Tom Tom Founders Festival combines real opportunities to launch ventures with ideas, art installations, bands, and parties over the course of multiple days in one of America’s most beautiful and historic small cities. The converging disciplines of music, art, design, business, science and technology connect people and new ideas to the future.
In 2015, Tom Tom will feature dozens of free events throughout Charlottesville’s pedestrian mall, including five free block parties, a farm-to-table restaurant week, three pitch competitions, a mural series, and a Mid-Atlantic art fair. Tom Tom is also hosting the Founders Summit, a day of talks headlined by the founders of Reddit, The Container Store, Maker Faire, Lockn’ Music Festival, and Chromat.
Tom Tom Founders Festival is a 501c3 nonprofit. Its mission is to celebrate and empower founders, people who build creative, civic, and entrepreneurial projects. Founders Day is a Charlottesville tradition to celebrate Jefferson’s birthday. Like the founding polymath, Tom Tom explores the field to fork movement, craft beer & local wine, new discoveries, technology, public art, architecture, beautiful landscapes, and creative expositions.
Annual Tom Tom Founders Festival was founded in 2012 as a month-long music festival. The following year, the Festival condensed its programming into 4 days, expanded its innovation program, and entered into a presenting partnership with the University of Virginia. Since 2012, the festival has had over 49,000 attendees, 200 bands, 200 speakers, dozens of artists and installations, and nearly $700,000 of seed capital invested through Tom Tom events.
2012 – CONCEPT
Tom Tom Founders Festival was born from a question: how can a music, art, and innovation festival catalyze Charlottesville to build on our strengths and create something new and inspiring?
We raised the question in November 2011, and five months later, our month-long experiment began on April 13, Founders Day. We wanted to create an atmosphere of ground-up, community oriented, and experimental creativity and see whether people rallied behind the idea. Thirty days of free art and innovation programming concluded with a ticketed music festival. Altogether, we tried dozens of events and 8,700 participants rallied around the idea of Charlottesville as a creative hub and a stage for new ideas.
2013 – REFINE
The volunteer staff reworked the festival’s spring event to a more condensed format: 4 days of free block parties, talks, pitch competitions, art installations, and concerts. We continued to enjoy the support of hundreds of volunteers from across the community, and we partnered with over 330 community organizations on programming.
That spring, we filed for 501(c)3 non-profit status and entered into a presenting partnership with the University of Virginia, a major step in linking Grounds and the student community with municipal supporters and the Charlottesville and Albemarle communities. In 2013, Tom Tom brought 17,710 attendees Downtown, assisted in the distribution of $175,000 in seed funding to local start ups, and generated dozens of regional news stories.
2014 – FOCUS
In Spring 2014, Tom Tom positioned itself for regional growth by solidifying our mission as a Founders Festival. We hosted 116 speakers, 50 of whom were founders of their companies or organizations. Altogether, we hosted 75 bands and 61 artist vendors at 31 venues, and we became a stage for the creation of 5 works of large-scale public art. At our competitions, over $500,000 of investment capital was offered to new ventures. This fall, the inaugural Founding Cville initiative highlighted 18 founders in the Charlottesville community. Attendance exceeded 16,600 in the spring, and that fall the McGuffey Block Party swelled to over 6,000 visitors. Tom Tom’s economic impact on the community of Charlottesville was estimated at $843,000.
Tom Tom broke even for the first time in its three year history. We hired paid staff, secured a significant Virginia Tourism Corporation grant, and prepared to expand the vision throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
WHAT DOES THE NAME MEAN?
“Tom Tom” is a tip of the hat to Thomas Jefferson. Best remembered as the author of The Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, architect of Monticello, and Third President of the United States, Jefferson was also a visionary farmer, winemaker, art patron, educator, and inventor. Tom Tom connects Jefferson’s revolutionary legacy with the difficult and visionary work of founders today.
WHAT’S WITH THE BUFFALO?
The buffalo is a symbol of the frontier. Lewis and Clark returned from their exploration of the American West with a buffalo hide displaying Native American painting and cartography. Thomas Jefferson sponsored their historic journey, and that hyde continues to hang in the foyer of Monticello, as a treasured reminder of American exploration.
WHY IS TOM TOM FREE?
Tom Tom is a nonprofit and 90% of its events are free. Tom Tom’s strength is in bringing together diverse perspectives and passions. We want everyone to feel welcome to participate and have fun.
WHO RUNS TOM TOM?
The Festival was founded in 2011 by Paul Beyer, now its director. Tom Tom’s staff includes marketing, production, and programming coordinators, and nearly one hundred volunteers. In 2013, Tom Tom also developed a nonprofit board and an advisory board. Finally, its programming – the Festival’s talks, events, and performances – is all “crowd-sourced,” meaning that Tom Tom welcomes public input in its programming decisions. Complete list of Staff & Board.