TechNite 2017: Registration and Nominations

TechNite is an annual celebration of the Roanoke-Blacksburg region’s growing technology community and is one of the largest networking events of the year with hundreds of influential leaders in business and innovation. Join us as we honor the amazing achievements in technology-focused entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership from across the region!

TechNite 2017 will be held Friday, April 21 at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center (with after party at The Center in the Square – Science Museum of Western Virginia). This is the biggest technology event of the region and we are excited to have you be a part. Stay tuned and watch for more details in the coming weeks.

Registration Now Open (Early-bird Discounts End March 31 Friday, April 7!)

Registration for TechNite 2017 is open! Take advantage of early-bird registration discounts for both members and non-members (early-bird prices have been extended to Friday, April 7!). Individual and Table registrations are available – get all pricing and details by following the link below:

Register

 

Award Nominations

The evening is highlighted with an awards ceremony, where leaders will be recognized in six categories: Rising Star, Regional Leadership, STEM-H Educator, Entrepreneur, Innovator and People’s Choice. Now is the time to make your nominations (nominations close at 5pm Tuesday, March 28 – see below)! Please note: to nominate in separate categories you will need to refresh the page each time.

Rising Star Award
This award recognizes a local technology company whose “star is rising.” It may not be a household name yet, but it could soon be another local success story in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.

Regional Leadership Award
This award recognizes one of our own who not only succeeds in the workplace, but also leads by example by contributing significantly to the Roanoke – Blacksburg community in which we live.

STEM-H Educator Award
This award recognizes a K-12 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.

Entrepreneur Award
Entrepreneurs are a different breed. Sometimes it takes nerves of steel to blaze a new path. This award recognizes someone in our community who exemplifies what it means to be a risk-taker in the technology field.

Innovator Award
This award recognizes Innovation in developing or Innovation in applying technology by an individual, a group of individuals, company, or other organization that sets the standard for thought leadership and innovation in their respective field. By definition, they are doing something new or different, and they are doing it well. Their innovation represents a significant technological breakthrough or addresses a great market opportunity or both.

People’s Choice Award
The People’s Choice Award gives the TechNite audience the opportunity to learn more about up and coming companies in the Roanoke – Blacksburg region and vote for their favorite. The highest votes receives the People’s Choice Award.

 


As of March 28 (5pm) Nominations are Now Closed.

Union Innovation Challenge – April 6

The Union Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for students and faculty from all colleges and departments to develop an innovative idea for a sports & fitness product, service and/or technology.

The Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, in partnership with Union Bank & Trust, invites submissions to the 2017 Union Innovation Challenge on April 6th in Lane Stadium. Union created this competition to inspire enterprising minds to submit innovative proposals for a chance to win cash funding, as well as significant start-up services from Union. The deadline to submit is March 3, 2017.

Potential proposals may span the spectrum of fitness and sports industries, including:

  •      Equipment
  •      Fan Engagement
  •      Stadium Experience
  •      Security/Safety
  •      Services
  •      Training
  •      Food & Nutrition
  •      Wearables
  •      Wellness Applications & Technologies

The top five proposals will pitch their proposals before a panel of esteemed judges in Lane Stadium. The winning teams will be named during an evening ceremony featuring university faculty and alumni, Union and community leadership. The event will celebrate student innovation and the growing culture of entrepreneurship at Virginia Tech.

 

READ MORE >>>

Virginia Tech Eyeing Pharmaceutical Giants for Roanoke ‘Innovation District’

The Roanoke Times recently featured comments by Michael Friedlander, PhD, from our latest Tech and Toast:

“Virginia Tech is talking to large pharmaceutical firms about cooperating with the university on research projects and opening offices inside Roanoke’s new health care innovation district.

Michael Friedlander, founder of Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and a driving force behind the city’s growing health care industry, said that sort of partnership is only a concept, but affirmed that conversations are underway.

City Manager Chris Morrill said Roanoke currently doesn’t have a major pharmaceutical company. Landing one would be the kind of payoff that city and university officials promised when they unveiled grand plans for a new health care hub in March.

“That would be huge,” Morrill said. “It moves us closer to being that health science center on the east coast that we want to be.”

Speaking to a crowd of entrepreneurs at a Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council event on Thursday at The Inn at Virginia Tech, Friedlander said the university is in the middle of “at least three very active explorations” with the goals of partnering with pharmaceutical groups and convincing them to come to Roanoke.

Friedlander demurred when pressed after the event for details on these potential candidates, simply reassuring that “they’re big.”

“We’re having those kinds of conversations,” he said. “We’ll see where they go.”

While far from concrete, Roanoke’s pharmaceutical ambitions underscore the lofty goals attached to the so-called health sciences and technology innovation district.

But Friedlander’s vision for the hub, about a mile long and generally following South Jefferson Street between the Roanoke Public Library and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, is a lot bigger than one pharmaceutical company.

He said the goal is to have more startups spin out of Tech’s research labs. He wants more investors taking bets on local entrepreneurs, and more established companies opening offices in Tech’s backyard.

Friedlander said he’s not just pursuing drug researchers, but also medical device inventors, coders working on software and anyone else in health sciences and technology .

His hope, he said, is that companies will see the “intellectual value” of dropping their own researchers in the middle of a dense ecosystem, surrounded by others in the field.”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT: ROANOKE.com

CEO Insights: Company Exits – Sowing Seeds for Future Growth

CEO Insights is a new series on the RBTC blog that features technology and business perspectives from the RBTC President and CEO, Jonathan Whitt.


When we think of saying goodbye, we usually don’t want to say that to the locally-owned companies that leave our community. A recent Roanoke Times editorial mentions Heyo and Interactive Achievement as two such examples. However, the recent “exits” of these high-tech start-ups demonstrates the workings of a healthy, growth-oriented entrepreneurial ecosystem in our community. They are not our first either, in fact there have been several others over the past few years. Let me explain why that’s a good sign for our community.

A prime example of this is the story of ITT, which was a pioneer in fiber optics and spawned the creation of Optical Cable Corporation. Then there’s also Innotech, which led to Pixel Optics (and a few other companies), not to mention New River Pharmaceuticals, which was followed by Intrexon. When these companies “went public” (via IPOs) their exits seeded the next generation of entrepreneurs and the entrance of new prosperous locally-owned technology companies, which in turn strengthened our community.

All companies have lifecycles and if successful, it may include selling to a larger company. These company exits cultivate an innovative environment in the region that attracts smart entrepreneurs. It also cultivates an ecosystem that continually refreshes an infrastructure to support creativity and risk taking. Ultimately, this leads to more successful companies. This environment creates profitable, diverse businesses, quality jobs, and the building of local wealth for both entrepreneurs and investors. An entrepreneurial economy strengthens the community with tax revenues, philanthropy, new business leaders, and investments into other businesses.

Consider these facts when thinking about the recent press about job losses. Most jobs in our region (84%) are from “homegrown” or “resident” businesses and the number of these jobs have dramatically increased over time. Since 2009, “non-resident” companies (out-of-state headquartered), have lost 9,000 jobs compared to a growth of 37,000 from our resident businesses.

Privco’s 2014 Private Tech Company M&A Research Report states that the number of tech companies worth acquiring is the ultimate barometer that a city is a top-notch tech hub. Another example of a local high-growth technology company that started as a homegrown business is Webmail.us. Webmail.us grew dramatically and was acquired by Rackspace in 2007, which shifted it into the non-resident category, but it was able to grow its customer and revenue base significantly, opening a new building in 2014. Rackspace has expanded from 73 to more than125 employees since 2009 and continues to do well, and it certainly bucks the trend of non-resident businesses losing jobs.

In the March 2015 Kauffman Report (private educational foundation), one of the four indicators used to measure the vibrancy of an entrepreneurial ecosystem is connectivity. Entrepreneurs thrive in a community where they’re able to obtain knowledge and assistance from a variety of sources. But it’s the connectivity between these organizations that help build a strong entrepreneurial network. These “dealmaker” organizations serve as mediators in the formation of new firms. Locally, the connectivity between the RBTC, economic and workforce development organizations, higher education institutions, and other business organizations supports this type of activity. More importantly, observing connectivity over time, the Kauffman Report states that one way connectivity manifests itself is through spinoffs. “The entrepreneurial ‘genealogy’ of a given region, as measured by links between entrepreneurs and existing companies, is an important indicator of sustained vibrancy.” In Silicon Valley, generations of spinoffs have helped periods of business renewal. Closer to home, as well as in secondary technology markets like Austin, Boulder, and Seattle, exits of companies provide the fertile ground for new companies and job creation.

In a Progressive Policy Institute memo: “Innovation by Acquisition-New Dynamics of High-Tech Competition,” the dynamic described is similar to what we’ve seen in our region. “An increase in start-up activity potentially leads to an increase in the number of successful startups – companies whose innovative products and services find a large enough market to warrant going public or being acquired. That gives us a feedback loop – a higher rate of acquisition accelerates the rate of startups and innovation, while an increase in the rate of startups and innovation forces large companies to speed up their rate of acquisition.” Historical trends show that innovations derived from acquisitions are positively correlated with employment growth. “Successful acquisitions are both a cause of and a consequence of rapid innovation, and innovation spurs economic growth and job creation.”

It can be said with confidence that technology acquisitions, like those seen in our community, encourage innovation and are usually associated with gains in economic growth and job creation. This cycle of constant innovation, acquisitions, reinvestment, and new company start-ups leads to a sustainable economic growth pattern for our region and one that we need to continue to champion and celebrate.

Scoble: Small-town America Primed To Beat Silicon Valley In Innovation

We recently were privileged to host Rackspace’s technology futurist Robert Scoble (see his presentation on ‘Beyond Mobilehere) who has been a leading voice in the tech world for years as an author, blogger, speaker and internet celebrity of sorts who documents the bleeding edge of innovative technologies that are changing our lives and businesses.

After his whirlwind visit to the Blacksburg area and several other smaller metropolitan areas, Scoble penned a telling article about a technology trend that may surprise you – the trend of high-tech companies moving away from Silicon Valley towards ‘small-town America’. Check out Scoble’s insights below, and read the full article here: where he mentions local businesses TORC Robotics, Follow My Vote, and Virginia Tech’s VR Lab.

“As Rackspace’s Futurist I’m known as one of Silicon Valley’s top tech influencers. I didn’t say that, Ivy did.

So, when I say Silicon Valley is being beaten, and is at risk of losing more companies to small towns, here’s why. In the past week I’ve visited three of those towns, Urbana, and Champaign Illinois and Blacksburg, Virginia.

You might not know, but YouTube, Tesla, PayPal, Mozilla started in Urbana/Champaign at University of Illinois there, and Blacksburg is home to many of the leading thinkers of autonomous vehicles, and others, thanks to being the home of Virginia Tech.

Yes, Silicon Valley has traditionally come to places like this and convinced innovators and companies to come to San Francisco area to build their technologies. Heck, just this week Apple grabbed a computer science professor out of Blacksburg to work on its AR/VR efforts.

I’m seeing signs that the flow of talent from small town America to Silicon Valley is reversing, though, and wanted to understand it…