The Tom Tom Founders Festival on Thursday announced its 2017 schedule, a new partnership, a number of national keynote speakers for its weeklong spring festivities and the addition of the Hometown Summit programming schedule.
At a news conference at the Old Metropolitan Hall on the Downtown Mall, festival director Paul Beyer said this year’s main event, which runs April 10 to April 16, is angling to make a bigger splash nationally.
“We are on a national trajectory. The very first year, 2012, we had 6,700 attendees over the course of the festival. Last year we had 38,000,” Beyer said. “What we are trying to do here locally and nationally, as well, has been celebrate founding, the difficulty … of getting something off the ground.”
The festival this year has sponsorship from 2019 Commemoration, a state effort to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the year of the first representative assembly in the New World, the arrival of the first Africans to English colonies in North America, the arrival of women in the colonies and the first English Thanksgiving.
The celebration will host a series of events around the state to celebrate those anniversaries, according to its website.
“This sponsor, I think, indicates where the festival has been, where it is going, and we are very excited when they first came our way,” Beyer said.
Kathy Spangler, executive director of the 2019 Commemoration, said the goals of the celebration align with Tom Tom’s focus on innovation and entrepreneurs.
“A fifth element of the commemoration is focused on entrepreneurialism and innovation,” Spangler said. “And really, if you think about it, the [Virginia] Company was an enterprise, and Virginia was the original startup in America.”
The 2019 Commemoration sponsored Tom Tom after a long hunt for an event or series of events that highlight innovation, Spangler said.
“We had been planning for a year, and we were on a hunt to locate an event that already was in existence that could amplify the entrepreneurialism and innovative spirit of Virginia, and we found Tom Tom,” she said.
The festival’s Founder’s Summit, which gathers business founders from across the country to share their stories, will be headlined by Kim Jordan, the co-founder of New Belgium Brewing Company, a longtime sponsor of the festival.
The event also will feature investor Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups, an early-stage venture fund that focuses on startups; Mike Porath, founder of The Mighty, an online resource and community for people facing mental health issues, disease and disabilities; and Ting Xu, founder of Evergreen Enterprises and CEO of Madison County-based Plow and Hearth, who emigrated from China in 1986.
The Hometown Summit, a new event celebrating small and medium cities, joins the festival this year. The event will run from April 13 to April 15, and feature Andy Berke, the mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Laura Weidman Powers, CEO of CODE2040, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps African Americans and Latinos get tech jobs.
The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is sponsoring the Hometown Summit.
“This year, in addition to our usual support of Tom Tom, we are also pleased to be partnering in the Hometown Summit,” said Erika Herz, director of intellectual capital at the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Darden. “Specifically, we are interested in what happens in small cities that makes them hotbeds of innovation.”