RBTC Announces Appointment of New President

Roanoke, VA —The Board of Directors of The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) announces the appointment of John Phillips as its new President. Mr. Philips is a proven leader, former entrepreneur, and Army veteran who has deep ties to the Blacksburg and Roanoke business communities. He will assume responsibilities on September 3, 2019.

“John’s experience as an entrepreneur and business leader, as well as his deep ties to Virginia Tech stood out to the search committee. As an Iraq War veteran and retired Colonel from the Army Reserves, John will have no trouble setting his boots on the ground and quickly taking on this new role to serve our members,” stated Kevin Bloomfield, Co-Chair, RBTC Board of Directors.

Phillips attended Virginia Military Institute and holds an MBA from Virginia Tech. He is a longtime resident of the Town of Blacksburg and has worked in various roles in the Roanoke and New River Valleys. His experience spans from leading the Economic Development Office at Virginia Tech to assisting in the launch of the Knowledgeworks program at the VT-CRC. Phillips has years of experience mentoring entrepreneurs, has assisted numerous start-ups in their pursuit of capital, and has deep experience navigating the university’s technology transfer process.

Susan Short, Associate Vice President for Engagement at Virginia Tech and a member of the search committee noted, “John understands higher education and its critical role in our regional technology economy. We received a number of great applicants from within, and outside of our region. John’s commitment to Blacksburg and Roanoke, coupled with his leadership and service to our country made him an extraordinary candidate and one the Board believes is well-suited to lead RBTC into its next 20 years.”
Phillips said, “I am honored and thrilled to begin my tenure as President of the RBTC. I look forward to working closely with RBTC’s 250 member organizations and serving the needs of our region’s technology companies. We are incredibly lucky to have a vibrant technology council in our region and I am excited to begin getting to know our members and business supporters. As the regional economy shifts its focus to technology, biotechnology, and life sciences the RBTC is uniquely positioned to be a connector and catalyst within the ecosystem.”

About the RBTC:

Celebrating its 20th year, the RBTC is a member-driven association working to promote the growth of the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology and innovation community. We are the essential business resource for technology entrepreneurs and companies seeking to achieve greater success. Our membership ranges from emerging technology firms to the largest employers in the region. The RBTC is building a community that is a catalyst for innovation, inspiration, success, and leadership within the Roanoke-Blacksburg region

Click the image below to download the PDF version of the press release:

Cyber Security Forum: 5 Security Controls – December 4

Take part in our final Cyber Security Forum of 2018! During this forum, we will be hosting a discussion about security controls that can enhance your company’s security.

Is your company struggling to keep up with the latest security threats? Does your company spend more on the coffee budget than the security budget? Come to our next meeting where we discuss 5 free things you can do to enhance your company’s security posture. In this session, local security leaders will analyze and break down standard recommendations and talk about ways to implement these security controls in any size organization or budget.

Topics of discussion

  1. Blocking all free domains at your web filter, huge wins against drive-by malware and phishing
  2. Setting password required length to 15 characters, helps defend against password cracking
  3. Account segregation, moving away from multiple domain admins
  4. Inventory Hardware and Software and be able to align to vulnerabilities.
  5. Secure configurations and system patching


Jimmy Carter | IT Director, Discovery Education, Formerly at Rackspace and Microsoft

Jimmy Carter is the IT Director for Discovery Education, a Software-as-a-Service company headquartered in Charlotte.  In this role, Jimmy is responsible for all aspects of IT, inclusive of security, but also the everyday ins-and-outs of service monitoring, computer management, software updates, purchasing and more.   In almost 20 years in the industry, Jimmy has served Norfolk Southern, Virginia Tech, Babcock and Wilcox, Areva (now Orano), Microsoft and until October of this year, led an Infrastructure and Security team at Rackspace.   Jimmy attended Virginia Tech and resides in the beautiful Ellett Valley near Blacksburg.


Robert Garbee | Information Security Engineer, Carilion Clinic Technology Services Group

Robert Garbee is an Information Security professional working for a large medical services provider that is headquartered in the Roanoke Valley.  In this role, Robert is responsible for performing threat analysis and network assessments for enterprise network systems located in various locations across Virginia.   He has more than 20 years of experience in information technology and during that time has held positions in information security, information technology and industrial security.   His certifications have included Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and most recently Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).  Robert is also a graduate of Liberty University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management Information Security.


Nathaniel Sykes | Executive Vice President for IT and Operations at R&K Solutions

Nate Sykes is the Executive Vice President for IT and Operations at R&K Solutions, and one of the founding members of RISE. Nate has worked in all areas of system and network administration. He has been involved in different aspects of security for the last 6 years, mostly involving prevention and detection. He holds GSEC, GMON, and GSLC certifications.


Moderated by Tweeks Director, Technology Futures and Community Advocacy Division of Information Technology, Virginia Tech


Event Details

When: Tuesday, December 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm

Where: Gill Memorial Building – 2nd Floor Classroom |
709 S Jefferson Street Roanoke, VA 24016

Cost: Members $15.00 |  Future Members $25.00 | Students $5.00

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

Tech & Toast: Tech Showcase – February 22

Join us for a new kind of Tech & Toast where we meet after work and raise a glass to toast our region’s technology sector! Our first evening Tech & Toast will be a Tech Showcase featuring 10 RBTC member presenting in a PechaKucha format. This event is designed to allow you the opportunity to get to know more about your technology peers throughout the region. You will not want to miss our first evening Tech & Toast! Our presenters will be:

  • Aeroprobe
  • ACI
  • Card Isle
  • FluxTeq
  • Inorganic Ventures
  • MOVA
  • Pervida
  • Polymer Solutions
  • Qualtrax
  • Rackspace

Date: Thursday, February 22, 2018

Time: 5:30- 8:00pm

Event Schedule:

  • 5:30 pm – Registration, Happy Hour, Dinner
  • 6:15 pm – Program Begins
  • 7:15 pm – Program Concludes – Networking Resumes
  • 8:00 pm – Event Ends

Location: Holiday Inn Valley View – Grand Ballroom | 3315 Ordway Drive NW, Roanoke, VA 24017

Fee*: $35.00 Member before 2/17/2018 | $45.00 after 2/17/2018
$55.00 Future Member before 2/17/2018 | $65.00 after 2/17/2018
$15 Students

*Dinner is included with your registration.

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

Hockey Night With the Rail Yard Dawgs- January 12

The RBTC invites you to join us for a fun filled evening of family fun with the Rail Yard Dawgs! Come out and support a local team, and enjoy networking with fellow RBTC members and their families at the good ‘ol hockey game. We hope that you will join us!

Decades Night

Date: Friday, January 12

Time: 7:05pm

Price: $13 per person (*Parking is $5 cash per vehicle | Registration closes January 9th)

Location: 710 Williamson Rd NE, Roanoke, VA 24016

Core Advance 2017 Is Almost Full: Apply Now!

Core Advance, a new training program from the RBTC for emerging technology leaders, has far-reaching potential to become a hub for attracting, developing and retaining our region’s technology talent. Launching in March with an orientation breakfast, and running on 2nd Thursdays of each month, Core Advance will operate April-June, and pick up again, September-November.

There a still a few remaining Core Advance slots available, so act quickly if you are interested in applying.

Get all the details and apply by going to https://www.rbtc.tech/core-advance/ or contact: Paula Wilder, Coordinator and Faculty, at 540-320-1133 or paula.wilder@wilderweber.com


Established Blacksburg web design firms ACI and IDD merge to grow capabilities in Southwest Virginia

Automation Creations, Inc. (ACI) has just completed the acquisition of Interactive Design and Development, Inc, (IDD) growing their total workforce to 22 full-time employees in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. Both companies benefit from the merger, increasing their capabilities and skillsets with a long history of software and multimedia development, for both regional and global customers. ACI develops web and mobile software for businesses with a focus on computer and database programming. IDD develops interactive web and kiosk experiences, focusing on user experience and multimedia.

Henry Bass, founder and president of ACI, says the merger made perfect sense from the beginning: IDD operates in a complimentary space, and the two companies have worked together on multiple projects over the last two years. ACI has senior software developers and database expertise, which combines well with IDD’s project managers, business development and software programming talent.

“We are delighted to formalize our ongoing relationship with the talented staff of IDD” said ACI President Henry Bass. “The result is a stronger web, mobile and kiosk development team. We’re very proud of the tremendous employee experience from both companies.” ACI celebrated its 20th anniversary this June, while IDD celebrated their 25th anniversary in July.

The combined company, operating as ACI, has retained all employees in the acquisition and boasts a merged workforce of 22, with no layoffs and the potential to grow in size with the new capabilities. Dr. Mary Miller, IDD’s President, said, “IDD brings an exceptional kiosk development team, leveraging a content management system we developed for cloud-based kiosk updates, maintenance and monitoring.” The IDD team has been working on a project for the Smithsonian museum since the beginning of this year.

ACI adds its web hosting capability to IDD’s offerings. Jim Wyers, CEO of ACI noted “Over 250 local customers enjoy the fact that their web, email and applications are hosted locally. If a customer has trouble, we are the only call they need to make.” noting that other firms or hosting environments may require a customer to contact multiple services to track down a problem with email or website issues between the designer, the domain name server, the web site host and email host.

ACI pursued this merger as part of a growth strategy, augmenting a strong data-driven web programming team with user experience expertise from IDD, their software development talent in .Net content management, and the cloud-kiosk market. Dr. Miller’s business development talent combined with educational technology is another key component to the expanded company’s growth plans.
“From a customer perspective, both companies have a strong brand, and continue to offer the services our customers value.” Said Laureen Fleming, commercial projects director. Dr. Miller is an engaging speaker with a wealth of multimedia and web experience. She represents the first technical marketing director of ACI. “We have increased capacity to handle the exciting projects both companies have lined up, and can offer faster response to both existing customer needs and new projects Mary brings” said Fleming.

Both companies have been active in the Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Council, serving in leadership positions. Dr. Miller was president of the RBTC from 2009 through 2010, is a member of the RBTC Hall of Fame, and is active in 4H leadership. Henry Bass chairs the RBTC member development committee, serving as an advocate for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) development among the future workforce of the Roanoke Blacksburg region. He also serves as the STEM co-chair on the board of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. Henry is the Vice President of New River Robotics Association, a volunteer in the non-profit, where he is an assistant coach for the Tuxedo Pandas competitive robotics team and head judge for the Roanoke Blacksburg FIRST Lego League competition in November. Both Miller and Bass agree that giving back to the community is fundamental to corporate and regional success.


Henry Bass, President
Automation Creations, Inc.

Phone 540-552-7670, ext 3101
Fax 540-552-1657

2020 Kraft Drive, Ste 3000
Blacksburg, VA 24060

Take Five with Dr. Vinod Chachra, Founder of VTLS Inc

Dr. Vinod Chachra, Ph.D. is the Founder of VTLS Inc. a library automation company that did business in 43 countries. Beginning in 1975, Chachra designed the original software that in 1980 became Virginia Tech Library System and in 1985 became VTLS Inc. All the products of VTLS Inc. were made in Blacksburg VA. VTLS Inc. was the first spinoff corporation from Virginia Tech (VT) and the first tenant of the VT-Corporate Research Center. Dr. Chachra ran the company from 1985 to 2014 as its President and CEO. In addition to the Blacksburg offices, the company had a global presence with offices in Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Malaysia, India and Australia. The company was sold to III in 2014. He served as Vice President of Global Expansion of III.

Dr. Chachra has been active in the library profession for more than 30 years. He represented Virginia in the White House Conference on Library and Information Sciences in 1979, served on the legislative committee for library networking in Virginia, and is a former member of the White House Conference on Library and Information Services Task Force. He has worked with several countries in the design and implementation of their national bibliographic information resources and union catalogs.

Dr. Chachra is an internationally recognized lecturer and consultant in the field of information system planning. For several years he served as the Senior Consultant for NCHEMS (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.) In this capacity he helped many US Institutions of Higher Education in the planning of their IT resources.

From 1972 to 1985, he successively assumed roles of Director of Software Development, Director of Computing and Information Systems, Vice Provost and then Vice President for Computing and Information Systems at Virginia Tech. He left the VP position at VT to start VTLS Inc.

In 1992, he was invited to be a member of the ALA delegation to Romania and to serve on the ALA International Relations Committee’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina subcommittee. In 1994, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) elected Dr. Chachra to serve on its Board of Directors. In 2007, Dr. Chachra chaired the NISO Working Group on RFID in U. S. Libraries, and he represented the USA in international meetings regarding RFID standards.

During his career, Dr. Chachra has received many honors, including the Distinguished Information Sciences Award from Data Processing Management Association, the CAUSE Award for Exemplary Leadership, and the Blacksburg Jaycees Man of the Year Award. He was inducted into the VT Faculty Entrepreneur Hall of Fame (2012), the RBTC Technology Hall of Fame (2013) and Academy of Engineering Excellence (2015).

Dr. Chachra has written two books, a chapter in a third book, and numerous journal articles. He earned his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Virginia Tech. He taught graduate classes in Engineering and Computer Science.

RBTC: What are some of the regional resources that have contributed to your success?

Vinod Chachra: VTLS, the company I founded with Virginia Tech (VT) in 1985, was, the first spinoff company from Virginia Tech. So VT, through VTIP was a major key player in the success of the company. At that time the Commonwealth of Virginia had no laws or regulations governing Intellectual Property (IP) produced at Virginia Universities. Virginia Tech played a key role in helping the legislature develop and articulate the policies that govern intellectual property rights in Virginia. This opened the doors for many other businesses that were based on IP.

Our employees came from Engineering, Computer Science and IT programs from VT and Radford University. Without this resource, it would be impossible to serve the global community we worked with. VTLS provided products and services in 43 countries from the Roanoke Blacksburg region.

The regional economic development agencies were extremely helpful in supporting us our export efforts and helping us participate in international trade missions organized by the State.

VTLS was the very first tenant at the VT Corporate Research Center. Both the CRC and the RBTC helped create a strong and vibrant environment for employees to learn and grow. Their recognition programs, mentoring programs and informal exchanges helped create a vibrant in which to live and work. As a result we were able to enjoy unprecedented retention rates for our IT staff.

RBTC: What makes the Roanoke-Blacksburg region such a good fit for your company?

Vinod Chachra: There are four important factors that make this region attractive.

First, the enormous talent pool available from the many Universities in the region. VT, RU and NRCC all play an important role in providing trained potential employees for us. We regularly participated in job fairs and campus visits. We sponsored student internships and other on the job training activities.

Second, the advanced Research and Development activities of Virginia Tech help the growth of businesses on the cutting edge of technology.

Third, quality of life is enhanced by the scenic beauty of the region and the outdoor activities it offers.

Fourth, over time, there are greater opportunities for cultural activities both in Roanoke and in Blacksburg. The Moss Center of the Arts in Blacksburg offers tremendous opportunities for young professionals. The sports activities in the region are a great draw for the young at heart among us.

RBTC: If you could give one piece of advice to a fellow entrepreneur, what would it be?

Vinod Chachra: I would say one word or acronym — VIVA.
Viva, long live to your company. May it live long!

As an acronym –
V is for vision which brings direction and focus to the business
I is for integrity which is an essential building block for a long and honorable future
V is for value which brings customers coming back and
A is for action that keeps employees and customers moving and motivated.

RBTC: What is one lesson you have learned over time that has made an impact on your business’ day-to-day operations?

Vinod Chachra: Open door policy – it is amazing what you learn from employees and customers alike. Remember that most of employees take great pride in doing a good job and if they are not then it is a problem of incomplete expectations, inadequate training or wrong information. The same is true of customers – they selected your products because they thought you provided the greatest value or best services. So, our day to day business is governed by focusing on keeping employees happy and customers satisfied.

RBTC: How would you like to see the Roanoke-Blacksburg region develop over the next 5 years?

Vinod Chachra: The Roanoke Blacksburg region needs better transportation systems – more flights from Roanoke Blacksburg Regional airport; train connection to Washington DC; truck lanes for interstate 81. These problems are being discussed but our region needs faster solutions. The Broadband Internet Service remains inadequate, inaccessible and expensive. Once this area was the envy of the nation but today (except for VT and CRC) we are underserved and falling behind. Access to capital, though improving, remains a great barrier to entrepreneurial success. Retention of educated young professionals remains an issue as many still prefer to graduate and leave rather than stay here. Job availability is low and growth rate in jobs is also slow.

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