UVA Darden and Social Entrepreneurship at UVA Partner With Tom Tom Founders Festival

By Joyce Smaragdis

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia (SE@UVA) and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy today joined in announcing their partnership with the Tom Tom Founders Festival’s Hometown Summit. The festival’s newest offering, the 13–15 April summit will explore the future of American innovation through the lens of small cities.

“Due to their scale and agility, small cities are uniquely positioned to function as innovation labs for the new economy,” said Erika Herz, director of research and thought leadership at Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “Darden is committed to supporting entrepreneurship and bold ideas, and we will be studying the drivers and consequences of innovation as part of our work on this project. We look forward to working with our Social Entrepreneurship at UVA colleagues as well as the organizers of the Hometown Summit to advance the nation’s understanding and implementation of innovation in small cities.”

With over 100 speakers and 60 workshops, panels and activities, the Hometown Summit will welcome an audience of public officials, investors, foundation directors and civically engaged entrepreneurs, alongside their counterparts in media, policy, government and philanthropy. Speakers include:

  • Mayor Andy Berke of Chattanooga, Tennessee, hailed for his leadership in establishing the first Innovation District in a mid-sized city, which has since catalyzed growth and brought $700 million in investment to the city’s downtown.
  • Laura Weidman Powers, co-founder and CEO of CODE2040, former senior advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and a pioneer in creating pathways to success for Black and Latino engineering talent in the innovation economy.
  • Jason Schupbach, director of design and creative placemaking Programs, National Endowment for the Arts, overseeing grantmaking for initiatives such as the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and Our Town.
  • Liz Ogbu, faculty, Stanford d.school and University of California-Berkeley, and expert on sustainable design and spatial innovation in challenged urban environments globally.

“There is a lot of discussion about how policymakers can support entrepreneurship through smarter policy,” said SE@UVA Director Christine Mahoney.  “It is also important for policymakers to learn entrepreneurial ways of thinking and problem solving that founders use on a daily basis. The Virginia Policy Entrepreneur’s Retreat, a component of the Hometown Summit focusing on the Commonwealth, will create an opportunity for innovative policymakers from across the state to work together to move the needle on improving our cities.”

Festival of Innovation

The Hometown Summit marks a significant addition to the rapidly expanding Charlottesville-based  Tom Tom Founders Festival, a weeklong celebration of the power of innovation, entrepreneurship and community. This year’s festival will take place 10–16 April, with the Hometown Summit taking place 13–15 April.

“It’s time to talk about small cities,” said Tom Tom Founders Festival Director Paul Beyer. “More than 93 million Americans live in metropolitan areas of between 100,000 and a million residents. For millions more people in surrounding rural areas, small cities are critical economic and resource centers. Our hope is that the innovative ideas and solutions discussed at the Hometown Summit will help to ensure that America’s small cities are prepared to adapt and thrive in today’s rapidly changing innovation economy.”

UVA Partners Will Offer World-Class Academic Resources

In addition to leading plenary and workshop sessions at the Hometown Summit, the Darden School of Business will develop an “Innovation Playbook” for small cities that captures lessons learned from U.S. cities across the nation. A number of research-based outputs will be developed over the year as part of a larger Darden research initiative to better understand the sources and effects of innovation and entrepreneurship in U.S. cities. The findings will inform policies and best-practices as leaders re-envision their cities to thrive in the new economy.

The Virginia Policy Entrepreneur’s Retreat, hosted by SE@UVA and the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, will be a bootcamp for leading change with entrepreneurial thought and action. The goal of the retreat is to provide 50 Virginia mayors, city managers, county executives and economic development directors with the tools, strategies and confidence to launch new policy products. The program is co-chaired by Jim Cheng (MBA ’87), former Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade and founding partner of the CAV Angels Network, and John Kluge, founder of the Alight Fund and visiting fellow with SE@UVA.

Tickets and Agenda

Tickets for the Hometown Summit are on sale and start at $250. For a full agenda, travel details, speaker list and registration information, please visit the 2017 Hometown Summit website.

Complimentary media passes are available to members of the press, and to freelance writers and reporters with letters of assignment. Applications will be reviewed via the 2017 Tom Tom Founders Festival Press Registration.

The Batten Institute at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy were both established by gifts of the late Frank Batten Sr., a UVA alumnus, media pioneer, visionary and founder of The Weather Channel.


About the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business improves the world through entrepreneurship and innovation. The institute’s research initiative advances knowledge that addresses real-world challenges and shapes Darden’s curriculum, and its educational offerings are ranked top 10 in the world. The Batten Institute was established with gifts now totaling over $125 million from UVA alumnus Frank Batten Sr., a media pioneer, visionary and founder of The Weather Channel.


About Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia

Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia creates opportunities for students to learn about social entrepreneurship through experiential classes, workshops, speakers, hackathons, concept competitions, Global Field Experiences and internships. Social Entrepreneurs are committed to solving the major challenges facing the planet today. They take innovative and creative approaches to develop sustainable solutions to a range of problems from poverty, malnutrition, and homelessness to lack of access to education, health care and dignified work. Those solutions may take the form of innovative financially-sustainable non-profits, world changing for-profits, or a range of hybrid models in between, including innovative financing like venture philanthropy, social impact bonds, public-private partnerships and impact investing. Often real system-change requires collaboration across sectors, this is the focus of the SE@UVA Research Hub for Collaborative Innovation.


About the Tom Tom Foundation and Founders Festival

The Tom Tom Foundation is the nonprofit organization that hosts the annual Tom Tom Founders Festival. Supporting high-impact events throughout the year, the Foundation seeks to empower the innovators whose creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and dedication to community help ensure a better future for us all. Now in its sixth year, the action-packed Founders Festival is held during the week of April 13 (hometown hero Thomas Jefferson’s birthday) in Charlottesville, VA. Featuring outstanding local music, art, and food, as well as high-stakes startup competitions and high-impact conversations with business, entrepreneurial, and academic and civic leaders, the event attracted more than 38,000 attendees in 2016. Learn more at www.tomtomfest.com.

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About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

Molly Mitchell
Associate Director of Content Marketing and Social Media
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia