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Tech & Toast: Cryptocurrency Trends for 2018 – April 19

Join us on April 19th for breakfast and a talk on Cryptocurrency presented by Stan Larimer! Enjoy networking and a meal while learning more about trends in Cryptocurrency for 2018.

On Christmas Eve 2017, Stan Larimer appeared on Coast to Coast AM live for four hours talking about the major trends in cryptocurrencies for the coming year.  Here are a few of them he will talk about at Tech & Toast:

  • TREND 1: The Flight to Safety from Dollar Abuse
  • TREND 2: The Flight to Safety from Crypto Abuse
  • TREND 3: The Dark Side of Trading Freedom for Safety
  • TREND 4: The Great Bitcoin Train Wreck of 2018
  • TREND 5:  Real Time Institutional Grade Blockchains
  • TREND 6:  Easy Adoption and Good Customer Support
  • TREND 7:  Regulation is Dead, Long Live Regulation!

Date: Thursday, April 19, 2018

Time: 7:15- 9:00am

Location: The Inn at Virginia Tech – Latham Ballroom | 901 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24060

Fee: $25.00 Member before 4/14/2018 | $35.00 between 4/15 – 4/18

$50.00 Future Member before 4/14/2018 | $60.00 between 4/15 – 4/18

$10.00 Student

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Biz Dev Forum: Net Partnering – March 8

Join us for the next Business Development Forum on Thursday, March 8, sponsored by UPS. This Biz Dev Forum will feature Steve Martin, Registered Representative of Valley Financial Solutions. His talk is titled: Net Partnering… Take the “Work” out of Networking.

Many people dislike, stress, or even fear networking! Let us share how to have fun, bring value to others, and enjoy the opportunities that these events can convey to you personally and professionally.

About Steve:

Steve grew up locally in Giles County, attended Bridgewater College, and lived and worked his first job(s) in Roanoke. He was later relocated to Raleigh, NC where he resided for over 26 years.  Shortly after the company that relocated him to Raleigh was purchased, and he was not retained, he began his current career. Being in a new city, with a new career, and another new child, forced Steve to find a way to meet new prospects…and fast! He worked hard to gather new clients any way that he could; resorting to cold calling, personal observation, and purchasing leads. Considering himself to be a socially outgoing person, he felt more comfortable seeking out business events and networking opportunities. After years of developing a love and skill-set for meeting new people, Steve moved back to the region. He now wants to share his journey and life lessons and utilize his skills to make a difference in the RBTC community.

EVENT DETAILS:

When – Thursday, March 8, 2018 (7:45 – 9:00 AM)

Where: VTCRC – Concept Conference Room | 1880 Pratt Drive, Suite 2018 Blacksburg, VA 24060

Cost: RBTC members can attend this peer forum at no charge.
Future members are welcome to join at the cost of $10 per person.

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Tech & Toast: Talent Development Panel – January 25

Join us for our 2018 Annual Membership Meeting and a conversation with our area resources for Talent Development, Acquisition.

Our panelists include:

Mary Ann Gilmer, Vice President of Workforce Development, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys

Marty Holiday, Executive Director, New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board 

Jake Gilmer, Director of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Works

Facilitated by – Erin Burcham, Director of Talent Solutions, Roanoke Regional Partnership

Our panelists will share information on various programs for training your workforce, paid internships and locating new talent. We look forward to seeing you at Tech & Toast!

Date: Thursday, January 25, 2018

Time: 7:15- 9:00am

Location: Hotel Roanoke – Crystal Ballroom | 110 Shenandoah Ave NW, Roanoke, VA 24016

Fee: $25.00 Member before 1/20/2018 | $35.00 between 1/21 – 1/24

$50.00 Future Member before 1/20/2018 | $60.00 between 1/21 – 1/24

$10.00 Student

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Ask the Cohort: Volatia

Volatia is a full-service language service company, providing on-site, over the telephone, and remote video interpretation and translation services in more than 280 languages. Volatia is led by Baraka Kasongo, recently recognized with the Regional Entrepreneur award at RBTC’s TechNite.


What motivated and inspired you to start your company? 

Baraka Kasongo: When my family moved to the United States, we experienced first-hand the language and cultural disparities that exist everywhere in health care, government, education, etc. Language and cultural disparities also exist in smaller situations like, parent-teacher conferences where the parents do not understand the messages being relayed, or when a student does not fully understand what is expected of them in the classroom. I remember taking classes where I did not understand anything but was later expected to take a test on the information. A few years after I learned how to communicate in English I noticed other people experiencing the same challenges and I decided that something needed to be done about it. I never actually planned to start a company and take on the challenge myself. Instead, I saw myself more as a coordinator of resources trying to put together a team that I could pass on to someone else. The challenge is that nobody wanted that kind of responsibility. What started as a volunteer effort, to try to put together local interpreters and translators that could help with the various language disparities, turned into a business model that is really thriving and growing at one of the fastest rates in the country.

What does success look like to you?

Baraka Kasongo: I succeed everyday, because success is not some futuristic goal I have. Success for me is doing the absolute best that I can each and everyday and taking care of people I work with. Success also includes, making sure that I do not neglect the things that are most important to me, which are my spirituality and family. As long as I have meaningful work and contribute to the happiness of the people I work with, I consider myself to have succeeded.

Tell me a little about your team.

Baraka Kasongo: I get excited when I talk about my team because I genuinely love them. They are all great people and each helps Volatia to run and operate smoothly. We have a large team since each of the 280 languages is technically its own division. We have thousands of interpreters across the country and that is how we are able to place people anywhere that they are needed.

What is the biggest challenge your company has had to face so far? How did you overcome it?

Baraka Kasongo: The biggest challenge is hiring the right people and putting them in the right position. As a small business owner, I am used to wearing many hats, which can be dangerous when I expect others to have the desire and ability to do the same. I have found that when an employee is not in a position where they can achieve their maximum performance it really affects every aspect of an organization. The old adage that every link in a chain needs to be strong and tight is very true in the small business world. I try to understand what people actually want out of work. As for overcoming this challenge, I have performance benchmarks so both the individual being hired and the individuals on the team have the opportunity to assess themselves and openly share with me if they think they’re in the right place. By doing so, I hope to create a culture that encourages people to be okay with failure and to be opening to requesting department transfer without fear of being terminated or let go.

Has your company done something exciting recently?

Baraka Kasongo: Absolutely, we do something exciting almost every day. Some of the innovations and new technologies that we have pioneered are truly second to none. We are excited to see where our company is going in the future. 

What advice would you give to those interested in starting a business?

Baraka Kasongo: I would start by asking them to truly define what success, happiness, and fulfillment looks like to them. I would also advise them to spend time with people that have similar definitions in order to ensure it is what they want to do. Running and leading a small business is one of the most rewarding experiences, but it comes with sacrifices. I think one of the reasons businesses fail is because people do not take the time to understand what they are getting themselves into, and they fail to calculate the cost of running a business from familial, spiritual, and personal perspectives. I would ask them to reanalyze what they are truly pursuing and if they are still happy with it, and then I would encourage them to put their full heart into it and it watch it succeed despite the challenges.

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Ask the Cohort: Flex Metrics

Flex Metrics by SoftSolutions is led by Jay Foster. The company has been providing real-time production visibility technology for print, packaging, and manufacturing industries for almost 20 years.


What are you working on now/next?

Jay Foster: We are focused upon multi-site, enterprise reporting. This is one of the first significant benefits of the RAMP program in terms of prioritizing our product roadmap. We have realized that our most significant value is provided to large manufacturing firms, many of which have multiple sites. We are now pursuing a Cloud-based Enterprise reporting module to provide real-time visibility across different plant locations.

What is the biggest challenge your company has had to face so far? How did you overcome it?

Jay Foster: Always the biggest challenge is related to people. Having the right people at the right time is always and obstacle. One way to overcome that is by networking, and knowing people in the community has been a huge help as well. The Roanoke community’s ability to find good people has been foundational.

What does success look like to you?

Jay Foster: That’s a good question. Happy customers are by far the number one measure of success for the company. If our customers are happy then I am happy. Number two is win-win relationships. This happens when our customers are gaining more financially from working with us and it is profitable for us to work with our customers as well.

What advice would you give to those interested in starting a business?

Jay Foster: Be careful and proceed with caution. Make sure to understand what your customers need and make sure they are willing and able to pay for it.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying to RAMP?

Jay Foster: I think it is a great idea. If you are really ready to grow your business then it will make a big difference. It is important that business owners understand that it is not an incubator, but rather an accelerator.

So you’re working with a mentor, tell me about that experience.

Jay Foster: It has been very good. It is always beneficial to get advice from someone who has been there. We have a very good mentor that gives excellent insights. He sees things we do not see because we are too close to it.

What feedback do you have about the classes RAMP offers?

Jay Foster: I think it provides a good common framework to communicate these core concepts of a business model and formula for scaling up.

Do you have any additional thoughts that you would like to share?

Jay Foster: I am glad that Roanoke is doing this and I am really glad that Virginia Western stepped up to make it happen, specifically Dr. Sandel.

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Ask the Cohort: DESA

DESA is a health care analytics and Telehealth company led by Jonathan Briganti, Dr. Anne Brown, Brian Elliott and David Trinkle, MD. They are developing a way for assessments, that are normally done inside a doctor’s office, to be done remotely on a digital medium in order to add data and communication for doctors and physicians to better support the diagnosis of health issues such as dementia, depression, anxiety, etc.


What is the biggest challenge your company has had to face so far? How did you overcome it?

Jonathan Briganti: Our biggest challenge would be that we are not business-centered people. We all came from the science world where we know how to get grants for academic trials that run for several years on end but do not move very fast. When we transitioned to the business world we had to figure out how to adjust to the fast pace style. We had to learn about Patent Protection, forming LLC’s, getting office space, and forming connections. It is an entirely different side of life that we never really considered entering until we had this idea. Once we entered the business world, we had to move very quickly and the RAMP program has been very helpful with moving us in the right direction.

What are you hoping to get out of RAMP?

Dr. Anne Brown: We are hoping to get a more robust business plan and conceptual model for actually selling our product to multiple venues like, larger hospital systems, nursing home systems, school systems, etc. In order to do that we are hoping to get more guidance in what kind of models we need to set up for each of those.

Jonathan Briganti: I think connections are a very big thing as well. We have been very fortunate to have Victor Ianello as a mentor and to have been introduced to some very influential people in the area. It is great having those people that can open doors and help us get our name out there further than we thought was possible.

What do you like about the Roanoke area? Why do you want to be here and grow your company here?

Dr. Anne Brown: I grew up in Roanoke, went to Roanoke College for my undergrad, and attended Virginia Tech for graduate school. I think the area has a lot of potential for growth and many aspects that make the quality of life high. I think it is a great place for us, especially with the ability to tap into undergraduates at Virginia Tech as we grow and need more individuals in the engineering STEM fields. I think there is a great talent pool at Virginia Tech. From what I understand, students also enjoy the area due to the accessibility of nature in a metropolitan setting that still provides an affordability of living.  There is also a lot of movement and growth in the health care field through the Virginia Tech Carilion partnership.

Jonathan Briganti: I have really seen a big push from business owners, especially the ones involved in RAMP, for start ups to grow and succeed. We have had nothing but positive connections in Roanoke. Everyone wants to help us and see us succeed. Everyone we have connected with in Roanoke has been very thoughtful and helpful.

What advice would you give to those interested in starting a business?

Jonathan Briganti: If you have an idea, go for it. When this idea began, I was an undergraduate at Virginia Tech and never thought I would have my own office a year later. We never thought the idea we had for a hackathon last April would last more than that weekend. We all joke that this has been the longest weekend of our lives. If you see a need in the world there is no reason you cannot be the one to solve that issue. Never decide not to pursue a particular field because you think you do not know enough about it, because you can learn.

Has your company done something exciting recently?  

Dr. Anne Brown: We are still exploring all the many channels and usability of this kind of app platform. Pretty much on almost a daily or weekly basis we learn about a different area that is interested or think they could use this kind of product in a certain way. Finding those things out though various market surveys is very interesting and exciting.

Jonathan Briganti: We just finished a beta version of the app so we are able to get focus testers out. The app is not connected with medical records at all, but for the first time we are having people use our app. It is exciting to have it in the hands of individuals out there and get their feedback.

So you’re working with a mentor, tell me about that experience.

Dr. Anne Brown: It is a wonderful experience. We need mentorship and we are fully open to that kind of guidance. I think it would be silly for us to not take the advice of someone who has been there before and has learned from experience, especially when it can help us get over different bumps along the road.

Jonathan Briganti: Coming into this we knew that there are a million things we should do in order for our business to succeed. It has been helpful to talk to someone who is so connected in the community and have them tell us that there are a million things that we can do, but these three things are the most important things to do right now. It has really allowed us to focus down and make a stronger business.

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Ask the Cohort: Autonomous Flight Technologies, Inc.

Autonomous Flight Technologies, Inc. (AFT) focuses on the advancement of small commercial aircraft related to the UAV/UAS industry. AFT, led by Josh May, is licensed to use drones for commercial purposes.


What motivated and inspired you to start your company?

Josh May: My father and I had a retail business that we started from scratch, but during those years I always had a fascination for flight. I loved to experiment and design aircraft that fly autonomously. Paul Stoutamire, a long time friend, was already doing some flying. He introduced me to Chris Moody as well. Together, we decided that we should join forces. We got an exemption from the FAA that allowed us to fly legally for commercial purposes. We were one of the first companies in Virginia to do so. It has just taken off since. One of the things we pride ourselves on, as a business, is that we are always on the top of the curve of the technology in the UAS industry. We see that the biggest impact we can have on the United States is in the engineering market so that is where we focus, as a data company for engineers.

What is the biggest challenge your company has had to face so far? How did you overcome it?

Josh May: As with any business, the number one challenge is always the actual logistics of starting the business because it cost money to do so. I’ve personally spent a lot of money that I was saving for retirement, to start this business, and it’s a huge risk. When you are starting a business you are taking that money and throwing it on a craps table and gambling whether or not it is going to pay off. Fortunately, before this I had a business of building aircraft that kind of morphed into Autonomous Flight Technologies. In my previous business I tested my hypothesis, that there was a need for UAV and drones in this country. I knew it was going to be the next tech bubble and it is here now. The hardest part of the business so far was fighting our way to being recognized as the leading drone service provider in Virginia and sustaining it financially. We want to scale as smart as possible and not make the common mistakes that can kill a company. One of the great things about being here working with RAMP is having access to mentorship and connections. Our mentor has scaled many multi-million dollar businesses and having that influence is worth its weight in gold.

What do you like about the Roanoke area? Why do you want to be here and grow your company here?

Josh May: I love Roanoke, especially Roanoke City. I grew up in Salem and it is a great place too. My wife and I ended up buying a house in Roanoke and lived there for about 14 years before moving back to Salem. We love Roanoke and it has come a long way, both in the technology field as well as socially, since we first moved there. Now there is a festival every weekend and something is always going on. Personally, my wife and I miss a lot about Roanoke. We definitely call Roanoke home for our business. Autonomous Flight Technologies is here to stay.

What advice would you give to those interested in starting a business?

Josh May: At first, be prepared to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You have to dive in 100% and you can’t just do it as a hobby. If you are coming to RAMP be prepared to work, because they are going to put your business model to the test. Fortunately for us we have been in business for a few years and we have tested our business model. Paul, Chris, and I explored just about every single way that you can use a UAS aircraft legally in this country. We have narrowed down our business model to where we know that it makes sense for the direction that UAS is going in the United States right now. As the market changes, we stay on top of it. We started in cinematography and it led us to the engineering side and who knows where that will lead us next. It’s just a matter of sticking with it.

Has your company done something exciting recently?

Josh May: Yes, every time we do a new job it is exciting. One of the greatest things about what we do is we find ourselves in situations or places that we would never have had access to. I’m excited every time I come to work. I know this is a cliché and everyone’s heard it a thousand times, but when you’re doing what you love you never work a day in your life. That is just a fact and I love doing what we are doing. I love coming to work, the business side of things, seeing it prosper, and doing the work itself. I would say that no matter how large we get and how high we climb you are going to find all of us founders still involved in some capacity in some of these jobs.

 

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Registration Now Open! – 2017 Fall Gala: November 2

The annual RBTC Fall Gala is one of the largest business and technology events of the Roanoke-Blacksburg region – with more than 400 attendees, this is a unique opportunity for strengthening and expanding your professional network. It is held annually in the Fall in Blacksburg at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Join us as we celebrate the work of the RBTC to connect, grow, and lead the technology community in the Roanoke and New River valleys.

This year we will be featuring Ross Baird of Village Capital. Visit our Fall Gala page for more event info: https://www.rbtc.tech/rbtc-events/fall-gala/

Mark your calendars for November 2, 2017 – and watch the RBTC website in the coming weeks as we release more event details!

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Interview with Robert McAden, president and CEO of RBTC – Roanoke.com

The Roanoke Times recently sat down with our new president and CEO, Robert McAden and asked him a few questions. Read an excerpt of the interview below or the full interview at Roanoke.com:

Roanoke Times: What can we expect from RBTC next year?

The RBTC has grown over time into the premiere regional organization for the New River Valley and the Roanoke Valley. We really are successful in bringing folks from both of those regions together. First and foremost, I want to honor that tradition and grow that tradition. It’s a great legacy. I want to make sure we sustain and continue. Beyond that, I really would like to find ways that we can provide connections to people within our member companies across their employment base, whether it’s a software engineer or it’s someone who’s working on cybersecurity or a research assistant in a lab. How do we provide opportunities for those people to get together and share their experiences? …

I’m not an expert in all of those areas so I want them to be able to get together, to connect and learn from each other. And to create those connections. I think companies in this area will tell you one of their biggest problems is talent attraction and talent retention. One of the best ways to retain talent is to create connections between people. When people are connected to each other and connected to the area, they tend to stay. That’s a big piece of the puzzle we need to solve.

Roanoke Times: Is networking the most important thing the council does?

Providing connections is definitely the most important thing we do. We are a membership organization, but beyond that it’s advocating on behalf of our member companies in the region. It’s being a voice. I participate in things. The city has a group working on the innovation corridor; I participate in that. One of the things I really want to make sure we do is [have] all of the various organizations that are working on economic development and other areas working together. That we are all augmenting what we are doing. I know the Roanoke [Regional] Partnership has got a big drive on talent retention and talent recruitment, so I don’t want to duplicate their efforts. I want to augment that and understand the unique challenges that our technology community is facing in that area and how we can help them address that issue. Really reaching out to all of our partners and our peers in the area to make sure we are aligned and working together.

Roanoke Times: What are the biggest issues facing tech companies here?

Talent is the biggest factor. That’s driven by a lot of different things. How do we help if someone is trying to recruit someone from Silicon Valley and has a significant other that’s also looking for a job? How do we help publicize our opportunities here, and how do we help market opportunities that exist in the area? In the New River Valley, child care is often challenging. So how do we help the NRV and the people that are focused on that issue with that problem? How do we help them solve that problem? Across the New River and Roanoke valleys, how do we help entrepreneurs succeed? A big part of our membership is entrepreneurs. So we offer free membership to tech companies that have less than 10 employees, but how do we help them grow…

Read the Full Article at Roanoke.com

 

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Roanoke Times: Local Entrepreneurs Ready to Bet on Startup Funding

Jon Hagmaier launched a Roanoke tech company, watched it grow for 10 years and then sell for more than he ever imagined — and now he is getting ready to reinvest part of his windfall in the next generation of entrepreneurs.

He says he doesn’t want to do it alone. And there are clear signs he won’t be.

He’s part of a growing movement among the region’s business elites who are taking big bets on small companies, and in the process reigniting the region’s stagnant startup financing market.

Hagmaier is launching his investment firm, called Common Wealth Growth Group, at the same time as at least four other local projects are getting off the ground.

A group recently packed a conference room at Roanoke’s Center in the Square on a July afternoon for an invite-only meeting to organize their next steps. The group of about 25 active investors and startup founders shared their thoughts and laid out a regional vision. They talked about the fact that the area hasn’t been able to provide enough access to capital, according to several investors who participated.

These investment groups are considered the lifeblood of startup ecosystems, as almost every company needs some sort of financial backing. Startups, especially in the tech industry, can take years to generate revenue. If a startup can’t find funding in its hometown during those critical first steps, it will often leave — or die…

Read the full article at the Roanoke Times website

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