Category Archives: Downtown Roanoke

#Xpo2015, Day Three

Oh, is this post 4 days late? Huh.

Alrighty. As I predicted, Day Three was Xpo’s best day. If you were there, you know what I mean. If you weren’t there, a recap would bore you anyway, so what’s the point? Isn’t all of life meaningless anyway?

Answer: yes. But to quote Wayne Coyne, “You still have to live ’til you die.” And, frankly, I’m pretty excited to see what Ariel Lev will be cooking up for next year. As much fun as Xpo is, and as good as it has been for Roanoke in its own small way, the thing has gotten a bit stale. A weird, eclectic conference can’t become a staid institution and remain relevant.

And another thing: after a year’s worth of Xpo Wednesdays, the “big, real” Xpo felt a bit…remote. Xpo Wednesday is often worthless from an informational standpoint, but it is always cool to see people who care about the community get together for an hour or two, and the fact that we’ve done that on a weekly basis for a year is amazing. It is like church. And Big Real Xpo felt, in comparison, like having an All-Star preacher ascend the pulpit for a special sermon: a cool experience, no doubt, but somewhat distant from daily life because it is actually intended to be separate and distinct. Like when a Mitt Romney or some other such goes a-preachin’ to the Southern Baptist Conference during campaign season.

Does that make sense?

As an aside, I’m not a “churchgoer” any longer, but one of my favorite-ish childhood (church) memories was when all the Christmas-and-Easter Catholics would show up to crowd the pews. It felt so exciting! Standing room only!

And now I’m done talking about that.

If you have been paying attention over the past couple of months, you’ll notice I have not written much or often. I truly, honestly, and sincerely have topics I have been meaning to address, I just haven’t had the time. Or, rather, I’ve filled my free time with other crap. Take heed, though, as I intend to alter that equation. I’M TALKING ABOUT MATH HERE, PEOPLE!

In other words, come back and check us out again reasonably soon. You might find something new.

Goodbye, CityWorksXpo! See ya next year!

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#Xpo2015, Day One: All Roanoke, All The Time

I overheard someone in the middle of Xpo’s first day ask, “Has Xpo always just been a big commercial for Roanoke?”


Ok ok, the first day was a little bit ‘Noke focused,’ from Sara Wohlford to JD Sutphin to the Starcropolis dude to Mssrs. France & Ireland. But given that Wohlford and Sutphin were the two best speakers of the day, that isn’t such a bad thing.

From the perspective of a Roanoke-based start-up blog, Frank and Erin were best-in-show. Though most people probably think of apps when they hear “start-up,” biotech is pretty dope, too. And since Roanoke has way more doctors than coders, when a couple of research scientists take the stage to say that they left San Fransisco to come here because we have a great ecosystem in which to start a biotech company, that’s pretty exciting.

So that was Day One.

Definitely looking forward to hearing from local technology superstar Dave Epperly today. Not only is he a genius, he is also a sexy, sexy dreamboat. We ❤ Dave.

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And now: #Xpo2015!

So, remember 6 months ago when I doggedly covered #Xperience2015 by stalking randoms on Twitter?

Oh, yeah!, honey…get ready for plenty more of the same. Just as mediocre as ever. But with one MAJOR difference: unlike #Xperience2015, I’ll actually be attending #Xpo2015 myself. IN PERSON. WITH PANTS ON.

And so I’m going to promise you right here, right now, that I’m going to write stuff. And just like all those other times I’ve written that I’m going to write stuff, you can take it to the bank. And when I say, “take it to the bank,” I mean a real dependable institution, like Valley Bank.

See ya tomorrow, Xponauts.

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The Exit: Valley Bank

Let’s be honest: I write more about music than I do about start-ups. But when I DO write about start-ups, I generally confine my meandering discourse to tech start-ups.

However, I’m as interested in Roanoke business generally as I am in the particulars of our burgeoning tech scene, so when a different kind of “start-up” takes off, I think it is worthy of attention.

Enter Valley Bank. Founded in 1995, Valley Bank has been a runaway success here in Roanoke, often with double digit growth, year-over-year. And that has been a real boon to us all, because local banks and banking local are vital to organic growth in small markets like Roanoke. However, that kind of macroeconomic crap is not the point of this post.

Let’s talk instead about Valley Bank’s “exit strategy.”

Like many tech start-ups, Valley Bank built a small, loyal, local following, and when a bigger bank came calling with a cash offer, they sold out. I got a form letter last week from Ellis Gutshal, Valley’s president, saying that the long-planned merger is now official.

This is the start-up dream, right? Build something great and let somebody else scale it for you, taking a fat payday.

I can’t say I blame them, but at the same time, local banks occupy a place of public trust that I feel Valley has broken in this case. Personally, I went with Valley because I liked their community focus, and I have no confidence at all that their purchaser, BNC Bancorp, will give shit one about Roanoke. They are based in High Point, NC. Valley Bank is probably a write-off for them. And I feel a little bit betrayed, and disappointed in myself that I didn’t pick Hometown Bank instead.

Banks matter in tangible ways in the lives of individuals that tech companies, even big ones, just do not. Think about it: Facebook buys Oculus, and nothing changes for anyone other than the employees of Oculus; but a local bank like Valley gets bought out, and suddenly it is a little bit harder for all of us in Roanoke to get a mortgage. Whether the issue is a home loan or a business loan, they’ll say their underwriting will stay in-house and all decisions will be local, but that will NOT be true. Instead of a personal banking relationship, Valley’s customers will be dealing with the local representatives of far away shot calllers.

I kinda think that sucks.

HA HA! Business! - HA HA! Business!  Ha Ha! Business

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Filed under Downtown Roanoke, Grandin culture, Start-up culture

Roanoke’s Pinball Museum

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to walk through the soon-to-open Pinball Museum that is going into the second floor of Center in the Square. It is a very cool and fun space, and a very cool and fun idea. Two thumbs up, WAY up!

There will also be a bar. Yeah. Drunk pinball. Get your tickets now.

Below you will see bad cell phone pictures of the space. I didn’t photograph all of the machines, but I’d estimate the number of games at about 25, most of which are made by Gottlieb with a couple of Bally machines thrown in. The last photo is the view out of the window onto the City Market building.

Really, these are shitty pictures. I shouldn’t even post this crap. But I’m just kind of excited about it.


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