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RAMP: An Exciting Step Forward For Our Region’s Technology-focused Entrepreneurs

(The following remarks were given by Jonathan Whitt, President and CEO of the RBTC on Wednesday, June 29 at the ceremony to kick off renovations to the Gill Memorial Building where RAMP will be housed.)

Today is an exciting step forward for our region’s technology-focused entrepreneurs. Propelling high-potential companies to expand and create jobs in our community is the goal of RAMP, a new technology business accelerator program that is set to launch here in early 2017.

Entrepreneurs who seek to scale up their companies will apply to participate in RAMP, which stands for ‘Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program’.

RAMP stands apart to assist our region’s high potential startup companies because it is an intentional and highly focused program. Too many times, we have seen startups leave our region because they lacked what this accelerator program will offer – structured mentorships between entrepreneurs and experienced individuals in their field, access to funding that will get them beyond early stage, and business education specifically targeted to scaling technology-based start-ups.

The program’s model is based on best practices garnered from existing successful business accelerators, and will initially focus on accelerating three to five technology- focused companies per year.

Companies accepted into RAMP will work closely with multiple mentors during an intensive three- to four-month “boot camp for founders” designed to focus on building, testing, improving, validating product-market fit, and launching their product for the market. Experience is always the best teacher, and RAMP’s mentors will provide invaluable insights based on their experiences.

RAMP will operate from the top floor of this building. Virginia Western Community College will offer business education courses on the second floor where the RBTC will also maintain its Roanoke office. The first floor is now available for lease to an anchor tenant that we hope will complement the efforts of this exciting project.

As with any project like this one, there are too many people to thank but I would like to mention a few. Chris Morrill and Dr. Bobby Sandel – I would like to thank you for your personal entrepreneurial leadership – this would never have gotten off the ground without you.

I would also like to thank Greg Feldmann with Skyline Capital Strategies LLC, chair of the RAMP Advisory Board for his leadership and the members of the RAMP board:

  • Robert McAden – Rackspace and Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council Board Chairman
  • Kevin Bloomfield – Bloomfield Partners and Roanoke-Blacksburg Innovation Network Co-Chairman
  • Wayne Bowers – Roanoke Department of Economic Development
  • Sam English – Attention Point
  • Ken Ferris – Brookewood Management Advisors and Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council Advisory Board Member
  • Jay Foster – SoftSolutions
  • Hal Irvin – Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
  • Marc Nelson – Roanoke Department of Economic Development
  • Bart Smith – Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center
  • Samantha Steidle – Virginia Western Community College
  • and Carole Tarrant – Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation

And, on behalf of the RAMP team, I would like to thank Balzer Architects and Lionberger Construction for your part in the renovation of this building and for your help with today’s event.

In addition to the renovation of this building, there is still much work to do in weeks and months ahead to get ready for the launch of RAMP. We welcome support from our community to assist in the development of programs and services to be offered here. I invite anyone that has an interest in this project to contact me (or any of our advisory board members), we’d be happy to speak with you.

Lastly, I would like to thank each of you for coming out today as we commemorate this special occasion. Our community is a special place, we have an amazing future ahead of us, and this project is but one example. Thank you again for coming out today and we’ll celebrate the opening of RAMP in January.

For more info visit: http://www.ramprb.tech/

___________________________________________

Media coverage:

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Take Five with Steve Critchfield, President of MOVA Technologies

Take Five is an ongoing RBTC question and answer series where we glean insights from local CEOs and technology leaders in the Roanoke-Blacksburg area.


In 1984 Steve Critchfield started a small tele-communication company that grew into what was to become Tele-Works in 1986. When it was sold in 2014, it provided electronic payments, such as utility payments and parking tickets, to local governments in 38 states, and three Canadian provinces. In addition, Steve started a small real estate development company and established over 50 rental properties at Rocky Acres, 10 miles from Virginia Tech in Ellett Valley. He has also helped young entrepreneurs start over 5 other companies – 4 of which have been successfully sold to larger companies. Steve’s philanthropic partnership with Virginia Tech has established the Steger Poetry Prize, the largest creative writing/poetry award of any university in both the US and Europe and
the Aaron Slack Memorial Diversity and Social Justice Fund which provides scholarships to deserving students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and funding to support programs and activities in the college which promote diversity and social justice.

Through his own contributions and other funds raised, he established the City Manager and Finance Program within the Virginia Tech Center for Public Administration and Policy. Partnering with the Virginia Local Government Management Association, the program offers graduate-level training in local government management that both prepares pre-career students for capable public service at the local level and enhances the capacities of existing local government employees who aspire to be town, city, or county managers or assistant/deputy managers, or finance officers.
The program has now graduated over 200 students, and was recently awarded the top program by the International City Managers Association.

Steve’s lastest venture is Mova Technologies, an emerging technology company whose purpose is to “commercialize the patented method and apparatus for capturing particulate matter while utilizing panel-bed filtration technology… [resulting in reduced] maintenance and operating filtration costs associated with burning coal at coal-fired power plants while improving overall emission quality.”


 

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

Steve Critchfield: There were no true resources when I started my first company, Tele-Works, Inc., in October 1986. I began my own advisory board made up of business people, various Virginia Tech people, banks, and members of the telecommunications community around the country. Throughout the years of business, I continued to use an advisory board, which included other CEO’s.  I hope the RBTC will make it much easier to begin my new company, Mova Technologies, INC, through the many resources that they have made available to local technology startups.

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

Steve Critchfield: Personally, it is a good fit because I prefer to live in this area. This region has so much natural beauty and is less crowded than other areas in the state. It is also great to have access to like-minded individuals to bounce ideas off of and glean experience from. Though it is often referred to as the Roanoke-Blacksburg region, it really extends from Botetourt County to Pulaski County. The New River and Roanoke Valleys offer enough space for a new company to grow and flourish. There is a lot of great energy here, which also stems directly from the universities. Business owners should utilize these sources for potential employees from the idea generation to actual deployment and human resources.

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

Steve Critchfield: Network! There are people that can help you with problems because they’ve already handled the same issues before. Utilize specific networking. If you have banking issues, speak with a banker. Many people starting new businesses seek me out, and I tell them to get plugged in with the RBTC, and start reaching out to folks who have gone before them, seek guidance.

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

Steve Critchfield: Do not make decisions too quickly. Learn to gather information, listen to people, and if possible, take a few days to make a decision. Creating a good Board of Directors is also important. Build it out of smart people who are willing to challenge you. Don’t take offense to their changes; they are challenging your business idea, not you personally. Lastly, do not let your ego get in the way.  If you are not ready for a Board, set up an advisory board always seek input from others then make your decision.

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

Steve Critchfield: I would consider myself to be a “regionalist”. I grew up in Northern Virginia, which was/is a region, but I love this area. I hope to see the region become one unit working together instead of cities and towns. I know that the jurisdictions will stay the same, but I don’t want to feel the separation. I want to see the cities, towns, and counties keeping their individualities but working as one. I have jokingly, but with some seriousness, told people that I would like to re-name or nickname I-81 (from 581 to the Blacksburg bypass) the “Roanoke-Blacksburg Connector. ?I hope to see this region continue to pull together to bring higher paying jobs to this area. I want the Roanoke-Blacksburg region to become louder, stronger, and to attract more businesses, and people to our region, so that graduates who want to stay are able to.

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Tech and Toast: Member Showcase | May 19

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Please join us for our upcoming RBTC Member Showcase at the next Tech Toast, Thursday, May 19 at the Sheraton Roanoke. The Member Showcase will feature fast-paced, engaging presentations from organizations that are innovating right here in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.

Presenters will include:

  • Industrial Biodynamics
  • Management Stack
  • Eksdyne Research
  • Synthonics, Inc.

This is a great opportunity to learn more about the successes our region’s entrepreneurs and thought-leaders are accomplishing every day.

Event sponsored by: CNP Technologies

When:
Thursday, May 19
7:45-9:00 a.m. (Registration and networking begins at 7:15am, breakfast and program begins at 7:45am.)

Where:
Sheraton Roanoke
2801 Hershberger Rd NW, Roanoke, VA 24017

Cost:
RBTC Members $25.00
Non-Members $48.00
Students (with Valid Student ID): $15

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TechNite 2016 Emcee: Anthony Quinn Robinson

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council is pleased to announce its TechNite 2016 emcee, marketing professional and comedian Anthony Quinn Robinson. He has managed the Blacksburg Comedy Club for over 12 years, and worked with several amazing performers like Natasha Leggero, Kirk Fox, Moshe Kashe and Aries Spears. In Blacksburg, he’s the Director of Marketing for NewCity Media, Inc. where they just celebrated their 20th anniversary of business. Along with ASME Relay for Life and other university-sponsored charities, Anthony founded the Laughter for Love benefit dedicated to the families of the April 16th tragedy at Virginia Tech. Currently Laughter for Love raises money for local individuals and families that need assistance. Anthony also volunteers with the RBTC and is a champion for expanding minority outreach across our technology community.

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eXperience 2016: Connecting and Empowering Young Professionals – April 7 – 8

The RBTC is proud to once again sponsor eXperience – a dynamic event for young professionals in the Roanoke-Blacksburg, Virginia area. Focused on connecting and empowering young professionals, eXperience 2016 is a unique annual event that showcases the quality of life in the Roanoke and New River Valleys of Virginia as well as highlight the opportunities available to individuals who seek them. Through exciting, robust programming and networking opportunities eXperience is perfect for building relationships with other young professionals, business leaders and the community and to make the most out of our growing region.

Kicking off with an evening reception in Blacksburg on Thursday, April 7  – network with the area’s top level executives and entrepreneurs. You will have the chance to meet and build relationships that could lead to wonderful opportunities for you and the region as a whole.

Then, on Friday, April 8, we’ll get together in Roanoke for workshops and panel discussions held by local entrepreneurs and community leaders from business, government and non-profits. The event will also showcase the quality of life of the Roanoke & New River Valleys to young professionals who may relocate here or those who already live here but are unaware of the many amenities.


To Learn More About eXperience 2016 – Visit: www.experienceyp.com

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TechNite 2016: Registration and Nominations Now Open

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TechNite is an annual celebration of the region’s thriving technology community and a key opportunity to network with more than 600 influential leaders in business and innovation. Come join us as we celebrate the amazing achievements in technology-focused entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership from across the region!

TechNite 2016 will be held Friday, April 22 at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center (with after party at The Center in the Square). 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 here and on the TechNite website.

Registration Now Open (Early-bird Discounts End March 31)

Registration for TechNite 2016 is now open. Take advantage of early-bird registration discounts for both members and non-members (ends March 31). Individual and Table registrations are available – get all pricing and details by following the link below:

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Award Nominations Are Now Closed

The evening is highlighted with an awards ceremony, where leaders will be recognized in six categories: 1.) Rising Star  2.) Entrepreneur  3.) Regional Leadership  4.) Innovation  5.) Educator  6.) People’s Choice

Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations.

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Unmanned Vehicle Chapter Being Formed to Promote Region

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council is pleased to be a sponsor of the currently forming Western Virginia chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). This important initiative was recently mentioned in the Roanoke Times:

Some Southwest Virginians involved in technology, engineering and science research say the region could be the next hotspot not only for the development of drones, but for any vehicle that doesn’t require a human pilot.

To try to take advantage of that, a group is on the way to soon starting a regional chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Assuming all the paperwork gets OK’d with no issues, the group is planning a chapter launch event for March.

AUVSI is a global nonprofit that advocates and promotes unmanned systems and the robotics community. The regional chapter would do much of the same work on a local level, said Nanci Hardwick, CEO of Christiansburg engineering company Aeroprobe, who is helping to form the chapter. That would include promoting the unmanned industry to the public, trying to bring more jobs in the field to the region and tapping into the local startup and college communities to help grow the work on unmanned vehicles, she said.

“Everyone who has participated in this conversation agrees … We are a region full of assets and would be a desirable place for companies to relocate,” Hardwick said.

Noting the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Hardwick said Southwest Virginia is already home to some key groups in the realm of unmanned systems.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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Take Five: Alexander Obenauer, Co-founder & CEO, Mindsense

Take Five is an ongoing RBTC question and answer series where we glean insights from local CEOs and technology leaders.


 

We recently talked with Alexander Obenauer, co-founder and CEO of Mindsense.

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

Alexander: The biggest one is mentorship. I have received incredible help and support from many mentors in the area – most that are too busy to spend any time with me but yet still find a way every time I ask. I’m incredibly grateful for a lot of different people that have mentored me over the years. They have shown me new perspectives, opened me up to new resources, and shared with me their experiences. Their advice has been regularly pivotal for Mindsense.

Most of my mentors I originally met through the RBTC. The RBTC itself is another big one. Without the RBTC, we are siloed as a young software company in a rural area. Before we joined the RBTC, we were always very aware of how, as an up-and-coming consumer apps developer, we were a bit disconnected from the rest of our world. Most companies like ours exist solely in major tech hubs. But when we joined the RBTC, that all changed. We were able to find and learn with others that work on similar things or face similar problems. We no longer feel alone, as a team or as individuals, but rather a part of a large, vibrant, innovative community.

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

Alexander: It’s all in the culture. This region has a big advantage for me over traditional tech hubs because the people here are authentic, supportive, and innovative. This is why companies in Silicon Valley are starting to look at our region as a possible solution to their employee retention problem. People here understand the importance of human relationships, and ones that are authentic and non-transactional.

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

Alexander: I always try to avoid giving advice, because my experiences are limited, so I doubt I can devise any universal truths from only my perspective. But I know one thing that often sets our company apart is our focus on people. We center ourselves around, and think through every detail for, the people that use our software, our team members, and our community members, in that order. Everything we design is user-centered, and I don’t mean that lightly; that’s what makes our software so much better than the competition. We always ensure we’re improving the lives of our team members, when it comes to little things like how we handle vacation time (it’s unlimited) to big things like making sure we foster an environment that, as our lead software developer Jeb Schiefer recently put it, gets people excited to come to work in the morning and fulfilled when they leave work in the evening. Finally, we don’t want Mindsense to be just a name on a building; we want to be an active part of our community. We ensure that in many ways we, as individuals and as a team, give back and take an active role in our local community.

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

Alexander: To trust my gut. We’ve taken a lot of advice from some of the top companies in our industry, but when that advice goes against our intuitions, we almost always regret taking it. This is something that I’m still learning; I’m still trying to figure out where the line is in the sand.

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

Alexander: Over the next 5 years I would love to see the Roanoke-Blacksburg region earn a much brighter spotlight nationally as an authentic, innovative tech hub. I would love to see its talent pool increase dramatically, and become a region that many seek to live and work in. But at the same time, I hope that it continues to express the values that, for me at least, make it a very unique and attractive place in which to live and grow a company.

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TechWorking: ‘Beyond Mobile’ with Futurist Robert Scoble – January 25

Techworking sponsored by Rackspace

Over the next decade we will look at our smartphone screens less and less as we use things like Magic Leap more and more. Augmented Reality is coming. Virtual Reality will take entertainment minutes away. Even if you use your mobile phone’s screen to watch a virtual reality event, it will be quite a different experience than staring down at a mobile phone in your hands.

Plus, you will look at, and interact with your world quite differently thanks to beacons, Internet of Things, new kinds of sensors and artificial intelligence systems to fuse data, analyze it, and present it in new ways.

Think this is science fiction? Technology futurist Rober Scoble will bring you a number of companies that are bringing ground-breaking technologies to you today, including in airports, football stadiums, and shopping malls.

We will talk about how cloud is everywhere in this new world and the trends that are soon to be hitting us, whether in self driving cars or augmented reality glasses, and how our businesses need to prepare now.


Robert ScoblePresented by Robert Scoble. As Futurist for Rackspace, the leading Managed Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what’s happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace. He’s interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books (“The Age of Context,” a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext) , YouTube, and many social media sites where he’s followed by millions of people.


When
Monday, January 25, 5:30-7:30 PM

Where
Inn at Virginia Tech, 901 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24060

Cost
RBTC Member $15.00
Non-Member $23.00

Complementary Registration for the first 25 Students that register onsite with a valid. Student ID; $5.00 thereafter

REGISTER NOW >>>


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