Tom Tom Festival underway in Charlottesville
The creators of Reddit, Gizmodo, The Container Store and other successful businesses will share their insights for how to make startups grow when the Tom Tom Founders Festival in Charlottesville holds its Founders Summit on Friday.
The summit is a new addition of the weeklong festival, which kicked off Monday and focuses on music, art and innovation. Like the festival itself, the summit has been a collaborative effort, said Tom Tom’s director, Paul Beyer.
“A lot of the festival is crowd-sourced, meaning that we have always invited community members to help plan the festival,” Beyer said. He said dozens of community members “have envisioned what the summit should be, what it should look like, the themes it should conquer.”
The Founders Summit, which will be held at Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater, will feature 19 speakers. They will each tell their story and then participate in a panel discussion on topics including the role of corporations in society, commerce vs. creativity and how to build big ideas in small towns.
Beyer noted that many of the summit’s speakers signed on because of personal ties to the Charlottesville community:
• An intern for the nonprofit Tom Tom organization invited Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit.
• Dale Dougherty, founder of the Maker Movement, has a connection to the Albemarle County school system.
• A member of the Tom Tom board invited Peter Rojas, founder of Gizmodo and Engadget.
• Kip Tindell, founder of The Container Store, signed on after a business professor at the University of Virginia asked Tindell to discuss conscious capitalism at the summit.
“Each one of these stakeholders in the community has sort of stepped up and sourced different parts of the programming,” Beyer said. “The Founders Summit is emblematic in some respects to how the entire festival is planned and curated.”
Reflecting collaboration and community input, this year’s festival also introduced a new art challenge. The lamppost banner competition was a statewide challenge that asked artists to design a banner based on the festival’s theme “Found Yourself.”
Banners from16 artists were selected and are being displayed throughout Charlottesville. Throughout the week, people can vote for their favorite banner. The winner, who will be announced on Sunday, will receive $1,000.
The festival will feature 60 events that will take place in 36 different venues in downtown Charlottesville throughout the week. Participants include more than 400 startups, bands, artists and chefs.
Other notable events at the festival include:
● Crowdfunded Pitch Night on Thursday. Ten individuals will pitch their business idea to the crowd for three minutes. Each member of the audience will chip in $10, and at the end of the night, the winning pitch will earn a $5,000 grant.
● Friday Night Block Party, which will feature bands, food trucks and a New Belgium craft beer garden.
● Belmont Block Party on Sunday, which will feature food, crafts, student inventions and music. The winner of the lamppost banner challenge will be announced during the party.
● A mural will be painted by artist Mickael Broth and volunteers during the festival at Garrett and Sixth streets.
In 2012, the first Tom Tom Founders Festival attracted 8,000 people. Last year, attendance exceeded 22,600, and the festival had an estimated $843,000 impact on Charlottesville’s economy.
This year, Beyer said, the festival expects up to 25,000 people. With the buzz around the new Founders Summit and banner project, it’s likely to keep expanding.
“Charlottesville is a creative place, and I think a lot of times Charlottesville can get caught up in the past,” Beyer said. “And Tom Tom is one voice that is saying it’s a dynamic place to be now, and the future is a bright place for Charlottesville.”