Tag Archives: community engagement

Star Tank Recap

First things first: whether or not any of the participants at Star Tank yesterday agreed to allow their ideas and products to be highlighted in local media, I didn’t register as “media” at the event, so I’m not going to detail anybody’s pitch. Maybe I should have done so, though…I don’t think any of the working press showed up to watch.

Second things second: I saw a couple of really interesting ideas presented, but as you might expect, the most ambitious were the least finished and polished. Although I focus on tech start-ups, I’ve got to say I was most impressed by the efforts of a couple of local inventors who came in with actual physical prototypes of everyday consumer goods, including one guy who makes hammocks you attach to the trailer hitch of your truck:

On the tech side, my vote goes to Voxxel, a voice-synching application, as best in show. (I can’t find a website to link for Voxxel. Sorry. Although here is my man’s GitHub page; I’m sure you can find something about Voxxel there if you want to take the time to wade through it.) Voxxel wins because it was neat and because it had been built and worked.

Other techies included a pair of educational software presenters, neither of which had written a single line of code, and a delivery system idea (Code? No.).

So it wasn’t gangbusters, but I feel like that actually validates the premise of the need for this “tip-off” event: just because there might be good ideas floating around the Valley does not mean local entrepreneurs are ready to pitch them. So I hope the various participants will take their feedback and come back in November with more cohesive and better planned presentations.

A quick note on the crowd. There wasn’t one.

And then the Governor showed up.

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Filed under Grandin culture, Roanoke Start-ups

On the Occassion of Your Birthday

Happy first birthday, We Evolve Us! A birthday is as much a celebration of the year gone by as it is anticipatory of the new year ahead, so let’s cast our misty eyes back upon the time that was. 

First though, let me splain to y’all just what the hell We Evolve Us is, because I know good and damn well you don’t have a clue.

We Evolve Us is an INCREDIBLY ambitious start-up. In Roanoke. That’s right. Not Blacksburg. It is actually headquartered within city limits of Big Lick.

And when I say it is ambitious, man…wow. Imagine if Facebook and Kiva had a baby that grew up to found Habitat for Humanity. Right??? Ambitious.

“Will it work?” you ask. Wrong question, dummy. The right question is, why haven’t you heard of these guys?

As a community, we are failing them and all the future start-ups that won’t be founded here because we are oblivious, failing to take any interest at all in their work. If there is one – just ONE – super ambitious start-up in this town and you’ve never heard of it, well then, I guess we all need to give the fuck up and move. Because tech start-ups like this are the future, and if they don’t have a future here, then Roanoke might as well eat a bullet. Ask Norfolk Southern; that was pretty much their conclusion.

It is totally inconsequential if We Evolve Us “makes” it (unless they scale globally, which, while unlikely, would obviously be a game changer for the whole region). On the other hand, it is imperative that the community embrace this project, if only to encourage the next entrepreneur that this is a welcoming place to try something new. Roanoke has to feel like a safe place to fail, or nobody can feel empowered to take risks. 

Here’s the thing. If We Evolve Us fails, you know what founder and CEO Philip Tompkins is going to do? He’s going to try something else.  And the odds of his success will go up, because he’ll be able to avoid the unseen pitfalls you only discover by falling in. But the onus will be on all of us who live here and give a damn to convince him that founding his company in Roanoke, Virginia, was not one of those mistakes to be avoided the second time around.

So, a look back at the past year reveals…what? Well, that a small, part-time team can build an incredible platform for social change that ironically hasn’t changed social networking here in the Valley. But that was Year One.

So my birthday wish for you, We Evolve Us, is that you find a userbase and enough funding to make it to your second birthday. Hopefully a year from now you won’t be the only interesting start-up in town. 

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Filed under Roanoke Start-ups, Start-up culture