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, incorporating real-world experiences into her curriculum, and realized it 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.
- Ticket Spicket, Rising Star Award, which recognizes an early-stage technology company. This award emphasizes the importance of small firms to our region’s technology economy. Ticket Spicket is a no-cost digital ticketing platform for schools, districts and associations. In just two years the tool has grown to 1.4 million unique users, conducting 2.7 million transactions.
- Dr. Robert Gourdie, Innovator Award, which recognizes an individual, a team, or organization that has blazed new trails in the areas of research and innovation. Gourdie is an entrepreneur with a wealth of startup experience. He has founded or co-founded three start-ups based on his cutting-edge research. First String Research has three active ongoing clinical trials. Tiny Cargo Company and Acomhal Research are on their way to revolutionizing drug delivery and glioblastoma treatment. Tiny Cargo Co. is among five companies to receive a Washington, DC Health Innovation QuickFire Challenge award. The $50,000 in grant funding will help the biotech startup continue to develop its novel drug delivery method using hardy nano-sized capsules derived from cow’s milk.
- Wendi Pannell, Regional Leadership Award, which recognizes a member who succeeds in the workplace, but also leads by example by contributing significantly to the RBTC community. Pannell, Vice President of Content Production at Ozmo, is a connector of people and ideas. She has shown dedication to growing the WoTech (RBTC women in technology) community and drives the future and promise of WoTech regionally.
- Martin Angst, Entrepreneur Award, which recognizes a leader exemplifying what it means to be a risk-taker in technology. Angst is the co-founder of Rendyr, an emerging desktop robotics company developing a first of its kind portable laser cutter that dramatically improves access to rapid prototyping and digital fabrication. Rendyr has raised over $730k from 444 backers through a Kickstarter campaign for their Optic portable laser cutter. (You can back the project now at https://launch.rendyr.com/.)
- P1 Technologies, Leading Tech Company, which recognizes a Roanoke or New River Valley company committed to advancing the region’s technology community and demonstrating excellence in people, programs, and projects within its industry. P1 Technologies delivers cabling and injection molding products as well as custom specialty designs. They focus on three main service lines: medical, audio, and in vivo preclinical research from their facility in Roanoke County. P1 Technologies is a highly regarded specialty manufacturer in one of the most regulated, demanding, fast-paced industry sectors in the marketplace. They combine high quality standards with R&D capabilities, resulting in consistency and new solutions, building trust and longevity with their customers.
- Kathy Claytor, Ruby Award, which recognizes an outstanding member who has proven to be a brilliant and valuable asset to the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. Claytor has contributed to the local technology industry, working to attract, grow and retain technology talent for the Roanoke Region. She has spent numerous years benchmarking best practices in human resources, developing best practices for employee engagement strategies, while serving on state and national boards. Claytor continues to build the brand of the region as a destination for top talent, a true necessity for a long lasting and sustainable workforce.
- Heywood Fralin, 2022 Guest of Honor, received recognition for supporting health science and biotechnology in the region. From his major commitment to research and education at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute to advocating on the region’s behalf in Richmond for a $15.7 million commercialized biotech project, Heywood was recognized for his vision and dedication to growing an emerging sector in the region. Fralin’s vision for success will continue to grow the region for decades to come through multi-organizational collaboration.
Thanks to all the sponsors and companies that helped make the 2022 event a success: Woods Rogers, Carilion Clinic, Virginia Tech, Franklin County, Roanoke County Economic Development, City of Roanoke, Montgomery County, Cox Business, Exelaration, Torc Robotics, Member One, Botetourt County, Virginia Bio, GO Virginia, Truist, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Delta Dental, Cardinal Press, PowerSchool, and VTC Ventures.
RBTC, part of the Verge Alliance, exists to promote the growth of the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology community with a vision for the region to be globally recognized for its innovation, entrepreneurship, and talent assets. The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council is a member-driven association working to promote the growth of the regional technology community. The organization is the essential business resource for technology entrepreneurs and companies seeking to achieve greater success with members that range from emerging technology firms to the largest employers in the region. Learn more at rbtc.tech.