Support Us Subscribe to Our EMail

To Our Weekly Newsletter

Send Us a Tip
Press Release
Legendary Comedian John Cleese to Speak at Tom Tom; joined by Dan Rather, Bill Kristol, and hundreds of leaders in business and society
Tom Tom Founders Festival Logo - 2017 padded
Enlarge Image
Submitted Press Release | Tom Tom Founders Festival | Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 7:32 p.m.

On Wednesday, the Tom Tom Foundation brings together friends and key stakeholders at Charlottesville’s Old Metropolitan Hall to announce its keynotes, including legendary actor and comedian John Cleese, as well as publish a full agenda for the seventh annual Founders Festival. This annual, weeklong celebration of inclusive entrepreneurship, community, and culture in American small cities, which drew 18,000 attendees in 2017, will take place April 9-15, 2018. A full schedule and passes are on the Festival’s website,

John Cleese, in a special engagement presented by UVA Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS), will grace The Paramount Theater in a two-night series. The actor, playwright, and Monty Python co-founder will present “An Evening with John Cleese” on Wednesday April 11th, followed on Thursday April 12th with a discussion on “Life After Death” with a team of doctors and researchers from DOPS. More information can be found at:

Bill Kristol will join a keynote discussion, “Presidency at a Crossroads,” presented in partnership with the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, on Wednesday April 11 at The Paramount Theater. Kristol is the Founder and Editor-at-Large of The Weekly Standard with a career as a political strategist and powerhouse pundit that has shaped and influenced the republican party for nearly three decades. Tickets are currently available to Summit Badge holders and will be opened to the public in March.

“This small city has found itself in the headwinds of the national dialogue-- synonymous with conversations around fake news and free speech, race and identity, and even presidential politics,” commented Paul Beyer, the Festival’s founder and director. “However, Charlottesville, and small cities like it, with vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems, culture and community, are in fact telling narratives that are rich in innovation and pathbreaking national models for all the right reasons. Tom Tom helps tell that story.”

Summits: National Conversations for Small Cities

The Festival hosts two simultaneous conferences, The Founders Summit, which is oriented towards entrepreneurs, investors, and executives, and The Hometown Summit, which is aimed at government, foundations, and nonprofits.

Both begin on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 11 and end on midday on Saturday, April 14. Together they will convene 2,000+ innovators, transforming Charlottesville’s historic Downtown Mall into a campus for ideas and inclusive innovation across more than a dozen venues.

The Summits explore eight tracks: Renewable Energy, Disruptions in Healthcare, Arts and Media, Leadership, Design, Entrepreneurship and Investment, Food, and Data and Machine Learning.

Notable Summit speakers for 2018 include: Iconic journalist Dan Rather; New York Times bestseller Elisabeth Rosenthal; Obama Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes; Honest Tea founder Seth Goldman; MacArthur Genius Greg Asbed; Pulitzer Prize-winner Amy Goldstein; Atlantic national correspondent Jim Fallows; Aspen Institute Vice President and 8-term Congressman Mickey Edwards; IDEO’s Peter Jackson; Buzzfeed senior editor Anne Helen Peterson; Ambassador Mark Brzezinski; Weapons of Math Destruction author Cathy O'Neil; National League of Cities’ Brooks Rainwater; Civic Nation Director Jenn Brown; founder and author Renee Diresta; Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek and many others from MIT, Harper's Bazaar, CityLab, Governing Magazine, NPR, Slate, Spotify, the New York Times, and more.

For a full list of announced speakers, please visit:

Community Focus, Celebrating Charlottesville

In keeping with tradition, the 2018 Founders Festival will also feature multiple events that showcase the strength, vibrancy, and diversity of the Charlottesville community, as well as ignite the potential in communities across the country. This focus on the creative energies of citizens and and innovative local businesses helps spark a civic conversation about the future of the city.

  • Food - New in 2018, the Cville Signature Dish Competition will gather public input and a select group of professional chefs and food historians to brainstorm the “Signature Dish” of Charlottesville. This will be unveiled at the Community Potluck and featured during the Farm to Table Restaurant Week.
  • Competitions - Building on events that have granted more than $2.9M to entrepreneurs and civic organizations since 2012, attendees will choose Charlottesville’s entrepreneur of tomorrow at the Crowdfunded Pitch Night, pool resources at a Nonprofit Grant Night, and learn about the brightest student ventures in Virginia at the American Evolution Innovators Cup.
  • Art and Installations - Artists team up to transform Charlottesville’s public places into community spaces through live arts, murals, and competitions, like the crowd-favorites: Mural Project and City Art Bus.
  • Concerts and Parties - Tom Tom serves up three days of top-notch homegrown beer, bands, art, artisanal vendors, and food-truck delights at free, open-air Block Parties. Porchella: Hometown musicians perform live on front porches in beautiful Belmont.

To learn more about ways to get involved, please visit:


The Tom Tom Founders Festival is presented with the generous support of the University of Virginia, American Evolution, the Quantitative Foundation, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Since its inception in 2012, the Festival has been presented in partnership with dozens of UVA schools and initiatives, including the Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business, the Galant Center for Entrepreneurship at the McIntire School of Commerce, UVA Arts, and the Curry School of Education. The Festival also continues its partnership with American Evolution, which commemorates the 400th anniversary of key historical events that occured in 1619 Virginia that continue to influence American democracy, diversity and opportunity.  

“We are incredibly grateful to our state and local sponsors not only for their generous financial support, but also for their unwavering commitment to the Festival’s belief that great ideas, enacted, can help make the Charlottesville community—and communities around the country—centers of positivity, progress, and empowerment,” says Festival founder and director Paul Beyer.


Click for more information
Charlottesville Tomorrow’s comment policy
comments powered by Disqus